Tips for Fishing and Living # 74

Tip #74:

“When I go fishing I … want to get away from it all, for it is silence and solitude even more than it is fish that I am seeking … As for big fish, all is relative. Not every tuna is a trophy.”

                                                                                                William Humphrey

We’ve been over this many times before, so let me go at it from another perspective. Some people never take a different route to get to their work place or to travel back home. They go back and forth on the same roads day after day. It’s as though they’re hypnotized and are operating in an unconscious state. There are many people that do not get away, or ever take a single day off from their job. They don’t take vacations; they don’t use their sick days, or personal days.

Things like vacation time, sick days and personal days are meant to be used in order to recharge our batteries and to contend with those times when we aren’t functioning at top performance. Perfect attendance may have been a wonderful goal to strive for in grammar school but I think it is overrated for adults. Stay home every once in a while if you need to recharge. Stay in bed for the entire day if that helps you shut down and take care of yourself. Catch up on some sleep. Relax a little. Go on vacation even if it’s what we are now calling a Staycation.

I never understood how Cal Ripken was considered so great for never having missed baseball games with the Baltimore Orioles. I thought he was great by his excellent playing record. Wasn’t there ever something more important – more pressing than baseball – for him to attend? Ever?

All work and no play makes for a very dull life. I’m not advocating irresponsibility. In fact I think staying home once in a while IS responsible. No one can always be operating on full throttle, and we do a disservice to our jobs if we do not attend to rejuvenating our psyche.  Over time, by not recharging and getting our human needs met, we end up becoming zombies. Or robots. And we end up operating at way less than full capacity.  

An old but great book I still have around is called Unplug the Christmas Machine. It’s a guide to help us take stock and clarify what we want from our Christmas holiday season. Without getting clear we often add more and more onto the holiday until it is a total bust. We accumulate and clutter the holiday season with way too many traditions, as well as, too many contradictory and opposing expectations.

This results in us falling short of what it was we originally found meaningful and inspiring. Our original goals end up getting lost with all the holiday clutter amassing onto what we first wanted from our holidays. Reflection helps us sort this out and pays dividends in the long run.

Reflection is key to being intentional at our jobs, in our family life and our day to day living. Reflection is paramount in order for us to live an alive and intentional life. Some of our best ideas come during our down times. It’s those times when we are all alone, or when we are doing something seemingly unrelated to our tasks or our attempts to solve a given problem – you could even say we are wasting time – that great creativity materializes.

I have a bird feeder I keep stocked with seeds, not so much for the birds as much as for my own personal enjoyment and leisure. Watching various birds come and go relaxes me. Sometimes out of this relaxing time a brilliant idea pops up almost out of nowhere – just from bird watching. It’s a form of recreation – which is all about re-creation. As I sit there watching birds my mind wanders into a creative thinking process that is extremely timely and helpful for what I am presently working on. You cannot put a price on quiet time and solitude. It’s essential for a quality life.

Take a Mental Health Day.

Some years ago while I was working a full-time job, attending college courses at night, and was already married with three, or maybe four children, I was feeling really exhausted. I had been running flat out for a good while and this pace was taking a toll on me.

So one day I decided to call in sick and take a mental health day. I phoned in and told the folks at my job I did not feel well. I left out the part that my unwell feeling was mental and not physical. Then I went and had a leisurely breakfast someplace where I wouldn’t likely know anyone. After breakfast I went to a movie theatre and saw a matinee. This was so great that I got back in line and saw a second film. Afterwards I ended up at a book store before finally going home. Eventually I told my wife what I had done; but not at my job. The time off, and perhaps the sneakiness of it all, was sheer delight and it served me well. I had given myself permission to take care of me. The next day I returned to work once again as my usually responsible self, only perhaps I was secretly a bit perkier.

We all need rest. Right now we are stressed by these present times. We need more than ever to be steadfast and focused on the God of love. Reflection helps us with this focus. What could it mean to find rest in a world such as ours today? How do we make sense of all the indicators we face each and every day?

With each new day we face more catastrophic weather extremes. There is the daily news cycle driven by a narcissistic leader who incites hatred, sows discord and division, who cares for no one but himself. We have the pandemic seemingly continuing due to the aid of the denial and massive misinformation and intentional discrediting of science, resulting in returning waves of Covid-19 cases rather than less. So much suffering and death has already occurred with no end in sight. The economy, designed to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and those subsisting at the margins of society, is precarious and volatile. Then there is the systemic social injustice and racism that demands the right actions now.

All of this and more has a large portion of Americans in a state of anxiousness and hopelessness as we witness increasing tangible decline. Many have given up or are close to it regarding any sense of truth, objectivity, science or religion in civil conversation. Some believe we are in an apocalyptic time.

Perhaps sacred scriptures are appropriate for us to consider: May the wisdom of Psalm 62:5–9 speak to us today in our time of great need.

“In God alone is my soul at rest.

God is the source of my hope.

In God I find shelter, my rock, and my safety.

Men are but a puff of wind,

Men who think themselves important are a delusion.

Put them on a scale,

They are gone in a puff of wind.”

Richard Rohr, the Franciscan friar points us in the direction that can only come from contemplative living. He reminds us that our occupation and vocation as believers – no matter how feeble we may feel in this sad time – must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it ourselves and fully occupying it with our entire being.

Etty Hillesum, (1914 – 1943), the young Jewish woman who suffered much more injustice in a WWII Nazi concentration camp than we are suffering now, offers this: 

“There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too … And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.”

Notice her second-person usage in her talking to “You, God” quite directly and personally. There is a Presence within her of such powerful conviction, even as she is surrounded by so much suffering. Can we, too, take this stance right now even as we are finding it difficult to readily see hope or solutions?

If contemplation means anything, it means that we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God,” as Etty Hillesum describes it. What other power do we have now? All else is tearing us apart, inside and out, no matter who wins this election, who is on the Supreme Court, who will bring us through this tyranny.

We must do as she concludes; and we must also foster and facilitate such a stance for others, first by our own doing so, and then by our loving actions with and for our sisters and brothers.