Tips for Fishing and Living # 79

Tip #79:

 “Often, I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito-bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand, have I been in a place that was less than beautiful.”

Charles Kuralt-1990

A friend once told me about the time when he was recovering from knee surgery and how he convinced his wife that he could not put the trash out on the curb due to his soreness and his worry of re-injuring his knee. But then when he was offered a ticket to an NFL football game his favorite team was playing, he jumped at the offer. Suddenly his knee pain was miraculously diminished. If we love what we are doing we don’t mind so much the otherwise small annoyances that may arise.

Blogger Peter Klein writes, “We should never let a good crisis go to waste.” I think I’ve heard Dave Chappelle say something similar. Both point out the paradoxical aspect of crisis and opportunity. We psychologically orientated folks are quick to call this Reframing.

When a couple comes to see me about a crisis they’re in the throes of they will state what has occurred as, “the worst thing that could have happened.” I listen to their accounts of their situation, and eventually I ask them to consider it, perhaps, as also “the best thing that might have happened.” Granted, nobody wants terrible things to occur, but since it has happened is there a silver lining with it? It might be buried or hidden. Can they look for it? This sometimes is a useful way to proceed.

I am certainly not happy with the terrible tragedies so many are experiencing from the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the poor way it has been handled or mishandled. I also do not like the recession that is hurting many people, or the social unrest and systemic racism that have been glaringly present.

BUT… I do ask myself, ‘did it take all of this to finally get our attention focused on the present unsustainable and dysfunctional way we have been living?’ Also, ‘has the present situation caused more people to be drawn into actively engaging in our democracy?’ And finally, ‘Are we starting to realize we don’t want to return to the so-called Normal that was dysfunctional and where our Nation has not been the very best we are called to be and capable of becoming?’

Even though no one wanted these terrible problems, we can still ask, “What possible good can come from it?” “What new and better possibilities can we create for our nation?” If we do this, then we can go about taking appropriate action(s) – actions that will go a long way toward making our nation a more perfect union, and us into a better people. It is clearly a tough prescription to swallow. I get it. But the basic question may be: “how can we exploit our current situation in the best possible sense?”

Have we had enough of the “uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, and mosquito-bitten” way we’ve been living? Are we weary from the systemic blindness we’ve been existing in – a blindness that allows far too many of our brothers and sisters to be forced to live – metaphorically and literally speaking – poorly, unjustly treated, and systematically excluded from equal opportunities?

Change is coming.

So here’s the thing: Change is coming whether we like it or not. What we can do as people of integrity is embrace this change. Welcome it. Contribute our part toward realizing a better future by bringing our own vision into the conversation.

Change is welcomed by some and seen as terrifying by others. If it scares us we resist it. If we see change as the only real constant in life and we welcome it we can participate and join other people of good will. Then we’ll discover the beauty and joy that comes from a missionful/purposeful life.

There is nothing new about the fact that the people in power don’t like this pending change, nor are they willingly going to give up their power by including others. We’ve been experiencing their resistance to share power.  Perhaps we are seeing this done today in unprecedented – unimaginable – extremes, all taken in order to hold onto their power. Masterful steps are being used: massive doses of repeated lies, intentional propaganda, grandiose cover-ups, systemic corruption, and deceitfulness, as well as, a strategic setting various groups against each other – all designed to hold onto the power of the few.

There is an increasingly growing gap between the haves and the have nots. The middle class has been shrinking for quite a while with more and more people becoming the official poor. The top 1% of our country has increased in their wealth exponentially. With every new billionaire there has been some failed policy – some policy that caters or is designed to benefit the very wealthy while undermining and penalizing the rest. 

Hopefully we have reached a tipping point from which good is forthcoming. Much of our desired change won’t happen overnight. But eventually we’ll see we have been steering our nation toward our higher ideals, rather than sliding backwards. I pray we are courageous enough to make the long-term, real systemic changes necessary. We can no longer be satisfied with merely rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic. Systemic change requires hard work and real commitment, not the quick-fix mentality.

We cannot change a person’s heart or attitude, but we can enforce laws and regulations where systemic racism is embedded. We will succeed if we are willing to join together to root out whatever is necessary to Really Make American Great – not in some superficial, fake patriotic way, but Great as in what our Nation’s creed PROCLAIMS: the pursuit of life, liberty and freedom for all.

Whenever we roll up our COLLECTIVE sleeves and get going we have always done great things. We won’t do it all at once, but we can get going and keep going.

Our neglected and abused planet must become a top priority. And we can also use it as a metaphor for how we have also mistreated and abused many of our brothers and sisters. We act like we are not related; not connected; not in this all together.

Here are some actions steps to take:

Step 1: Keep in the foreground that we are all in this together.

Step 2: Realize that if one of us suffers, we all suffer.

Step 3: Engage and communicate with one another knowing we are connected and are in this together. We can differ on how to go about doing all the various things we must do, but we can’t forget Step 1 and Step 2.

Trout fishing is pleasurable in spite of the mosquitoes, the cold, the burn-burn, etc. because we can readily experience the beauty and sacredness surrounding us in that stream, or on that river bank. Being awake is a practice. It gets us to be reflective and to live contemplatively, which then moves us from being fear-based and ego driven.

The need for Contemplation

 Richard Rohr tells us that contemplation is an old-fashioned word that means the deliberate seeking of God by an inner dialogue. Our soul grows closer to God through our willingness to detach from the passing self, the tyranny of feelings, the addiction to self-image, and the false promises of culture.

It is a journey into the nothingness of true faith, where the ordinary rules of thinking, managing, explaining, and fixing up the smaller Self do not apply. Contemplation isn’t a way to spiritually bypass what is real, harmful, or unjust. Instead, with steady practice it eventually gives us an ability to stay present to what is, and meet it with wisdom, compassion, and courage. All major world religions at their more mature stages recognize the necessity of contemplative practice.

Rohr further explains that most of us haven’t ever met the person who we ourselves really are. We have filled our life with a steady stream of ideas, images, and feelings that we cling to—thinking these are our very essence. I don’t have feelings; the feelings have me. So who are we – at the deepest level—behind our thoughts and feelings or the thoughts and feelings others have about us? We are compulsive with identifying ourselves either with our thoughts, our self-image, or our feelings.

Only by getting beyond these things can we discover our “original essence,” – who we already are before we were even born. With great practice we can begin to get glimpses of our True Self, usually only for brief moments at a time. But this is grace in action.

Mystics are those who seem to reside regularly in a contemplative state. They can encourage us. When we are slowed down we discover how we yearn for and long for the courage to do the same.

How we will come through this historic time will develop positively if we discover the redeeming power of contemplative living. We can draw upon people who live such a life style – people who came before that paved the way for us.

The mystics and saints of all genders, cultures, and faith traditions, those both known and unknown, have always helped us evolve. It may also be that this is the moment where we must step up and be contemplatives ourselves. Let’s call this:

Step 4. Embrace contemplative living, and therefore be able to take actions that stem from a contemplative living practice.

Final Thought: Given the need to come from a solid footing, perhaps Step 4 should really be Step 1.