Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip # 94:

Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”                                    

Herbert Hoover

It seems that present day coffee houses – small, independent ones and large chains alike – have taken over for what neighborhood pubs and local bars used to provide; namely gathering places for community and fellowship. It’s not as readily accessible during this pandemic, but this is temporary and will return. Many people go to them for the free Wi-Fi, bringing computers to do work and communicate with people elsewhere, but, even so there is a community of sorts at these gathering spots.

Cheers, the old, long running TV series, was enjoyed for the fact that those regular, ordinary – and, okay, quirky characters that hung out at Cheers shared their quirky yet ordinary lives with each other. Maybe we could relate. Coffee shops fill that same felt need. I’m getting ahead of myself but this digital age has brought new access and shifting understanding of community. People use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and others social media to connect, perhaps even more so now, in this social distancing world we’re living in. I’ll come back to this later.

I am not very sentimental, nor do I wish we’d get back to so-called “good old days.” But I think life has become way too complicated and impersonal. I do miss the simplicity we once enjoyed. We always lose something valuable whenever we gain something valuable. We often take a new innovation and readily integrate it into our lives without regard for what possible losses or what down-sides it may bring about.

With every choice made, we give up something good when we get something good. Most decisions aren’t about choosing something good over something bad. We select one apparent good over another apparent good; with two different perceived goods we must choose wisely or regret the choice.

We have huge and amazing changes in short spans of time. The Wide World Web (WWW) is now just over 30 years old. What it and the internet offer us is amazing! The ability to Google search anytime we wish is amazing. Right now millions have visual and digital connections with anyone round the world. Millions now use Zoom and many other internet technologies as a regular practice.

It is all truly amazing! But we are not amazed. We simply incorporate each new innovation into our daily lives. It’s become sort of a “ho-hum, this is the way it is; this is what we do now.”

You think I have yet to address the splendor of solitary fishing or “the return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.” I am building a case of what we are up against. Not all fisherpersons fish alone. Some go with buddies, spouses, or show up at well-known fishing holes where others are also. The essential element is that the simplicity which brings them to those fishing places is that they are out in nature – mountain sides, beaches, streams, ponds, rivers, oceans.

These nature settings offer calm and peace that we crave – that we yearn for. Nature offers access to the simplicity of trees and sun and sky and terrain. Some get this from a brisk walk or a regular practice of running. Some find it in their afternoon cup of tea, or a morning first cup of coffee.

Others find an inner peace and calm in a spiritual life and religious practice. Prayer. Prayer is not always frantically asking for things. It’s even about only seeking help for others in need. Good, regular prayer is about listening to the Word – that inner stirring of our Creator – of listening to the voice of God.

All of us crave simplicity and yearn to find it wherever we can. At a deep level we hunger to be free from the constant bombardment of noise and confusion we are subjected to. A large part of our complicated lives has to do with massive misinformation circulating rampantly within our society.

Mindless parroting/amplifying of misinformation ads to the false, unsubstantiated stuff running about as real news. We’re assaulted by vile campaigns to distort and spread lies. We’re subjected to altered photos, skewed statistics, and slanderous statements. We’ve become weary of trying to sort out facts from misinformation and forgeries that are presented so compellingly as the facts.

I do wonder if we have become lazy; stupid; or are just so overwhelmed by the information age. Is it because we want simple answers to complex issues? Have we become dummied down as a nation of uninformed citizens? If so then is it any wonder so many are easily manipulated? Hoodwinked?

Journalists, as well as all citizens, need a healthy skepticism from far-right or far-left activists offering their skewed “information.” When we are repeatedly told some crazy stories, after a while they actually start to make some sort of sense. We’re numbed out by countless schemers, telemarketers, and snake oil con artists that we lose our perspective.  

Why wouldn’t some believe America faked the moon landing, or Hillary Clinton was hiding children in the basement of a NJ Pizza shop, or that our presidential election was rigged? Say untruths long enough and often enough eventually people believe them as the truth – or as some misguided or ill-formed person’s notion of truth.  I don’t like it, but I do think I can understand some it.

We cannot let ourselves be prisoners to any past simply because we have “always done things,” that way, or have a distorted recollection of the past as being nicer now than what we currently are experiencing. A way through these crazy times is to become much more reflective and thoughtful. Let’s bring forward the essence of whatever was an apparent good from our past but not be fooled that the past is what we want. Let’s find innovative ways for incorporating any particular good from our past into our new present and future.

But how? Clearly we need to regulate social media, as well as, so-called news that is not news, but that’s going to take time. Freedom of speech is being distorted. You or I are not free to yell “FIRE” in a crowded movie theatre, as well as, a whole bunch of things. We need better education, but that doesn’t help us deal with the domestic terrorists right now who recently stormed the National Capital. It doesn’t help us deal with those that see violence as an acceptable means to solutions.

So here’s an idea:

Drop the argument and change the subject!

This is the counterintuitive advice you will hear from people who have studied Northern Ireland before the 1998 peace deal. This was a country where political opponents saw each other as not just wrong, but evil; and where people were genuinely frightened by the other side. They had arguments that could not all be solved and where all differences could be bridged. They went about this in an innovative way.

In the years before and after the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, for example, many “peacebuilding” projects did not try to make Catholics and Protestants hold civilized debates about politics, or talk about politics at all. Instead, they built community centers, put up Christmas lights, and organized job training for young people. They also worked with the leadership on both sides to believe that actual peace could come about, was possible, and is sustainable.

There aren’t any quick fixes. Not everyone is going to go fishing, but all of us do need to slow it down. We do need to find our common ground.

Allow me to add one more remarkable real life event. This one happened at The 1978 Camp David Accords. Camp David is a retreat center for presidents to have an opportunity for solitude and tranquility, as well as an ideal place to host foreign leaders. It was there that President Jimmy Carter successfully managed to get Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 17 September 1978, after twelve days of secret negotiations, agree to sign a peace accord.

This became the framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. It led directly to the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty. Due to this agreement, Sadat and Begin received the shared 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Peace Accords came about from intensive and complicated negotiations. It was Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn, who gave him the idea of bringing these two men together at Camp David. Another lesser known detail was that at one point where the negotiations seemed severely stuck, Jimmy Carter managed to broker through with a treaty between these two nations by first taking a time out. He arranged for an informal convening where he spoke as a grandfather. All three men were grandfathers, and during this informal time each world leader shared what he wanted for his grandchildren – a world of peace. Their shared dream was their common bond. It was what helped foster their working relationship to produce a valuable result.

What is it we want for our grandchildren – whether you have any now or may in the future?

Is it not the very same thing we all want, as well?

What it is we want is what is truly most essential.

How to achieve this is then merely details.