Category: Life

Fishing Zen

A few years ago I took my oldest son trout fishing. I took out my fly rod, but soon found that I was spending most of the time untangling his Buzz Lightyear fishing pole. After a time he grew bored with waiting for the fish that were not coming, and wandered to a sandy area. He was five, and drawn to the simplicity of sand and rocks, to the rhythmic movement of the water.

While I cast into the water not far from him he watched the ripples like a protective parent. He threw sand into the water that created art that lasted less than a second. Occasionally he threw larger rocks into the water, ensuring that my casting that day was only practice.

When I fish I don’t go just to catch fish. I go to be in that place. Fishing is the perfect Zen experience, but without the effort of learning from a Zen master. It comes naturally in natural places. Walk one hundred feet, to a bend, and you disappear into a world that seems little changed from a thousand years before.

I’m not a great fisherman, but I’m great at getting lost on the water. This is a thing I won’t have to teach my son, but I will have to teach him how not to forget. We’ve created perfect worlds that destroy our ability to connect to the outdoors in the same way we destroy the outdoors itself. Children would never do what we have done.

Be Brave Enough to Be You

Like Kerouac I’m drawn to those brave enough to be themselves. Few have the courage to wear what they want, say what they want, be who they are. It’s easy to follow the crowd, and to do what others say and do, but do you have the self-confidence – the courage – the be an outlier?  I don’t mean mad of mind. No, intelligence usually comes with those I’m drawn to, the ability to see clear answers, and to know when the answers are not clear, but still find ways to make things work.

There was a manicured twenty-something sitting behind me on a plane recently. She used the word “like” every fourth or fifth word. She was physically appealing, but her empty brain and senseless words made her ugly. I leaned forward in my seat to get far away from her, to block out her pointless chirping. Despite her new and stylish clothes, and manicured hair, her empty words and stupid cadence made her repulsive.

If you looked at my closest friends it would be difficult to see what they have in common, but I think it might be intelligence, or creativity, that links them. I’ve never considered myself to be intelligent, but I’ve surrounded myself with people who are better than me, smarter than me, more creative, and that has made the difference. They have challenged me. I’ve passed the best of what I’ve learned from them to my children, who are also intelligent. My children never use the word “like” more than is needed.

You can make an argument that I judge people based on the wrong elements of them. This may be true, but I can counter that the girl with the perfect hair and clothes was elevated by her friends based on that, and little else. I’d rather join myself to those who are rich of mind, instead of those who appear rich of wallet due to poor spending habits.

I almost scraped this, because it sounded mean when I reread it. But then I opened this again, because, through my anger with the annoying girl on the plane, I was trying to say to be you. If you’re reading this, instead of watching reality TV, I know there’s something worth seeing. We like you as you are. Bury the pretension. Find yourself, and be that person. Let’s hang out, and let’s be who we are. There’s good there. You know it, and I want to see it. Be brave.

Sleep

I didn’t sleep well in the hotel. It was quiet, clean, had big soft pillows, but I didn’t sleep well. When I was awake at midnight I considered that I was getting too old to sleep in strange places, but then I remembered that I never slept well the first night or two in a new hotel.

I love camping, but I usually don’t sleep well on the ground the first night back in a tent. It’s usually too hot, too cold, or I find that I’m sleeping with my head downhill. The extra blood should be good for a brain, but it doesn’t help one sleep better. Small pebbles become boulders if positioned in the wrong place under one’s back.

My dog can sleep anywhere, and he can sleep all day while I work, always near my feet. I keep a heater going in my office during the winter. No point in heating the entire house when it’s just me and the animals. It’s cozy near the heater, and dogs know how to take advantage of cozy places to sleep. Humans are not as good at this. I can’t take naps during the day. There’s always something important to do.

Learning

I know more now than I did before. I suppose that’s true for all of us, at least the ones who are trying. Maybe you learn even if you’re not trying. Life has a way of pushing lessons on us, even when we don’t want them. It seems like the powerful and wealthy don’t learn, another reason to stop electing the powerful and wealthy. We really are smarter than them.

I inherited a bit of common sense from my father and my uncles, all were graduates from Ivy League universities of hard knocks. They were ready for life by 18 – maybe 13 – while it took me much longer. The generation now is still struggling at 30. Life is easy for most these days, and, like the wealthy, easy lives flame a lack of learning.

I can’t generalize much more than that. I was still figuring it out well into my twenties. I spent my thirties apologizing for my twenties. There’s value to wasted years. It’s a learning tool. As I said before, life has a way of pushing lessons on us, even if we’re trying to avoid those lessons.

I’ll keep learning, and I suspect I’ll disagree with some – maybe all – of the words I write today. I have a theory that the moment we figure it all out we die, so there’s a reason for holding onto bits of ignorance.