Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 64 - Fly Fishing Philosophy

Descartes walks into a bar. He sits down at the barstool and says to the bartender, "I'd like to have a beer." After the bartender hands him the beer, he takes a sip, wrinkles his nose and says, "I think not!" He then disappears.

OK, that joke is a groaner, a head shaker, and I imagine gets told a lot in philosophy classes. Today I'd like to examine the idea of fly fishing as life. To start, I have to give you a little back story so you can see things as I see them.

Last week I purchased Dave Ames's book "A Good Life Wasted or Twenty Years as a Fishing Guide". Without no intention of offending Thomas McGuane Mark Kingwell (authors who I also happen to be reading at the moment) I like Ames's book better. In his opening chapter he describes his frustration of having to punch a clock, doing the mundane, and not appreciating the truly magnificent in our lives. After punching the time clock through the wall he starts his life away from the ordinary (which eventually leads him down the path of fly guide).

Earlier today (instead of working on the non-profit idea I've been developing) I was watching MTV2. I was cruising through the dish lineup looking for something good to watch (the old joke "100 channels and nothing good on" comes to mind). I ended up missing the first 15 minutes of "MTV's Ultimate Parkour Challenge". For those of you not in the know (like I was until after watching this), Parkour is that urban running, jumping, flipping, acrobat, stunt thing that people do (check out this YouTube Video for more details). One of the contestants said that Parkour was his philosophy for life, that it was all about living in the moment and enjoying the concept of freedom.

After reading Ames's opening chapter and listening to the passion that this athlete(?) had for Parkour, I started wondering if fly fishing could be a person's personal philosophy. If so, how does this play out? I mean this sounds like one of those zen things about hearing one handed claps, and trees falling in the forests.

I can see similarities between fly fishing and my faith. For example, when you are fly fishing you are almost hunting in a sense. You don't just throw a line in the water hoping that something is going to bite. A good angler takes the time to explore the environment, they seek the possible feeding lanes, understand how to present the fly the best way possible, and seeks to choose a fly that intrigues the fish. The same techniques can be applied to sharing my faith with someone. I don't preach from a soap box, or graffiti "Jesus Saves" on restroom walls... that's like throwing a line in the water and hoping. Instead, I seek to understand the person, what background they have, I get to know the person, and then choose my words accordingly to present my faith without offending.

So... I can kind of relate fly fishing to my faith, but how does this translate into philosophy? I guess I should define philosophy first (or at least how I see the term). To me a philosophy is the under riding code of values that a person has. Something that they can fall back on in case they have questions. Its also a way a person views or approaches life... an approach to life... I may be onto something here.

Can fly fishing be an example of how we approach life? This provides me with a cause to pause for a moment. No seriously, I'm pausing right... NOW! ... ... ... How do we approach a stream? ... ... How do we interact with problems on the stream? ... Why do we even approach the stream in the first place? Good questions! Those thoughts were in random order, I think I'll answer them in something of a foundational manner.

Why do we even approach the stream in the first place? I've been toying with this thought for some time actually, and I think I hit upon it the other day when watching an episode of Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming. In this particular episode, Curtis and his posse were resting by the campfire and reflecting on the day. In an offhand campy sort of way, Curtis says something to the idea that he believes this is what heaven is all about. Could it be that we fly fish because we are pursuing heaven? That each one of us is seeking some kind of divine experience?

Interesting. We approach the stream as seekers. Seekers of truth, seekers of who we are, and seekers of what we hope to be (or at least I do anyway). I've already mentioned or alluded that when on the stream, all of life ceases to exist but that one moment, that one cast, that one live instant of thought in action. Ames says that, "Fishing well requires an utter concentration that somehow slows the hands of the cosmic clock." Maybe this slowing down allows us see things as they are instead of how we hope to see them. And when we see things as they really are, we can then discover purpose... and if we're lucky that purpose will be our own purpose in this world.

The next question should be, "How do we approach a stream?" A good angler will approach the stream observant, respectful, and from downstream (unless of course you're floating down a river, which is a whole other method). In terms of this discussion it could be worded as how do we approach life? Do the above answers for approaching a stream translate to approaching life? Possibly... yes I think they could.

I think the real answer to the question of how do we approach the stream, is that we do it from downstream. Bear with me on this. Downstream says that we are to be patient, observant, and in essence to approach with a plan (not spooking the fish). In my experience (and I can only speak to that experience), these lessons are instrumental in success. So maybe being patient, observant, and having a plan is foundational to my philosophy? Yeah, I think that works.

And finally, how do we interact with problems on the stream? Yesterday I was telling my wife that when your line gets tangled up on itself, it is best to stop immediately and take care of the problem or it will turn into something worse. Problems should be taken care of immediately. If we ignore them (in hopes of things turning out better?) they can grow into something even worse than we dreamed. Of course the real skill is knowing how to avoid the problem, usually experience tells us this.

Like Descartes, who needed a strong foundation to build upon his beliefs, I think I've developed a pretty good foundation here. To recap:
  • We are all seekers of truth, pursuing heaven, and hoping to discover our purpose in life.
  • We should approach life with a "downstream" mentality that requires patience, observance, and a need for a plan.
  • And finally, we should address problems immediately, all the while developing the skills of how to avoid problems in the first place.
I think this is a pretty sound philosophy, but like all things it needs to stand against popular opinion and the test of time. I would really love to hear what other people may think about this idea that I've presented. If you could, please pass this article around. I'd honestly like to hear what other people think and whether or not I need to readdress some points. Please, I don't ask for much and I think this is important enough to beg for your help. Thank you.

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