[Fishing, praying, commercial fishing, quantum physics and insurance companies]
This is The Rude Guy. The rainbow trout of reality. The tuna of truth. The salmon of common sense. And this is the show with something to offend everybody… but not this time. This time I’m gonna talk about fishing. Praying and fishing.
In my book the Corporate Cult, in the section called Things I Want My Kids to Know, I wrote a passage about the similarities between praying and fishing. It starts like this:
Fishing is something more than throwing a line. Fishing is a “practice”, the same way meditation is a practice. It’s something you DO, NOT something you believe in. For me fishing is a door that opens on another dimension of life – one that’s normally hidden from our view.
The cold clear water ripples over the smooth white stones of Maggie Creek, and arcs into the swift, silty current of the Flathead River in western Montana. At dusk, when yellow sunlight gleams off the brown, boulder-studded mountainsides, streaked with green gullies of fir trees, an alpine shadow mists across the creek mouth, softening the light, and big trout creep into the shallows to feed. Maybe they don’t like the heat of day. Maybe they don’t like being targets for eagles. Or maybe they’re just waiting for the young fish to get reckless.
In the distance a blue, snow-capped peak, reigns over the river valley, and moose stir from their island sanctuaries, wading through the rapids to feed in the rushes along the bank. At the mouth of Maggie Creek, fingerlings pop the surface, snapping at Mayflies and mosquitoes, swarming in the cooling light…and big trout huddle behind boulders ambushing the small fry, who have suspended their natural wariness in mad pursuit of a bug.
I stand on the smooth rocks casting a silver spoon, trying to fool the BIG fish at their own game – hoping to catch them in a momentary lapse of good judgment, when they smack a witless minnow that happens to be my flashing hook. Yesterday I fooled a fat 19-inch rainbow trout – a silvery trophy of natural grace and divine design. He made a tasty meal, monastic in its simplicity, poached in his own skin on the wood coals of our campfire.
You kids know I love fishing but you don’t know why. I guess one of the main things I love about fishing is the places it takes me: to South Seas islands, ambling past purple starfish, and moray eels, on pink and yellow reefs; or cold mountain streams, scrambling over slick boulders, while eagles soar overhead. I’ve seen gannets folding their wings and smashing into the dark blue Pacific, off the green palm beaches of Mexico, while yellowfin tuna churned the surface into a white froth; a whale and its calf gliding past our skiff on the Kona Coast of Hawaii; a blue marlin tail-dancing on the Gulf Stream off Bimini. I walk for miles, pull myself up slippery cliffs, crawl through bushes – scraping my legs on nettles, or cutting them on coral. I get wet and cold and my body aches. I groan with sea sickness, laying on my back on the floorboards to relieve the nausea. I nearly lost my life in Tonga, hand-paddling a small boat with a broken motor – rising and falling on a 20 foot elevator of surf – frantically holding us back, just a few feet away, from where the wave-tops broke, spilling onto a razor-backed yellow coral reef – until Paké, by the grace of God, got the motor started again. I shattered my ankle slipping on slime from a boated mahi mahi – two surgeries, ten screws and a metal plate – inserted, then removed a year later. I’ve cut my finger and poked my eye and hooked myself in the elbow, all in the hope of putting myself in the right place, at the right time, to feel that tug at the end of my line.
I’ve seen the Tongan sunset explode in purple, pink and yellow cloudbursts, while I fought a 40-pound barred mackerel, drifting with Paké, into the jaws of the night. I was waist-deep in a Florida swamp when a ten foot alligator swam right up to me and SUBMERGED. (I scrammed like a water bug). I was fined $100 for fishing for bluegills without a license in Madison, Wisconsin… And still I go back.
Yes, it’s a mad obsession. But it’s an ancient mad obsession. Neolithic memes rising like steam from my subconscious, pushing my pistons, driving my will. Biogrammar I call it. I’m caught up in the “chase”. My heart pounds in my throat when I approach a new stream, with a fishing pole in my hand. Like an albatross steering by the glow of the Milky Way, my fisherman’s brain lifts off into an intuitive mode that is underutilized in this rationalist, feminized, corporatized, sanitized society we inhabit. So I love the places fishing takes me, both outside in nature and inside my head. But there’s more.
Fishing is a kind of seduction. Luring a shy graceful acrobat into my hand, stroking its slick curves. At my age it’s more appealing than sex. Women bite back, fish don’t – at least not if you’re careful. I’ve never figured out how to be careful with women. Remember the old saw: he chased her and chased her, until she caught him. At least with fishing I know who is after whom.
Fishing is NOT as thrilling as sex, but to me it’s more necessary. I can survive years of no sex without losing my mind, but if I don’t go fishing once in awhile I get depressed. I lose my perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. I forget all about the elemental struggle which all living creatures are born into: For one to live another must die.
We kill things every day at the office but we don’t see them bleed. We kill passion and creativity and meaning and human spirit, every single day, but we don’t smell the slime. Our modern mandate to make money obscures the consequences of our labor. We sanitize the “chase”. We are removed from the pain and discomfort we cause others, in our striving to succeed. And we lose sight of the fact that – in a world where everything is interconnected – for us to succeed, someone or something else must fail. Our victories show up as digits in our checking account, not blood on our hands.
We paint a house and think not about the birds and turtles, killed by pollution from the paint factory. We install new copper pipes in our house, and think not about the miners in South America whose farmland has been torn up for an open pit mine, and who are now condemned to toil in slave-like conditions. We buy a loaf of bread, or a hunk of meat, and think not about the pesticides and herbicides and antibiotics and spliced genes required to produce them. We inhabit a society of shattered Soul, where ideas are divorced from actions, means are separated from ends, activities are split from consequences. We remain oblivious of what it takes to serve up our lifestyle. But that doesn’t happen with fishing. You know who’s being seduced, and who’s doing the killing, and how and where it happens.
We buy an auto insurance policy and think not, about, how part of our money will be donated, by the insurance company, to the war chest of some Senator, in another state, who we would NOT vote for in a THOUSAND years – so that this Senator can sponsor legislation, which will require us to buy more insurance. We are the fish, being seduced by the lure of a shiny new car. We bite, they reel us in. And they don’t want us to see how this works. They don’t want us to ask questions about how the wealth of America is distributed. We have “free” elections where anyone can contribute “freely” to candidates – so corporations buy politicians who pass laws to turn over more of our earnings to corporations. We have a name for this. We call it Democracy.
It would be straightforward enough for Congress to pass a law saying that money paid for “REQUIRED” insurance should not be applied to insurance industry lobbying for more “REQUIRED” insurance. But that won’t happen in a country that is run by and for large corporations. We buy insurance in Montana, and part of our money goes to a politician in Texas or Illinois, who will vote against everything we believe in. They live in other states, we don’t get to vote AGAINST these assholes. But the corporations get to redistribute our money… to THEM. Our own money is being used AGAINST US! It’s like fishing with cherry bombs. They kill off everything in the water and leave us nothing to eat. We’re like anglers pulling up fish heads whose bodies have been torn away by sharks. The meat of our labor is being consumed by our adversaries. The true consequences of our daily money “chase” remain invisible to us.
But it’s not like that with fishing. You can choose to release a fish if you think it’s too beautiful, or full of eggs, or you have enough to eat. Or you can kill it and eat it. But you can’t miss the point of what you are doing. The consequences of your actions are wiggling in your hand.
I find it meaningful to divide the world into the people who know how to clean a fish, and those who don’t. People who can clean a fish know what blood is and what guts are, and what they are for. They are not afraid to slip their hands into the slimy goo of life. They know that some food comes directly from God. They feel the heartbeat of this thing called Original Sin – the fact that we must kill in order to live.
Fish are the only PREDators we eat. The only way to catch a fish on a hook and line, is to entice it the instant it intends to make a meal of a smaller, weaker prey. Humans occasionally eat frogs or alligators, but these are less likely to find their way onto our plate than a halibut steak. Fish are wild food – not planted or domesticated. Over the past 10,000 years humans have learned how to grow vegetables and raise animals. But, for the most part, when you buy a fish in the supermarket you are buying the only wild thing in the entire store. Fish are a food that comes directly from God – all we have to do is go out and get them.
Fish farming is growing at a fast pace – and I’m ALL for it. I’ve watched humans destroy the fish stocks from the North Sea to Maine, from California to Australia. Cod, tuna, red fish, salmon. Devastated by commercial fishing. It’s an OUTrage. I hate commercial fishing. Personally I think all net fishing, everywhere on earth, should be abolished. Banned. Period. No nets. You wanna catch fish on a line, go head. Using helicopter spotters and mile long nets. Get fucking real. Those guys call it HARVESTing the sea, but you can’t harvest something you didn’t PLANT in the first place asshole. And commercial fishermen don’t plant nothin. They just take and take until there’s nothing more to take.
Let’s skip to a later excerpt, from The Corporate Cult
“THEY’RE TAKING THE FOOD out of our babies’ mouths,” says the chunky Mexican fisherman sitting next to me, in the collectivo taxi, as we bounce and swerve along the rim of the hot, dry arroyo.
He’s talking about the “barcos”. The big fishing boats. The big corporate fishing boats. The steel-derricked monstrosities cruising up and down the coast, scooping up tuna, sailfish, turtles, porpoises – any creature unlucky enough to get swept up in their nets. A dozen of these big boats – accompanied by a spotter helicopter which operates from a landing pad on one of them – have been working off our coast for a week. They should be 200 miles out – or 2000 miles out – where they won’t be bothering anyone. Instead, a dozen of them are plying back and forth on the very fishing grounds where the locals, in their 20-foot launchas, are dragging handmade wooden lures, trying to catch bonito and tuna to feed their families.
The man sitting next to me is headed to a rally in town. The local fishermen are going to band together and complain to the government. Two years ago they snuck out at night and CUT the nets on the big boats. The barcos disappeared for two weeks, then they returned with a vengeance. Bristling with rifle-toting guards they dragged their nets right up to the harbor entrance, scooping up everything, killing off the fishing for a month. So kids went hungry. And now they’re back doing the same thing.
And the locals are going to complain to the government. Good luck. Corporate fleets like this own the government. They have the Fisheries Ministry in their pocket. Literally in their pocket.
(A few weeks later, when the tuna are wiped out and/or driven offshore again, I hear that the government has placed a moratorium on these big boats fishing this close to shore – for nine months! Sounds good, but it’s just a cruel joke, a clever trick to defuse outrage. Those fish’ll be gone for nine months anyway. One year from now, when the tuna come close to shore again, they can do the same thing they did this year. Wipe ‘em out. Government? Government is the servant of large corporations.)
OK… OK… I’ll REIN it in. I didn’t want to browbeat anyone today, but commercial fishing lights me up like a blow torch. I used to watch the shrimpers return to Fort Myers Beach Florida, after a month trawling the ocean’s bottom, killing everything that’s scooped into their net… Shrimpers, sail into port and rent hotel rooms, and buy women and cocaine and whiskey and heroin, and party their assess off for a week. And if they didn’t die, they’d go out and do it all over again. I’ve often wondered how many fish are killed every day, all over the world, so fishermen can buy beer.
OK… OK… back to soul fishing, sport fishing, fishing for the meaning of life.
The surface of our globe is described by a distinct barrier between air and water. Fish hang out in an alternate universe just on the other side of that barrier. You can be ten feet from a fish, and NOT see it. Our vision, hearing and smell break down, when we try to penetrate the surface of a pond or river or lagoon. On land we can see 50 miles; under water, with a mask, maybe 50 feet. So fish present us with a metaphor of spiritual proportions. We suspect they’re down there but we can’t see them – the same way we “suspect” God is out there but we can’t see Him. We can pick up certain clues, from weed patterns or currents – or testimonials, or personal epiphanies – but the only way to find them is to seek them. Seek them by lowering a thin line – or a prayer – into that alternate universe right in front of our faces.
Hunting for fish is an appropriate metaphor for hunting for God. We can only succeed by casting ourselves outward, on a thin line of Faith, and immersing ourselves, in the Mystery. Sometimes we find them, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we use the right bait, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we present ourselves in the right manner, and sometimes we don’t. Fish, like the blessings of Grace, cannot be ordered up like a hamburger and fries. They cannot be earned or demanded or expected. The best we can do is prepare ourselves physically and mentally, lower the offering of ourselves across the barrier into that other world, then wait…and wait…and wait.
Watch young boys fishing and you will learn something about their character. Will they strive against invisible variables and unknowable odds? Or will they pout and fret and demand results? Are they willing to get wet and dirty in pursuit of their dream? Do they exaggerate? Do they lie? Do they get bored and want to go home and watch TV? Can they muster a joyful spirit, even on bad days when their best efforts come up unrewarded? Is the worst day of fishing better than the best day in school? Do they lose themselves in the mysteries of nature? Do they think? Do they think like a fish? Can they float their spirit out on the water, and dive to the mud, imagining themselves as another life form? Can they feel what it’s like to be someone or something else – to experience life through a different set of eyes – or do they stay stuck in their boyish egos? Do they laugh away their frustrations and learn not to take themselves too seriously? Do they lose faith when confronted with obscurity? Or do they defy murkiness, and strive to penetrate the unknown? By and large, girls feel comfortable when they can identify everything around them. But boys hunger for an unsolvable mystery. Fishing would be no fun if it was a guaranteed thing. Neither would God.
Fishing is training for the rest of life. If you want your children or grandchildren to appreciate the mystery of God, maybe a good place to start is to introduce them, to the mystery of fishing. Fishing is no substitute for worship, but it runs down a parallel groove in our brains. For most boys the problem with church is that it’s not like fishing. You have to stay clean, and sit still, and not make noise. And at the end of it all, you’re not sure what you got. Too often church is a dry boring ritual – a sanitized, feminized ceremony. But seeking fish and seeking God, are not anything like that. Yeah you have to be patient and focused. But beneath the calm surface, the water of life is thriving – wiggling and darting and spurting in circles. You know it, but you can’t see it. And that sudden tug at the end of your line, is unmistakable evidence, that you’re doing something right. It’s exhilarating and gratifying and even uplifting. You’ve hooked into a timeless drama, and your mind and body resonate like a tuned string, echoing back over the campfires of Time. You are doing something exactly the same way your ancestors ancestors ancestors did it, and the deepest part of your brain knows that. It’s not at all like watching TV or driving a car. You’ve latched onto eternity with a thin line and hook.
So maybe, sometimes, church should be more like fishing. Less structured, not so clean and nice, mildly adventurous, even a little bit bloody and scaly. And if, once in awhile, church were that way, maybe our young boys and girls could learn to keep the slack out of their line, and hold a tighter connection to God. Fishing is not just about fishing. It’s about living: being patient, staying focused, projecting ourselves into the unseen, adjusting to changing currents, offering ourselves to the mystery of life – praying for a nibble. And the reward is nothing less than food for the body and spirit – food that comes directly, from God.
Jesus’es disciples were fishermen, who became fishers of men. Jesus is fishing for all of us. All the time. That’s what he does. He fishes. This much I can tell you about Jesus. Whenever I’m in pain… physical or mental pain… and whenever I reMEMber to pray to Jesus, and ask for RELIEF from that pain. My prayer is answered. The pain is relieved. Every… single… time. It’s a constant in my life… just like gravity. Pray to Jesus for relief from pain, and my pain diminishes.
Am I deluded? Why does that happen? I’ll tell you why it happens. Because… over the past 2000 years, billions of people have prayed to Jesus, for relief from pain. Billions of prayers have been floated out there into psychic space. And somehow, all those prayers have accreted, and formed a quantum bubble. A cosmic resonance. A healing zone. A healing place. And when I throw myself at that healing place, it throws itsSELF back at me. When I ask for help, I get it. It’s Jesus energy. Simple as that. And investigations into quantum physics have shown that I am NOT insane to believe this. Because, it is known, that the observer affects the observation. When I focus my consciousness out onto the greater consciousness of the universe, it is able to focus back on me, and physical reality can be amended. The pain receptors in my cells can be modified. The pain can be made to go away.
So remember you Scrooges, that’s what Christmas is all about. Not trees and presents. They’re fun but don’t stress out over those things. Christmas is about 2000 years of cosmic healing energy, stored up in a time outside of time, and served up to you any time you want it. All you gotta do is… ask. All you gotta do is… pray.
When it seems stupid, pray. When it doesn’t make sense, pray. When you can’t find anything to believe in… pray. Prayer is its own answer. We are the biological heirs of people who prayed to relieve their suffering. Our ancestors have been praying for 30,000 years or more. Maybe THAT’s why it works. I dunno. All I know is it DOES work. Every time. Just like gravity. Drop a pencil. It falls to the floor. Gravity is always turned on. You’re in pain? You need help? All you gotta do is… ask. All you gotta do is… pray.
[fish tail slapping water]
And while we’re on the topic of asking, I simply have to ask you for a donation. You could buy a book or DVD or oil painting too, but your benevolent generosity, your donations, are what floats my boat. I can’t do this without your help. So please, go to happyfool.orG or therudeguy.com, and click on: make a donation. It’s fast and easy and it takes credit cards.
This is The Rude Guy. We’ll be back. Stay strong. Don’t let anybody intimidate you. Don’t let anybody shame you. No more bullshit. That’s our motto…. No more BULLssshhhiiittt.
Ahhhh, feels a little better already.