Gone fishin’

by Steve Brock on July 25, 2014

Fishing the DeschutesIn Your God is Too Safe, author Mark Buchanan makes the analogy that prayer is a lot like fishing. You cast your line and then you wait…and wait. Sometimes, you get a response – a bite or even better, you land a fish – but most of the time you spend waiting.

Last week when in California, I met up with a cousin of mine I haven’t seen in decades. It was wonderful to hear family stories and to reconnect. One of the stories she told me was how when my dad was a little boy my grandmother – Granny – would go with the whole family down to one of the many canals around the farm where they lived. They’d line up, sitting along the canal’s side and drop their fishing lines in…and wait. Apparently Granny (whom I never knew for she died before I was born) delighted in the joy of simply being together as a family: “You know,” she would say, “sometimes the best part of fishing is when the fish don’t bite.”

Fishing thus means different things to different people. For me, it has for most of my life, been an unexamined joy. I don’t take it as seriously as many of my friends. I don’t think about it all that much except when I’m doing it. And if you asked me why I enjoy it, I would tell you the answer I’ve always told myself:

“I fish as an excuse to be out in a beautiful location.”

Which sounds like a fine answer. Except that  such a response could apply to hiking, golf, kayaking or a dozen other activities. I think there’s more to it than that.

I think the main reason I like fishing is that it’s a lot like travel.

“Huh?” you may be thinking. Travel is about movement. Fishing, as the above anecdotes illustrate, involves a good amount of waiting. Or, as the t-shirt I once gave a client says, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat and drink beer all day.” True. But there’s more to fishing than tossing out a line and hoping for the best.

Fishing is – or can be – an adventure. You head out with high hopes but uncertain outcomes. You have to know where you’re going even if you don’t know what you’ll find there. You have to pay attention and be alert even as you stay relaxed since fishing is usually more marathon than sprint.

Fishing embodies many elements of discovery as well: the hunt, the wondering what will happen next, the anticipation and the excitement when something does happen.

Now I realize that many of you may feel that catching fish is about as enticing as finding one in your bed. But stick with me over the next several entries because I think you’ll discover that fishing can teach all of us a few important lessons about travel and life.

Thus, if you ask me now why I like fishing, I might expand my previous answer and tell you that “Fishing is a good excuse to hang out in a beautiful place…with a purpose.” That purpose is, as we shall see, more than reeling in a fish. Though as anyone who loves fishing will tell you; that alone is enough.


If you haven’t already, you might want to check out other entries in this series on lessons on learning through fly fishing: Hardware vs. SoftwareKnowing and Doing, Eliminate Your Variables and Learning in Small Bites

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The journey ahead

by Steve Brock on December 31, 2010

The end of the year evokes reflection much like the smell of sautéing onions induces hunger.

The end of the year is a good time to look back and also look forward to the coming year. But how you do that makes all the difference...

The turning of the calendar from one year to the next is a marker we’ve been conditioned to note, sometimes with joy, sometimes with melancholy. But as we saw in the last entry, as we look forward to the next year, we have, in reality, no way of knowing how it will turn out.

That can be frightening to some of us. But I’ve learned something from traveling to different parts of the world that may be of use in this regard.

In Africa, Latin America and Asia, I have noted something different about the way people pray. I’m not referring to the difference between how a Hindu prays versus a Muslim, for example. You’d expect substantial differences there. In fact, what has surprised me more are the similarities in prayer between people of different religions.

The difference I mean is between the way Christians here in the US pray versus Christians from other parts of the world, particularly in less developed countries (a phrase I find particularly ironic in this context).

Here, if we’re confronted with some challenge or difficult circumstance, our prayers tend to be something like, “Oh Lord, please remove this burden from my life.” In places where people have far less material possessions than we do, their prayer is different. They are likely to pray, “Lord, give me the strength to bear this burden.”

Same God. Same core beliefs. Same challenges in many respects. But a vastly different perspective. Here, we see suffering and anything that disrupts our comfort as something to avoid or have removed from us faster than that pair of embroidered socks we received from Aunt Mildred for Christmas. There, they maintain the perspective that suffering is part of life, often – though it doesn’t seem so at the time – a very beneficial part because of what it does within us and the subsequent joy that comes afterwards.

We miss out on so much life when we seek to avoid our challenges and we definitely spend way too much emotional energy in that pursuit.

So today, as I look forward to the coming year, I will try and apply what I have learned from traveling and from praying with my brothers and sisters in Christ from other parts of the world. I will try to pray as they do and to embrace all that comes my way. That’s easier to do on a trip when so called “real life” seems many miles away. But in this coming year, I want to treat my daily routine life more like I do a trip and incorporate more of that “real life” into my trips.

And who knows? Maybe this year both my trips and my prayer life will be the richer for the effort.

Happy New Year.

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Return and Presence

by Steve Brock on August 16, 2010

Door of in-laws house

The house of my favorite in-laws in the world

Return almost always catches me by surprise. Of course I know that I will be coming home. But I’m never quite prepared for what that may mean.  [click to continue…]

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