The Contented Fisherman

February 18, 2010

Contented Fisherman

A rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find a fisherman from the South laying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

“Why aren’t you out fishing?” said the industrialist.

“Because I have caught enough fish for the day,” said the fisherman.

“Why don’t you catch some more?”

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money” was the reply. “With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish.

“Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats . . . maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.”

“What would I do then?”

“Then you could really enjoy life.”

“What do you think I am doing right now?”


My RD Brian once told us a similar story to this for a Church of the Stoop, and the story dovetails nicely with the previous one. When do we have enough? Stop and think for a bit; what makes you happy? What would you have to do to achieve that? I love to write. Well, I don’t love to write papers, but that’s because I think they suck all the energy out of what I would like to say. I love to talk to people and get their stories. I love to mediate. I love to debate. I love art. What do I have to do to get that? Apparently I’m like the industrialist: go to a private school; get a degree; go to a swank overseas university; get a Master’s degree; go deep into debt to do these things; still be unsure as to how this will get you doing what you love to do when it’s done.

Where does our relentless working get us? Any time the economy starts to tank we hear about how social mobility has become more difficult. We’re obsessed with getting ahead, with keeping up, with not getting left behind. We run up debt long before we’d ever run up the white flag and say, “I’ve got enough.” While I was at Northwestern Brian and I would have one-on-ones every week, and he told me once about an interview he read profiling an old Cuban man. When asked what his secret to long life was, he replied, “Good food, good cigars, and good sex.” When you read profiles of people who’ve lived into a ripe old age, how many of them say things like, “Put in 60 hours a week at my job, be ruthless to my competitors, never take a vacation”?

The answer is none of them, if you weren’t clear.

Instead we hear variations on the Cuban man’s advice, which essentially boils down to this: Enjoy your life. When you have enough, be ok with having enough. Things will sort themselves out; they always do.


One Response to “The Contented Fisherman”

  1. Jacob B. said

    J’aime beaucoup! You would write a good sermon, by the way. You should most definitely become a youth leader in addition to whatever else you end up doing. I’m just saying, I see it working out very well for you.

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