Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Love and Beauty vs. The maniac and the narcissist

As part of an essay examining the sport of fly-fishing, I wrote the following…

“Trout live in beautiful places, as do other fish we fly anglers pursue. Nature is simplicity and a force. We try to capture the essence of nature and the natural world in art and music, the smells and sounds in poetry. Nature and its language and silence are part of each of us. It is where we came from. To practice a quiet sport among such beautiful and diverse surroundings as mountain streams, big freestone rivers, and northern forest brooks is a privilege and our worship at our temple. Nature’s spiritualism is a large part of fly-fishing. At the end of the day, we are as likely to lock into memory the moment the sun burned off the mists on the river at dawn, as the fish we caught. This attention to the aesthetic qualities of nature leads us to care about our treasured places, and to become concerned with the forces that threaten them. There are few true fly anglers that are not closet tree-huggers, if not outright members of conservation organizations. We care because we love, and we love because of beauty. We are connected to the natural world by the footprints we leave and the loops we make.”

This is how it should be, but instead there seems to be a growing number of anglers that
worship themselves instead of nature; the maniac or the narcissistic fly-fisherman.

I take the term maniac from the excellent introduction written by Thomas McGuane for his book The Longest Silence.

Here it is:

"The sport of angling used to be a genteel business, at least in the world of ideals, a world of ladies and gentlemen. These have been replaced by a new set of paradigms: the bum, the addict, and the maniac. I'm afraid that this says much about the times we live in. The fisherman now is one who defies society, who rips lips, who drains the pool, who takes no prisoners, who is not to be confused with the sissy with the creel and the bamboo rod. Granted, he releases that which he catches, but in some cases, he strips the quarry of its perilous soul before tossing it back in the water. What was once a trout-- cold, hard, spotted, and beautiful--becomes "number seven."

I am seeing an increasing amount of this these days.

What I was trying to say in that first quote was that by appreciating the inherent beauty in nature, we grow to love it. In loving, we begin to care, to respect, and to conserve.

We worship at the temple of nature. The maniac does not care or respect, therefore the maniac does not love. He instead copulates in nature for only his own benefit and then discards the corpse. The rivers are whored out until they are no longer capable of giving a thrill. Then the maniacs move on to a new river, bragging about the number of their conquests. The whored-out river is left hollow and forgotten: unloved and used up.
You can easily tell who these people are because they are often the loudest voices out there.

The maniac is not completely oblivious. He often cloaks himself in at least a touch of environmental concern, but really cares more about becoming a rock-star than working to support the rivers. Narcissism. Love turned inward to oneself instead of outward towards nature.

The maniac is incapable of fishing alone. His friends and worshipers must accompany him at all times. Silence is his enemy. He must have his ego constantly stroked. He is relentlessly pushing the ‘F5’ key of life. The maniac lives for the moment. Neither the future nor the past exists to him. “Look at me!” he shouts.

The maniac is the opposite of the purist. In his world ‘easiest and most efficient’ often equate ‘best.’ Whatever technique gives him pleasure the fastest.

The maniac is always measuring his angling. He measures himself against others. The fish get measured and counted as well; how many, how far, and how long replace the aesthetic experience. After all, it has been said that a man without a soul cannot understand aesthetics and beauty. The maniac is nothing if not a soulless machine with a large mirror to peer into. Appreciation is limited to that mirror’s surface. There is no depth - a stark hedonistic two-dimensional world.

You will never find a maniac sitting beside a river, looking at birds, listening to the trickle of water speaking poetry. No, they are too busy running to get to the next spot. ‘The rolling stone gathers no moss’ they will tell you.

The maniac is a dead-end. He may burn out before or after the last fish is killed or suffocates in the stream. I hope for all our sakes it is the former. You will know of his passing by his rare silence.

1 comment:

  1. Wow the times we live in ! yet another great post Erik ,this one made me have to look at myself for a second ,am i maniac ,i would hope not !For me to fish is to be ,when i was younger I had a father point me in the direction of fishing ,what it has become for me today is a temple ! To many times my temple is invaded by over zealous anglers who have nothing but a need to catch so much . For me standing in the water weather freezing , hot ,or just right ,it is about being out there ! Its about seeing the bald eagel fly over my head or the elk spook as i make my way aroungd the next bend .
    Why it is that so many bring greed to the water is beyound me ,people who have to low hole or catch as many fish or hog a hole or be the first at the run before everyone else id not for me .
    My one friend is always in a rush to get to the water and the next hole ,and get to fish it before me .Never have understood that .
    Me i walk the river for peace of mind and a quiet of my soul ,not to be the first in line cause the water is just there and it waits and calls me .im still not quoting poetry on the side of the river though when that happens I hope they put me down LOL!


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