Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fresh Angles From Fishing: Conceptuality in Contemplation

Happy New Year to everyone reading this post within an appropriate limit of time. I've really had a lot of fun blogging this year since almost April, not to mention fishing; we all know fishing's fun, and I have you, the reader, to thank for keeping me motivated.

Today I thought I'd riff on an idea more like the way I write by hand in notebooks than I have for these posts, only it has to do with fishing or angling. Until recently, I always recognized the word "angling' for its obvious dictionary defined meaning, to fish, with connotations of class and refinement. I read Izaak Walton in 2010. Until then The Compleat Angler was to me one of those classics I hadn't read. Walton worked in an iron works shop until he kept his own, retiring at 50 to a farmhouse he bought, concerned thereafter with fishing, socializing, and writing his books. He wasn't born to the higher classes and never separated from his modest origins, although he became friends with wealthy and well known men. No one else has defined angling as has Walton, and angling has in essence nothing to do with the pretensions of class and refinement; everything to do with the spirituality that really compels anyone to fish.  

I knew of Izaak Walton and his book from my boyhood, my mother having spoken of it to me when I was about eight and had just begun to fish and to understand what a classic is. I was quietly amazed such a book was written on fishing. I actually did not quite believe it, skeptical. Surely it was another of those books about how to fish. But it is about how to fish, only in a way integrated with the motives of why do it.

Since reading Walton, specifically about "fishing with an angle" (italics mine), a rod, the meaning of the word angling has permutated in my mind in a way which isn't wholly clear, but owes perhaps the most of the idea to this man who sought a way beyond the social conflicts of his time. In a nutshell, rather than fishing around for the unseen below, literally in the water, this idiosyncratic meaning of mine attached to angling suggests a purely mental aspect, certainly not everything angling entails.

We always fish in an implicit relationship to civilization. But we're out when we fish. Therefore, and in fact, we have the opportunity for new conceptual takes or angles on the civilization we come from. Our recreation, fishing or angling in all the possible meanings of the words, is quite contemplative. And everyone who fishes does this mental exercise I've suggested to some degree. I know that often when I'm out, I'm really out, I don't think of where I've come from at all, although surely my subconscious processes do. But in crossing that threshold of return, the borderland between the wild and civilization during a homecoming, we're often surprised at how other the "ordinary" world seems. We've gone away from it, so upon coming back, it's other to what we've acclimated to. This affords an opportunity to experience usual states of affairs in fresh ways.

If you pay close enough attention, you may find your thoughts subtly surprising. I can't remember any to give specific examples, perhaps I will in some future posts, but beyond doubt contemplation is not limited to aesthetic appreciations of the environment and emotional and spiritual release. Conceptual angles arise that may make living back home more interesting, easier to work through if problematic, and renewed.

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