Saturday, November 24, 2012

Religion and Angling, Daydreaming in Class, Making Dreams Real, and Making the Real Dream

As a tournament bass fisherman in my teens with a B.A.S.S. local chapter and New Jersey State Federation, I was totally naive to the influence of religion on angling. Not that tournaments would have anything to do with it, but that it now seems as if the whole game is a Christian crusade. I grew up Episcopal, had heard the fishers of men phrase, was granted permission to fish the ponds owned by the Princeton Day School eight miles from home by the Headmaster who sang in one of the choirs my father directed, but I never associated religion and fishing and didn't consider myself religious, although I loved to perform music. I associated science and fishing, never confusing fishing with science, but keeping a relationship to my passionate interest in science developed between the ages of four and 11. I put the image of Christ up for this post not becauase I worship it, but because it symbolizes taking everything in life within and embracing it all as a complete, happy abundance right here in this world. That's what the outstretched arms symbolize rather than wavering over a worshipping herd of sheep. And if you read the Bible, Jesus says as much himself about abundance.

I went to Lynchburg College in Virginia because bass fishing is better in the south, although by the time I selected the school, I had already abandoned ambitions to continue with my outdoor writing and also abandoned ambitions to hit the national tournament circuit and reap those rewards. I had won plenty of trophies on the local scene against men mostly twice my age and certainly had more energy than required to fish at the national level. I gave it all up to pursue a literary career. Just turned 17, I had a strange experience motivating me to write a short story entitled The Dead. I had not yet heard of James Joyce. I wrote the story entire without getting out of my chair, then regarded it with profound curiosity. It took nearly another year to be convinced that novel writing was what I wanted to guide my life towards, early in my senior year.

Some months into that last of high school, I had another experience, which did not impress me as strange. Our Western Civilization class was assigned to write a paper on Napolean Bonaparte, mine finished in about 15 minutes as if I took it straight from dictation, except that I was conscious of making subtle adjustments to arrange its ideation congruently with my own. But despite my ability to turn out astonishing papers in other classes also, which won special distinction from teachers all through high school, I graduated in the center of my class, ranked 143 of 286, my problem holding attention and doing homework held grades down all along. I daydreamed all day long while sitting in classrooms with distracting artificial lighting. Since I never figured out how to pay attention and conceptually integrate class material to an A standard, I fused experience by imagination while thinking over myself and over the whole academic program. On occasion, during almost any class period, I knew just when to snap out of my distance and attend an issue. And of course a B minus grade overall isn't bad, but I endured school very conscious of the state attendance mandate and feeling in disagreement with it; overwhelmingly most of what I learned was from outside the state funded academic program. I did very well at disciplining myself to pay attention in class my first semester of college--because we paid money for this. And I made sure to quit college as soon as I became certain I would not do as well there, as to go away and study great books alone. 

And what's the use of all that religion if it doesn't bind together your whole life as a seamless completion, reality and dreams together, dreams becoming reality and reality becoming dreams? A happy life, in other words. A happy life in spite of all the persuasions to the contrary, in spite of the "common unhappiness" Sigmund Freud suggested people should experience, for example, and other dissuasions against the human experience, happy and free of worshiping anything that asks you to sacrifice for it, or offers to be a sacrifice for you.

Besides, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and refused. He never offered himself; he did just the opposite by keeping his word. True to his own logic, he died just as would any hero who knows that some things are worth dying for. It could be said that this is a most profound paradox because his death on the cross proved to be his central contribution. But the essence of the matter is that Jesus challenged authority and refused to back down.

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