CATCH AND RELEASE
Series: Recovering Desire
I am not a fisherman. But my son, whose grandfathers have both enjoyed taking him fishing since he was old enough to hold a kid-pole, loves it. So, I have pushed myself into a new hobby, conquering my squeamishness of dirty, bloody worms and wriggling, slimy fish. Now that we have been doing this together for a few years, it is quite enjoyable. I only bring one rod. Nolan (my son) gets all the casting time and I sit in my chair enjoying the day, often with a cigar and a beer… not too shabby. I wait until the line gets snagged, or he needs a new worm or gets a fish on the line. It is a great moment when the bobber plunges beneath the surface, the end of the pole bends, and the great fun of reeling in a fish begins. Then it is my turn. I get out my pliers and tentatively (still) grab the fish, trying not to get stuck by the sharp barbs of its back fin, and pull the hook out. We get to admire the catch and maybe take a picture with it, but then we throw it back into the water to watch it swim away again.
What an interesting concept. We do this for fun. Some will clean and cook the fish for dinner, others will have it professionally mounted. But most of us who wait for hours, desperately hoping for just a nibble, will, when we finally have the big moment, turn around and let the fish go. What is fascinating is that walking away with nothing to show for the work doesn’t seem to diminish the fun or joy. Maybe there is something we can learn from this.
Whenever we are confronted with desire, we are tempted to capture it. We want to somehow cage it, keep it and try to suck the life fully from it. This often happens to me when I see a beautiful landscape or sunset. I try to capture it. I am pulled to find the perfect perspective to enjoy the moment. After I find this perspective, I pull out my iPhone to try to capture a picture of it. Of course, the picture never does it justice and this is frustrating so then I try a different angle, filter, a video instead, etc. And then I am already posting and sharing the pics on social media or with friends. And after all this scrambling to capture the moment, I have missed it. I was not really present to it. I didn’t really enjoy it because I was too busy trying to cage the beauty and make it do something for me.
Another example is how easily I can be drawn by the beauty of a woman. Her face or shape is awe-inspiring and right at that moment I have a choice. Will I enjoy the beauty and the moment for what it is and then let it go, or will I try to capture it. I might take a second, third and fourth look, daydream about flirting (or worse), or even try to get her attention. God created us to enjoy and be attracted by beauty, so the attraction isn’t sin. But what I do with it can be. What I practice is this: I can smile and say in my head, “Wow, she is beautiful” but then the all important, “But, she is not life and she is not mine.” And I let her go. I move on with my thoughts and the rest of my day. I can then be present to my wife and kids and other beauty and goodness that reveals itself throughout the day. We can practice this with anything that lures by its desirous rapture.
This is called catch and release; to be quick to receive and quick to let go. We can learn to train our desires by not trying to capture beauty, but enjoy it for what it is and then let it go. Whether it is a beautiful sunset, a fun family vacation, a success at work, or an attractive person, it is healthy to learn to enjoy it for what it is and then say goodbye and let go more quickly.
One of my favorite quotes from Richard Rohr captures it this way: “The most loving men I have met, the most generous to society and to life, are usually men who also have a lusty sense of life, beauty, pleasure and sex – but they have very realistic expectations of them.”
Train desire by learning to catch and release beauty