Life's teachers come in the most unexpected forms. Sometimes, they even sport fins and scales, like the three-foot carp that lives in the pond where I take my daily stroll. OK, this carp has a human interpreter, Robert, a fishing enthusiast who I met a number of years ago during one of my pond strolls. I've since enjoyed the parallels he draws between fishing and life (he's been a serious fisherman for more than 50 years and knows his stuff).
During a recent walk around the pond, I pointed to the large white carp swimming beneath the surface and mentioned that he'd been around for quite a while. Robert told me that no one had ever been able to catch that carp since it was placed in the pond years ago. And then one day, by just a stroke of luck, he caught it.
"Why'd you release it -- not good eating?" I asked.
"Nope," he replied. "I set it free because we made eye contact."
Robert then explained what might be called the fisherman's code of honor. If you catch a fish and you look each other in the eye, it's understood that you're playing a game of "catch and release" and you send it home. If it doesn't look you in the eye, you're looking at dinner.
"How come someone else hasn't snagged him?"
"Oh, it'll die of natural causes well before it gets caught," Robert replied. He then went on to explain that the carp is a savvy creature built to survive. As he talked, I realized that this was no fish tale -- there were some great takeaways for those of us who walk on land and don't have gills. Here are my five favorites.
- Sniff before you bite. Robert told me that this carp had learned to nudge and sniff the bait before biting -- it had apparently become alert to nature's offerings and could distinguish between the real thing and the lure of a human. The fish's success comes down to learning when it is being conned; it can't afford a single mistake. What if we, of the "superior intelligence" could do that too? Would save a lot of grief!
Finally, think about this. The carp is a gentle creature; it could be called meek and rather delicate. But the fact is, carps have been around for more than 2,500 years and are able to survive the coldest winters and wiliest hunters. Biblical text mentions that the meek shall inherit the earth; perhaps it can be said that this fish has already inherited the pond.
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