This lesson is about keeping humble, so you can learn from unsuspected sources. Humility is best understood by those you’ve made the mistake of being unhumble for significant periods of positive reality exposure. Once this mistake has been pointed out to them, either by friends, strangers or the law, they can then begin to appreciate humility. Scams stick to the unhumble like goose down to Velcro. You need to become anti-Velcro. You need to become smooth as teddy bear fur. Teddy bear fur is the slickest substance in the universe. The fur stays that way because teddy bears are so humble. Think about it; when is the last time you ever heard of a teddy bear sticking up for “number one”? The answer, which is stuck at the back of your throat because you are so embarrassed, the answer is: never.
Understand, sometimes Mr. Beer knows best. You just got to trust Mr. Six-pack, and do what he says. And whoa, when I did last week, what a weekend!
It was one of those where you get a lot more than you planned on. I’d decided to take the day off and slow down a bit. Saturday morning I got up, ordered 2 giant pepperoni and extra cheese pizzas, then ran down to the store for a sixer before the delivery girl came by.
Life has been so much better since I gave up drinking mass market beer, and went exclusively with micro-brew. Quality is better than quantity. Mass market beer has dumbed down Americans.
So there I was, 11:30 Saturday morning with my pizza and brew, settling into a full day of watching football. Half way through the first beer the thought came to me that I should go fishing. I ignored it. Halfway through the second beer the thought came even louder, “Go fishing”.
I didn’t pay any attention. I popped the top on the 3rd bottle. As the carbonation came hissing out I heard it whisper, “Go fishing”.
A great scammer gets to be great by learning to listen to that small voice only your intuition and soul can hear. Penn State’s football fight song played in the background as I thought about what I should do. Then the TV camera cut to a close up of Coach Paterno. He was staring right at me. Those dark, cutting eyes went right inside and grabbed my soul. I could hear his voice, low and scratchy. So, I took another swig, and suddenly his voice grew louder; “Get off your butt, and go fishing!” I threw the rest of the pizza and beer in a cooler, grabbed my gear, and was out the door.
In the truck I thought about why this was happening. I try to always remember that the scam is bigger than me—the scam can exist without me, but I can’t exist without the scam. The scam existed before I did. I didn’t create the scam. I just stumbled on to it. Never, never let your ego get bloated and think you’ve got the scam under your thumb. A scam is a living, breathing thing with a life of its own. You can’t really control a scam. The best you can do is ride it like a white-water jet boater, going faster than the river flow.
With all those ideas roaming around in my head I headed for the mountains. The day was sunny and warm. I decided to go to Twisted River, one of my favorites.
Eating more pizza while I drove got me to the first bridge on the lower river stretch. A few clouds were rolling through, but not enough to cool things down, just cast shadows here and there. Inside my jeep cab I could hear the muffled roar of the river. That’s why it’s called Twisted—because it’s got so many rapids, and you’ve got to be really mentally twisted to ever raft run it.
I sat still for a second, listening to the muffled river-roar. I really enjoy this next part. Here it comes—I opened the door—the river-roar leaped in volume. The crash of grinding wet noise rinsed out my mind. I grabbed my fishing gear and cooler, and made for the river, headed downstream.
I made toward the best spot, a real nice pool, right after some rapids. The rocks along the shore were dry, so my walking went fast. The last bend before my favorite fishing pool was right in front of me. I walked around it, and there was another guy! It’s like catching you’re girlfriend with another guy! What was I going to do? Well, the stretch of pool was big, easily enough room for two to fish. Okay, I’ll share; I’ll go downstream of him.
“Great day, isn’t it”, he said. He was fixing something with his pole.
“ Yeah, wonderful day.”
No need to be unfriendly. I put my stuff down on the rocks.
My new neighbor looked around, like he thought someone might be overhearing us. He beckoned me over to him.
“You’re welcome to that spot, put I should warn you. I’m fishing legal in the eyes of God, but not legal in the eyes of the law. If a warden comes by and catches me he might think we’re together and grab you, too”.
Something illegal? This was supposed to be my day off. Should I split downstream further? Oh, why not fellowship a bit with an amateur comrade.
“Thanks for the warning, friend. I’ll take my chances.” I was itching to know his tricks. “Is the warden around here pretty hard-nosed?”
“He sure is, he’s one of those idiots who thinks he’s protecting the integrity of the sport. Fish want to be caught! Catching fish isn’t a sport; it’s a duty. A fish isn’t a fish until it’s caught. Until then it is just a ‘potential’ fish. Our local warden doesn’t believe this. Sticking him near a fishing hole makes as much sense as making an atheist a priest.”
This guy had an active imagination, and I didn’t get the feeling that this was all some dodge. He really believed it.
“You’ve talked this over with him?”
“He says he believes in ‘the integrity of the sport of fishing’. What a crock! Fishing is no fake sport like croquet, this is life, basic life, it’s about why oxygen puts up with dirt, why rocks where made, why water is wet, why French fries should be cooked in as much grease as possible.”
Control yourself, I said. This isn’t about me. This is his scam. And it’s a deep pure scam, the kind of scam that is so perfect that you’ve even scammed yourself. The only one that knows for sure that it’s a scam is the Universal scam supervisor, who can never be fooled. But the Universal scam supervisor can be amused, and I know him well enough to know that he would be very entertained by this dude. This fisherman was inventing his own truth. It wasn’t as good as the real thing, but it was as damn an honest attempt as a human can make when they’re lying. Keep your mouth shut, and let him ride, I thought.
“Croquet; you’re right, how can you trust a sport that lets itself be played on green carpet faked to look like grass,” I said.
“You got it! A lie is a lie, and grass is grass and rug is rug. But, you know, even if you know something is a lie you can still use it to right wrongs.”
“Sure, you bet, of course. But, just this one time, what exactly do you mean?” I popped open a couple of beers and got out the pizza. Both beers were for me. This dude was too wound up to need any beer. But I needed all the help I could get at understanding where he was.
“Our local fish and wildlife warden grew up in Chicago, got his degree in Forest Management, didn’t see any honest wilderness with his own eyes until he had his Ph.D. It’s like thinking you can understand a deer by studying a dead carcass in a lab. You don’t learn about wild life by studying it in a classroom. You learn about it by sitting in the dark at the foot of a rapids with no light, not even a match or lighter in your backpack. You lay all safety aside and let nature over whelm you and do what ever she wants. That’s how I learned about fish. Now I devote myself to helping fish be fish.”
The pizza cheese was getting hard, but good.
“You bet, and so this is where wrongs are used to make right?”
“The world spins, civilizations fall, drug store chains come and go, and still there are fish. Why? Because the one factor that keeps the earth existing is that fish continue to go upstream when they spawn, downstream when they’re born. The Earth exists for no other reason.”
“Sounds good to me.”
He set his pole down in a holder and moved toward one of his coolers.
“To start with, I want to liberate as many fish as I can, so screw ‘fishing limits’”.
He opened a cooler, took a firm hold with both hands, and lifted the whole insides out. It was a false bottom. Underneath were five liberated fish.
“When a fish wants to become a fish, ready to realize its full potential, I’m not going to let some phony fishing limit get in my way. That’s like saying that only so many people could come over the Berlin Wall in one night, then you had to throw the others back. I’m no fool.”
“No, I’m not sure what you are, but I know you’re no fool.”
“And you’re right, it’s not so important to know what you are, as much as it’s important to know what you’re not. It’s more important to know that you’re wet, than to know how you got wet.”
Right then I got a big flash of Coach Paterno, up close. It was like the mute had been on all this time, and suddenly the volume came up full screaming force. I was starting to understand this guy, for better or worse.
He took a few steps into the river and pointed.
“See those ‘rocks’ there?” He pointed to a cluster of gray, smooth stones.
“Yep.” I had no idea were this was going anymore, so I wasn’t committing to anything more than I had to.
“They aren’t rocks. They’re chunks of real Tillamook cheddar cheese, covered with gray cloth. The cheese attracts the fish. The cloth is a disguise.”
Good man: he understands the universal significance of cheese.
“For the warden?”
“You’re catching on. See those smaller ‘rocks’ over there?”
He pointed a few away from the cheese blocks.
“Let me guess; they aren’t really rocks?”
“You’re fast! Nope, underneath the gray cloth are huge tea-balls I made myself. Each one holds corn from 1 can. Fish go nuts about cheese and corn. That’s why they’re banned substances for fishing. Look!”
A big trout, 18 inches or so, was swimming toward the cheese and corn. It swam between 2 real rocks, and nosed up against the forbidden substances.
My fellow angler looked around.
“The warden is no where in sight. Time to liberate a comrade.”
He lifted the false bottom on the cooler. I hadn’t noticed this the first time, but there were tiny chunks of cheddar cheese on the bottom. He picked up a chunk, slid it on the hook on his pole.
“Okay, friend, come over the wall to safety, quick, before the Gestapo gets here. We don’t got much time.”
He put out just a couple of feet of line, and nosed the cheese against the curious fish. Snap! The hook, cheese, and fish became one. The angler reached down, grabbed the fish, and got his mouth close to the trout.
“You’re almost home free, you’re almost a true fish. Just stop struggling and trust me, everything will be okay.”
With a few finger flips the trout flopped into the cooler, and the false bottom was covered again.
“Hey, Carl, how’s it going?”
Up on the bank near us stood a forest service warden. He waved at us. My fellow angler waved back, and smiled.
“Not bad, John. Haven’t hooked any thing yet.”
“Well, keep at it, your luck’ll change.” The warden walked on up stream.
“He’s awful friendly to you, considering you’re enemies.”
“Oh, John thinks I’m on his side. It’s best to not let the Gestapo know you’re true feelings. They do have the upper hand. I say whatever I got to so I can drag my fish friends across to safety. And I know the fish would do the same for me, if I ever needed it.”
“That pizza you’re eating is doing the same for you, that this cheese does for the fish. The cheese pulls us over the wall into mental freedom. Keep eating, friend.”
Carl had spotted another fish coming our way. He was going to save another friend. I guess that’s the lesson I had come out here to learn. What’s important in life is looking out for you’re friends.
Yours in the faith,