Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The fine (monofilament) line between obsession and madness

Time was when I played rock music while driving. Loud .... very loud. If I forgot to turn the volume down before exiting the car, I was risking a telling off from my wife if she was the next to drive it, as her musical tastes are softer, quieter and more refined than mine. These days it's not a problem. Radio 4, that "wonder of the modern world", informed, entertaining, intelligent, eclectic (all the things I wish I was!) now provides the background to my vehicular journeys, and it was via a broadcast on Radio 4 that I discovered the enigmatic Dexter Petley, an eccentric in the great English tradition of individualistic battiness, and a carp angler, to boot.

Petley's obsession with catching carp has led to his almost total retreat from the world, and his autobiography, "Love, madness, fishing" gives a titular clue to the life he leads. Now permanently based in Normandy, he lives in a yurt, is an erudite but amateur naturalist and philosopher and fishes full time for the giant carp that swim in French lakes. His ecological perspective allied to his passion for angling have led to him, by his own admission, not having been to the dentist since 1977, the barber since 1983 and the doctor since 1989. Last year, in 2015, he cleaned his teeth 12-15 times, cut his hair twice (he leaves his hair outside for the birds to build into little grey nests), and is a man who can make a bar of soap last two years, a tube of toothpaste three. His coffee mug and coffee pot have been unwashed for a decade and he recycles everything. His one concession to personal grooming is the fact that he eschews the bearded look and still shaves.

Dexter Petley, it cannot be doubted, is "in over his head" when it comes to his commitment to the gentle art, but anyone who has ever wielded a rod will understand (perhaps with a slight sense of envy) how he's ended up where he is. My friend and fellow church minister Stewart Bloor (pictured below) once set himself a challenge of fishing for a small part of every single day in a  calendar year (he succeeded), and for myself and many of my fishing friends, ostensibly normal, respectable men with families, jobs and all the modern accoutrements, our fishing is able to engender a passion that some might say borders on insanity.

The challenge to me, as a Christian, is how to cope with what sometimes feels remarkably like an addiction (and as an ex smoker, whose grandfather struggled with alcohol, I feel I know a thing or two about addictions!). For me, the answer has been "integration"; the bringing together of my faith and my fishing. Finding in fishing an opportunity for meditation on the God who created the natural beauty that surrounds me as I fish. If a sacrament is defined as an "outward and visible sign of an invisible grace", then God's common grace can be seen in all that surrounds the angler, and so fishing becomes a finger that, for those with eyes to see, points to the Almighty. I rather think that the great sage, saint and angler, Isaak Walton,  would have wholeheartedly agreed, and that, my friends, is good enough for me.


1 comment:

  1. Romans 1:20

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen.