The Existentialism of Ice Fishing

I walk or drive onto questionable ice on a frigid, windy day. I drill a hole in the ice. I put a tiny wax worm on a tiny jig and drop my line through the hole in the ice. I sit on a bucket for hours. I may sip a beverage. It’s called ice fishing.

I happen to be a Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent. I use those two facts as an explanation for my behavior. I’d like to think that ice fishing is a metaphor for life. The problem is, I can’t figure out what the metaphor is. I think my brain has been frozen too many times in Minnesota winters.

In more civilized places like Italy or Brazil, folks find much more sensible pastimes. But here…I can’t explain why I drill holes in a frozen lake. I hunt deer too but does it make a lot of sense to get up at an insanely early hour, stumble out in the dark and climb into a deer stand to sit still for hours while freezing my tail off?

However, the older I get, the less I feel the need to understand what I do and why I do it. Actually, there are a great many things we do that are not based on reason or even expediency. I go to church on Sunday and read the Bible. I believe it’s God’s word. Yet, can I prove that? I’m deluding myself if I think I can prove that the particular English translation I’m holding in my hand is a precise replica of God’s breathing. After all, it is based on copies of long lost original autographs of works canonized (I.e. selected) by humans to be the official biblical writings of folks who wrote in Hebrew and Greek thousands of years ago. Yet, I take on faith that it is God’s authoritative word.

However, I also don’t get too hung up on it and I have little patience for those who like to take parts of verses and parse them into self-satisfying doctrine. I’d rather smile and honestly say I believe the Bible is God’s word and then yawn and nod off as soon as someone starts acting like they observed Moses, David, Luke, Paul or John taking quill to parchment. My salvation comes because of God’s love and his saving grace through his Son, Jesus Christ. When push comes to shove, I trust and believe that Christ, not the Bible, saves me. As to the Bible, I simply take on faith that God thought that it was really important and that the Holy Spirit has probably guided the manuscribing monks, canonizers, Hebrew and Greek translators and 21st century cultural understanding. I can’t prove the first thing about the NIV translation I am holding in my hands and it’s not important to do so.

I don’t claim to be smart enough to understand Soren Kierkegaard and Christian existentialism but I believe that Kierkegaard thought three themes were really important to God: Grace, humility and love. I think that is a nice compact set of guiding themes. In fact, a set of such trifocals seems to be the perfect lens by which to read the Bible. Things seem a lot clearer when I try less to reason my way through life than simply viewing things through my trifocals.

In fact, I also find that I’m even becoming less concerned about the rationality of a great many things. I’ve long been a fitness freak and also a fitness information sponge–it’s as if I’ve always wanted to knock out a set of deadlifts while peeling my skin back to watch the synopses of my muscles in order to understand them intimately. Now, I don’t care. I go for a walk and do a set of push-ups because it feels like the thing to do and I’m confident that I’ve done my body and soul some good. I can’t explain why I think that and I don’t care to try to figure it out.

It’s actually very comforting to live much of life without a coherent rationale for everything I do. Perhaps with age, I’ve just come to understand intuitively that a great deal of human activity is absurd in the first place, even when humans think that they’ve undertaken their course of action through logic or reason. I think that the older I get, the less sure I am that I really know all of the things I thought I knew. Interestingly, that realization does not really bother me. At the same time, I feel more confident in so many of my choices without being able to always justify them. I simply feel a strong sense of peace about drilling holes in the ice or trusting in God’s grace or in going for a walk.

So, I think I will keep my ice fishing gear handy and walk out onto a frozen lake the next chance I get. It’s the political season and a whole lot of folks want to assure me that they’ve rationally solved all life’s problems, even though there doesn’t seem to be much grace, humility or love in anything they have to say. Hey, was that a nibble?…

Copyright January 2016

Daniel Blake

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