I’m in a cultural exchange program with my new mate — that is mate in both the biblical sense and the Gilligan’s Island sense. Covid isolation has us trapped on our own private island, his cabin in the woods where autumn is in full regalia. Our closest neighbors are the owls who chime at night. There’s no dishwasher (except me). The hillside well permits enough water for only one load of laundry a day. Big loss — I like to do 5 loads a day, separate colors, different water temperatures, whiteners, stain removers, you know the drill. And two-minute showers in a water closet (not sexy) before sediment clogs the system. This landscape was not intended for indoor plumbing, but the primitive amenities come with the view. Walking among the trees here feels like church, reminds me of my connection to the land and the man who chooses to live like this.
I enjoy Mother Nature between journeys into cyberspace where I spread my virtual wings and fly on words. He meditates on Nature with a fishing rod in his hand. This weekend we went to a fishing tournament on a beautiful mountain lake, an activity that requires social distance to keep participants from hooking each other instead of the fish. My love of the outdoors centers more on plants and the ecosystems that sustain them. Bass fishing is all new for me. Watching a couple dozen men diligently catch and release fish for two days was unexpectedly comforting. Men at peace in a world at war.
As a feminist I often see men portrayed as the root of all evil, and I’ve occasionally jumped on the misandry bandwagon. It’s easy to blame the others we see as so very different from us for the problems in our lives. Men make an easy target. Now that kind of othering of the other gender feels simplistic, and I’m a bit embarrassed. I want to think I’ve transcended gender, but I haven’t. I still expect most men to be hyper competitive, cruel seekers of tribal supremacy, quick to violence, and oblivious to the destruction and chaos they leave in their wake. Spending the weekend watching a couple dozen grown men interact together challenged those stereotypes. Of course, stereotypes are not the same as understanding, looking is not the same as seeing, presumption is prejudice.
What I saw most prevalent among these men was kindness — kindness to each other, the lake and the fish. When Jesus told his disciples to become fishers of men, he wasn’t suggesting they conquer people and hold them prisoner or force their ideas on other minds. The whole idea of fishing is to provide an attraction, become closer, win over the other with some appealing offering. Philosophically fishing is the quiet act of giving and receiving. It takes patience, stillness, solitude, insight and intuition. Not qualities we typically associate with the male gender, and yet absolutely at the heart of being a good man. Watching these guys fish for two days, I saw the integration of ages, races and backgrounds, and I could feel the spirit of cooperation. A generous vibe rippled among them. I saw comradery and I could imagine peace.