Rising to the Bait

Pretty, isn’t it…

One of the reasons I’m a vegetarian is that I have a low tolerance for violence. I understand: cycle of nature, food chain, blah blah blah… but one of the things that makes us human is that we get to choose how to participate, not merely play out some supposedly inevitable role as predator or prey.

I’m particularly annoyed by catch-and-release fishing, which is supposedly the humane, “sporting” alternative to eating what you bring home. But really, the only reasons to hunt and fish are a) to sit in the woods or on the boat and meditate, and b) to eat.

Let’s think about it from the fish’s point of view. The fish, I think, has a vocabulary of four words:

  • Whatever—nothing special going on here, just chillax
  • Huh—I wonder what that thing is over there
  • Yum—I’m going to eat that thing!
  • FUCK!!!!—That thing’s going to eat me!

I think that pretty much covers the gamut of fish inner monologue. (Some people, too.)

So here’s the short story of the catch-and-release experience from the fish’s POV.

Whatever.

Huh.

Yum!

FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Whatever.

Excerpted from “What I Did Last Summer,” by pretty much every bass in third grade

The trauma may not be lasting, the fish may not have an enduring sense of self into which this momentary assault will be permanently fit, but it’s trauma nonetheless, and I don’t need to participate in it.


A lot of our lives is catch-and-release, though, isn’t it. Being an adjunct faculty member can be like this: just doin’ our scholarly thing, seeing an interesting opportunity over there, swimming over to be told that “you’re just the right person to teach this, we’ve had a need in this area for so long…” And we hit the bait, only then to discover the barbed hook and the lack of nutrients.

Being a writer is much the same: just doin’ our fiction thing, seeing an interesting agent or magazine, swimming over to deliver the pitch, and biting down hard just to be strung along and eventually tossed back.

But damn, that bait looks good.

Really, the ideal life of the writer is only the first couplet of this abbreviated poem of experience: whatever and huh. That is, happily writing, and being interested in something new to write about. It’s the second pair, the external forces, that introduce the danger. The glittering lure that draws us; the unseen barb that snares us, thrashing for our lives.

More tomorrow.

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