Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches any fish?
It came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen, and lo, there were many fish in the waters all around them. In fact the whole area was surrounded with by streams and lakes filled with fish that were hungry
Week after week and month after month these men who called themselves fisherman met in meetings and discussed their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they may go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing should always be the mission statement and primary task of fisherman.
Continuously, they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for innovative definitions of fishing. Further they said, “The fishing industry exists for fishing as fire exists for burning.” They loved slogans such as “Every fisherman is a fisher,” and “A fisherman’s outpost for every fisherman’s club.” They sponsored special meetings called “fisherman’s campaigns” and a “month for fisherman to fish.” They subsidized global congresses where there were key note addresses on the rationale and best practices in fishing. They promoted new fishing equipment and called for papers to be presented innovation and new baits discovered for fishing.
These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “fisherman’s headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do however–they didn’t fish!
In addition to meeting regularly, they formed a board to organize and send out fisherman to other places where there were also many fish. All the fisherman agreed that what was really needed was a supportive board that would challenge fisherman to be faithful. The board was formed of those who, with great courage and motivation, could do vision-casting for fishing. They spoke of the need to fish in far away streams and lakes where many fish of different colors lived. Furthermore the board hired staff and appointed committees and sub-committees to defend fishing and look into current trends and issues in fishing. But the staff and committee members did not fish.
Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built whose origin and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. However, over the years specialized courses were offered on the existential needs and intricate nature of fish, the psychological reactions of fish, where to find fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had PhD’s (doctorates) in fishology and became professors and heads of fishology in universities. But the teachers did not fish; they only taught fishing. Year after year, after tedious training, many were graduated and given fishing licenses. They were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant and exotic waters that were filled with fishes.
Some spent much time, money, and travel to do research on the history of fishing and see the far away places where the founding fathers did great fishing in centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of bygone years who handed down the idea of fishing.
Further, the fisherman established large printing houses to publish fishing guides. Presses were kept busy day and night to produce material solely devoted to fishing methods, equipment and programs to arrange and to encourage meetings to talk about fishing. A speaker’s bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing.
Many who felt the call to be fisherman responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. But like the fisherman back home, they engaged in all kinds of other occupations. They built power plants to pump water for fish and tractors to plow new waterways. They made all kinds of equipment to travel here and there to look at fish hatcheries. Some also said that they wanted to be a part of a fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so that the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. Still others felt that letting the fish know that they were nice, land-loving neighbors, and how loving and kind they were was enough.
After one stirring meeting on “The Necessity of Fishing,” one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish. He was immediately honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fisherman. He was also placed on the Fisherman’s General Board of Directors as a person having considerable practical experience.
Now it is true that the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish everyday. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fisherman’s club and the fact that they claimed to be fisherman and yet never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the master who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?”
Imagine how hurt some were when one day, one person suggested that those who don’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one following if he is not fishing?
A version of this story credited to J. Drescher, Pulpit Digest, July-Aug, 1978