The Energy of Tragic Optimism
As the light crests the horizon we head directly into the ball of fire that seems to move remarkably quick when it is rising, although it seems to move as quickly when it is setting as well, reference point I guess. We took the lagoon highway instead of the Ocean for this morning’s commute and are yet again brimming with hope of what the day may bring as the “what if this happens” instant replay starts churning in our minds. While not discussed it is known that your friend is having similar thoughts as the hum of the engine keeps conversation to a minimum. As the sun gets to a certain height, usually about mid ball, and the beams of light reflect off the clouds shoot in all different directions to never be repeated again, it is a stark reminder to be here now. Almost as if for that moment the Sun provides us with a daily free lesson, stop thinking about what may be, and look at me now, now. Our commute allows the sun to ascend into it’s less dramatic self and we fall back into the tragic optimism of the day and pop out of the lagoon into the ocean.
A certain amount if of guilt seeps in when contemplating Victor Frankuls description of Tragic Optimism as he outlines in his book “A Man’s search for meaning” is it was born from his experiences of surviving the Holocaust, and here I am trying to relate it to fishing. I completely understand how a book of that magnitude will most likely come out of a struggle that deep especially with the right mixture of luck. The twinge of guilt is just there, like the sunrise, a good reminder.
In theory at least how I have come to understand it, it seems so simple. In summary Frankuls case for tragic optimism is derived from attitude and a certain way of living when faced with it’s three inevitable elements, Pain, Guilt and Death. One of my favorite outlooks that he advocates in regards to how to move forward and take meaning from tragedy is “ by living our life as if it was for the second time, knowing how we got it wrong the first time”. What he does not expand upon is how contagious the energy is from someone who has just come to be with this outlook in life and most likely doesn’t even know the book exists. It just so happens that one of those people is sitting next to me as we head East.
I have always found strong life lessons in Fly Fishing, as for me it is a strong reflection of life in fast forward. On any given day on the water you can move through the extremes of the emotional spectrum in a matter of seconds. Questioning what you are doing and why, complaining about circumstances out of your control can switch to a rush of adrenaline so strong you physically start to shake while your heartbeat pounds questions of concern in a matter of seconds. The elation from performing an act of excellence to a complete and utter meltdown that leaves you looking like a kid that just had his ice cream stolen. Thus it provides a spotlight on how you want to be as a person and whether you succumb to that is entirely up to oneself. Either way, the beauty of this glimpse of life in fast forward is that you become aware of your actions quickly whether you want to acknowledge them or not, and the extremes are relatively easy for others to see. Almost like a little tragic optimism shock collar that gives you quick jolting reminders of your actions.
On this day we run far, play with an octopus and spend hours trying to evade a lightning storm. We do catch some fish, but the day serves as a nice reminder of how contagious Tragic Optimism is when you are fishing with someone who embodies it. As we sit back and contemplate the day on terra firma the thoughts of “what if this happens tomorrow” start to percolate through the comfortable silence. While Frankul touches on the notion of Trajic Optimism being contagious in his book, I wish he had written more on the topic, maybe he did, I will check it out. For now I think about the sunrise, the octopus, our mishaps in trying to evade the lighting in a small boat full of graphite, and being thankful for not being struck by lighting, again.