Fishing: A Quiet Desperation

Photo courtesy of Barry Ord Clarke at

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it’s not fish they’re after.” Henry David Thoreau calls this ‘quiet desperation.’

The problem in a world that forces us to go fishing is that it takes so many years and so much effort to even learn how to fish, that by the time we’re proper fishermen, we can’t bring ourselves to learn a new trade. We refuse to let sunk costs be sunk costs.

I think the most desperate of all quiet desperation is knowing, for years and years and years, that it’s not fish you’re after. Deep down, I bet many people do know, have an inkling if not a resounding awareness. They also know that the only real way to find what they’re after is to stop fishing. To go hunting or berry-picking. But they keep fishing, waiting for that perfect moment to segway into a new trade; hoping that this moment will arrive without risk, without sunk cost.

It won’t. And so quiet desperation builds from knowing, not changing, and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.


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