Adam Dzialo

Adam Dzialo
Our son, Adam Dzialo, age 30

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Life Lessons From A Fish.....My Conversion

Jones Pond, View from our deck..

       We live on a pond.  We have a fairly complex disabled kid to care for.  My goal in life is to give him the best life possible with the most loving care and still maintain a sense of sanity. Reflections on sanity brought me to childhood memories of fishing and the peace and quiet of these experiences.  So what other way to re-capture that place of serenity than to get a boat, pole and sundry types of gear and to fish in the early morn or at dusk on our pond.
        I thought too much lately about converting people to embrace the land of disability.  I thought too much about the past blogs: saying the right thing to the right person at the right time with the right words...then perhaps the story about embracing the disabled would resonate.  My goal was to stop thinking and float around and fish.  This was intentionally paced to be far from a mindful experience...all I wanted was to catch fish and throw them back.
        Well, I met my proverbial match in the first fish I caught one evening ... a bluegill, a small crap fish.  She/he swallowed my worm as well as my hook and I couldn't free the critter without ripping out its guts.  I just cut the line and threw it back in, well aware it wouldn't survive.  I also put away my pole and gear and swore I would never fish for fun again.  Mind you my reference is to fishing for fun and sport and not fishing for dinner.  The fish talked to was the right fish, at the right time, with the right words,  and in the right place.  My behavior would be altered forever.  I saw myself as a brutal killer.

        Many people who fish for fun claim that fish are incapable of feeling pain, that the hook causes no discomfort.  Of course, when a hook has ripped through a delicate mouth, they trash, struggle and fight...they slowly suffocate out of water.  Their struggle indicates an aversion to pain and a strong will to survive.  I thought of severely disabled people, struggling daily to survive not unlike a fish out of water.

       I learned in a split instant a deep lesson about fragility, about an indomitable spirit to survive, about total dependence on another and on the other's treatment of them.  I learned about pain, about helplessness, about the look of despair.  I learned about struggle, about the need to be free, about the cruel domination of others.  I learned what it's like to be a insensitive bully.  In a moment, a torrent of emotion and a flood of knowing filled ever fiber of my being.  I learned from a fish.  I really feel like a shit and all I can do is to resolve to never do this again.

       The right person or fish, the right word, the right place, the right time...I would hope that this experience is not reserved only for the initiated.  I hope that it is a step to a higher level of consciousness and a higher degree of appreciation for the fragility of life.  In a way, the fish was like up life so that others may live with a higher consciousness.  I hope this isn't sacrilegious, but there are stories about jesus and fish in the book.

       I learned about life from a fish...all you have to do is look and listen!
Right place, right person, right time, right words...behaviors can change.


  1. I have recently been to your abode by the pond, and it is a very special place. As for your latest blog, you got me hooked on this conversion theme, but I don't want you to cut the line and let me go. I can relate to this on many levels. For starters, my in-laws are big into fishing as a sport, but they do it kindly, gently and responsibly as you do.

    I wanted to do something special on Sunday Sept. 11. I didn't know what or where, but my wife and I did something spontatneous. Decided to go to church out of parish due to a timing issue. And lo and behold, we bumped into the right people who all said the right words, did the right things, and kept their powerful message pure and simple. In the end, I liked the way we dealt with the day and felt about it when it was over. On a scale of 1 to 10,it was at least satisfactory (so a 7). If someone was converted, i don't think it was me, but it might have been a good start as evidenced in my continued reading of your blog pearls and posting comments.

  2. Sometimes we are ready for change, in need of it, but must wait for the right opportunity to present itself. The wait can be too long though and a missed opportunity results. Getting the timing right is certainly one of life's better tricks to master. For some it is diligent, consistent work. Step by step. For myself it is only intuition. Which is amusing since my inclination is to think things as opposed to feeling them or just "knowing" them through intuition.
    It doesn't really matter how you came about your realization of compassion, Phil, you gained the acceptance you were looking for, I think. You went looking for stories of conversion and found it was you who needed the converting. That's a great thing, to find what you are looking for.
    Without asking too many questions, it is wonderful to know that there is a need and desire and ability to communicate across time and space and have it matter on a deep level.

  3. Eric, very interesting comment on inclination to think things through and then divert from it. I have found that feeling my through through is best process for certain decisions, ironically the big impact ones, like marriage and even jobs/career. Problem with thinkning things through is that you can rationalize anything and refuse to put certain things through a sniff test. The lack of scrutiny on a gut level very can have very dire consequences.

  4. Dear Phil,

    You're post brought tears to my eyes. Why, well because I think you are way to hard on yourself. "I really feel like a shit and all I can do is to resolve to never do this again" Having had the honour and privilege of meeting you, Adam and Sharon, I know that you would save an ant if you could.

    I think with the fishing, and this is just how I see it, people have been fishing it seems since time began. I think sometimes, when we revisit something that we just took was "normal" like pleasure fishing, and then look at it again a few years later, you have a different perspective.

    Like I used to like Boxing when Frank Bruno and Mike Tyson were in their primes... but apart from being naive It wasn't till my mum told me about Mohammed Ali, did I actually rethink 'my' watching boxing and after that I don't and haven't watched it.

    If you look at horse racing, some of those jumps can break a horses leg and them they have to kill the horse! (so I don't like horse racing either...)

    Or in riots when the armed police are on horses, I feel so sorry for the horses. the innocent bystander in stupid human tantrums.

    So please don't be hard on yourself about the fish. As humans we do as we have been shown or as humans have always done... and it's not till you question it or look why do we do this, or why that... till you realise that you don't agree. I am sure the fish forgave you...

    Well to lighten the mood, I vowed once that I wouldn't watch the old Spock Startrek movies, well I decided that I should have an open mind, well I did during the Summer and I was a bit taken back by the message about whaling. I thought it was classic how they were political, but make a star-trek movie around it. If you see it the best line is when Spock, said "Gracie is pregnant" after mind-melding with the whale ! lol!

    I love what you put Eric and Rruel too xxx Sending huge hugs to you all xoxoxox

  5. I love it when I swish too much! I had started my comment as "You're one on the nicest people I've met, Your..." apple-swipe-ist I'll call it x

  6. I have to admit that I was surprised that this experience brought you to your knees - I can't count nor recount the multitude of experiences in our life which continually humble us. The last six to eight months have been very challenging with Adam and, given that you are very human, very tired, very fragile, well, your heart was open and you are totally incapable of not responding to another's pain, even if that "other" is a fish. I was watching you out there in the boat in the dusk, hoping beyond hope that you were replenishing, finding peace. Nope - you are out there learning a life lesson. Puts a new spin on "no rest for the weary". I also completely understand that this blog is much bigger than a "fish story".

  7. Phil,
    I was deeply touched by your story...your insight & experience...indeed it is usually through the small,quiet & humble moments we are offered the most profound lessons.
    Thank you for remaining in this world with an open heart.

  8. PS
    Thanks for having the Troy Davis petition on your site.

  9. And upon further reflection...
    perhaps some day, each one of us
    will authentically realize
    any act that harms another or oneself
    conscious or unconsciously
    can no longer be indulged in.
    Finding our way out of these patterns remains the key in our purpose and destiny as humans.
    Thank you for your courage Phil in talking about such moments.

  10. Beautiful post and equally insightful replies. I love what your wife said, "no rest for the weary..." Just when we think we're going to relax and think of nothing, our world opens up a little more and the light is almost too much to bear. You inspire me!

  11. Thank you all for your comments. I am sure that with some openness to what confronts us, we all have those recurrent "buddha moments." Perhaps they can take the form of an apple falling from a tree on Newton or simply being hit on the head by a 2x4 piece of wood. At the right moment, transformation occurs in small ways. Mine seem to occur in moments of soul weariness...that's the opening for me. Warmest wishes to all my friends!

  12. I believe so much in everything you have just written. I have felt the way you described for some years now. Didn't have a defining moment - just knew I couldn't harm another living thing so made the conscious effort to not do so. My husband fishes but I no longer have the desire to join him. I feel guilty that I haven't become a vegan - we'll see. I am at peace sharing this world with all and sundry.

  13. No vegan for me either, yet, Marcelle. It's amazing how insights come into our just have to believe that there given to us for a reason. Warm regards to your family...

  14. just wanted to send you one of my hugest hugs xxxxxxxxxxooooooooooooxxxxx

  15. Love this post and Sharon's comment! It's the little things in life that teach us so much and bring such powerful feelings, emotions and insight. I do believe they are given to us for a reason at the right time. I know they are...

  16. Phil,
    You are such a caring soul and maybe the message was to show you this. It is hard to see any creature suffer.


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