A Life Well Lived

I recently attended the public launch of the book “Crazy” the autobiography of Dr Pat Garratt, the MD of the Two Oceans Aquarium, ex commercial fisherman, marine biologist and one could well suggest “adventurer”. It wasn’t an accident that I was there; I wrote a foreword for this book and I wrote it because the tome was more than worthy of the effort.

Pat has lived quite an incredible life, seen more, done more and survived more than most of us would ever hope; in fact more than many of us might wish to face to be quite honest. However Pat and I share something of an “inside joke” and it is the concept of “A life well lived” and I came to thinking that what one conjures up in one’s own mind with, respect to that concept, says a lot about who we are as people.

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An incredible story, well worth reading, you can obtain a copy from the link, just click on the image

Does your own personal “Life well lived” include buckets of money, fast cars and loose women? Does in conjure up images of wandering the Amazonian Rainforest, sitting in front of a computer screen scanning the markets, building a super trawler or looking out the window of your remote cottage? One’s idea of what makes a life well lived says a lot about who we are, and quite probably quite a lot about other people too, those with whom we might choose to associate and equally those perhaps best avoided.

Personally I would have to suggest that “A life well lived” cannot actually include doing harm, either to others or to our environment. One may well have the trappings of financial or material success but is that “A life well lived” if one has left a trail of destruction in one’s wake?

The idea of “First do no harm” is popularly associated with the “Hippocratic Oath” although the words don’t actually appear within it and I reproduce that oath below because it makes for some interesting reading.

I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement: To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art. I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts. I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art. In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves. All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal. If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.”

Apart from the fact that the famous phrase; “First do no harm”, doesn’t appear, there are concepts within the above which perhaps all of us might benefit from considering and equally some questions which all of us must answer in our own way.

Firstly there is the appreciation, respect and one may venture indebtedness to those who have preceded us. The recognition that we do not exist; nor have we come about in isolation and that we are patently the product of everything that came before. Those before us have created, in part, who we are, and we live in a world modified by them, both the good and the bad. The idea that our very own presence is the result of the love of thousands; who have combined their DNA over eons to result in “Us”. It is a sobering thought that back in the mists of time, somewhere bobbing about in the primordial soup there were perhaps two bacteria, whose random bumping into one another gave rise to a chain of events that ultimately resulted in you.

Then there is the apparent dichotomy of purpose, is indeed “giving a woman a pessary to cause an abortion” necessarily doing harm? One might well argue that in a grossly overpopulated world it may be doing a whole lot of good.  The concepts of greater harm or greater good come into play, does overpopulation and starvation trump one person’s right to procreate? Does your desire to take a fish home to show your friends overpower the need for its preservation?

In reading that oath it strikes me that it would be no bad thing if we all took it, or at least our own version of it. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we might all embrace the idea that we are part of the whole, that “intentional ill-doing and all seduction” are harmful to all, that other people’s children “are our brothers” . Indeed that we are not the culmination of a chain of events but participants in that chain and what we leave behind says more about who we are than what we take during our brief tenure.

This is however a fishing blog and not a philosophy class so in angling terms perhaps we should all consider some of the questions and concepts from the above. To me the most pressing of which is what are we leaving behind? What will remain for future generations? It is one of the reasons that I practise Catch and Release fishing, it harms me not that I put the fish back, for every fish that you kill or indeed don’t kill will have far reaching consequences well into the future. Every fish, if it lands up in your frying pan before it passes along its genes effectively kills off future progeny and breaks a chain of existence which has endured for more time than we may be able to conceive.   That of course goes to include every animal, every plant and every habitat we destroy or protect and the way we deal with it will say a lot about who we were to those who come after us. Perhaps in the end, whether we have enjoyed “a life well lived” isn’t for us to decide but for those who come after us, for them to see what harm or good we have done, what destruction we have wreaked or castles we have built.

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4 Responses to “A Life Well Lived”

  1. howsmallatrout5 Says:

    Time, I resent your implication that loose women are not worthy of a life well-lived, but it’s an outstanding post anyway. (heh.) Great job.

  2. paracaddis Says:

    Ha Ha Russ, I think that you will find that any judgement about what makes a life well lived is left up to the reader. But there are few salves for a guilty conscience.. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  3. L.A. River Fly Fishing Says:

    Yes, exactly what are we leaving behind? Each year, I think about this a whole lot more! Enjoyed the post …

  4. paracaddis Says:

    Thanks for the comment, I figure the more of us think about it the more times the better the chance that we might actually leave something worthwhile.

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