‘Basically , a straight hook seeks fish that turn away from life’

~ Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans

At first pass, this koan looks pretty rational: straight, useless, hooks are for fish that turn away from life and curved, effective, hooks are for those who seek life. The fact is, the true path into a koan probably is not the one that makes conventional sense.

For me, this is not a koan about effectiveness and seeking, or not seeking, the proper approach to life. This koan is about relationships and how all beings need each other in the most precious and intimate way.

My family and I are on vacation in the mountains, and I brought my fly rod to go fishing. Catch and release. I don’t land many fish ~ just one in the last two days, which I set free. So for many hours I turn toward the fish by casting, rather clumsily, my dry fly. And for as long a time the fish turn toward life by, well, ignoring my presentation.

What is great is that for those days, though I am not catching and they are not striking, we nonetheless beautifully express our need for each other. Our relationship is so much more intimate than straight or curved, turning toward or away. In the most direct way, we are sharing a universe together. For me, that is the true path into this koan.

‘Summertime, and the livin’ is easy/Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high/Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’/So hush little baby, don’t you cry.’

~ George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, Porgy and Bess

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2bigf337aU