Photo by Tony Reid on Unsplash

But what’s remarkable about just a straight cast – just picking up a rod with line on it and tossing the line across the river?

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Let’s be clear about one thing: I am no fly fisherman. Not even a bait fisherman. I’m sure that many will hold those things against me but, had you ever seen me handle rod and reel and you consider yourself an angler, you would find comfort in my choice not to pursue these worthy pastimes.

Yes, I’ve been fishing before but it never took hold for me. Perhaps because the places where I “fished” were not filled with the majesty of the Big Blackfoot River spoken of so eloquently in Norman Maclean’s tribute to family and fly fishing, A River Runs Through It.

Early in the novella, the quote opening this article is spoken by the father of the narrator and his brother. Those familiar with the book know the importance of fly fishing both to the story and to this particular group of men.

Fly fishing is not just a hobby or pastime for them, it’s a religious experience. The father, a Presbyterian minister, counts fly fishing alongside prayer and church attendance as an activity that brings one closer to God.

The art of fly fishing, more specifically the art of casting, is described as an “art performed between ten and two o’clock” by the father as he teaches his boys the finer points of casting.

When describing the unexceptional nature of a straight cast, we are given a glimpse into how we should go through our lives.

Yes, a straight cast will likely get the job done. But with no exceptional qualities. No drama. No memorable moments.

Such is our life. We can move along through life in routine patterns and take the well-traveled roads paved and formed by others. We can follow the prescribed steps along the way to creating a life that is unashamedly normal, filling our days with tasks, appointments, and routine that bring us from waking to sleeping again without causing much disturbance.

If we choose to perform something other than a “straight cast”, we enter into a realm of possibility. A realm of wonder. A realm of the unknown.

Yes, we will make mistakes. I’m sure if you were to ask me to make a cast right now I would absolutely look like a grand fool, swishing my arm as if to swat an insect and likely get caught in a tree, bush, or my own hair.

But it is in the mistakes where we learn out greatest lessons. In the mistakes we see the virtue of “mastering the cast” and doing something more than the norm.

There are still boundaries to operate in, somewhere between ten and two o’clock, and likely closer to twelve, as the father reminded his boys.

Remarkable doesn’t mean that your life must be loud or noticeable at all to others. Your remarkable life is for you and those closest to you. A life to inspire them to be their own version of remarkable.

Live a life that you children can be proud to tell their children of when you have left this world. Live a life that leaves a lasting impression on some part of the world, no matter how small.

Choose to live a remarkable life.

To live is a responsibility, as well as a right.

Jean-Luc Picard, Et in Arcadia Ego, part 2
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