The Value of Impermanence

Even those of us who slept through philosophy (yo!) may remember the words attributed to the Greek philosopher and avid sport fisher Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. There is nothing permanent except change.” I don’t care what you think, I say Heraclitus was a fisherman. Leap forward a few thousand years and it’s no surprise impermanence is central in western philosophy, eastern religions and trout fishing. Who wouldn’t treat fishing as a religion?


We all have our demons, dormant and active, that too often stand in the way of our ambitions. That list of what we are fearful of can be long or short: money, heights, snakes, broken tips, romance, health, employment, clowns, beavers. Fear of an excessively aggressive high stick hook set that you know you shouldn’t have done with your friend’s rod if you want to remain friends but it sure looked cool at the Fly Fishing Film Festival so you’re gonna do it too and now you are no longer friends. And everyone’s buzzkill, public speaking. The list goes on ad libitum. 


The ironic roots of our fears is impermanence, better said as change, yet change is the backbone of innovation. Your fear of that clown under the bed is going to change the tenor of your evening for certain, who needs that? Time to innovate.  There is any number of metrics we can employ to measure the change that has occurred in Wisconsin Trout Unlimited in the last fifty years: miles of stream improvements; membership growth; financial assets; pages of print and circulation of this publication.


The list of the positive effects of change and innovation within Trout Unlimited is too long for the breadth of this column but the list of innovators that accept the challenge and carry it to completion is worthy of note.  On a Saturday evening in early February, we gathered in Oshkosh to honor some of our best innovators: Tom Lager, Dale Lange, Jeff Butler, Dale Dahlke, Paul Douglas and Kirk Olson. Please take time to read in this issue the selfless accomplishments these innovators have provided Trout Unlimited.  A business professor once said to my class: “a business is like a tree, it’s either growing or dying.” I feel the same holds true for our conservation organization. Be it dam removal, concern for veterans, youth education or innovative stream conservation, most of what these heroes have provided you didn’t exist 10 years ago and that is what fuels the growth and energy of Trout Unlimited.