“I wish I had a stone for the knife,” the old man said after he had checked the lashing on the oar butt. “I should have brought a stone.” You should have many things, he thought. But you did not bring them, old man. Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what you do have.
Ernest Hemingway THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
Hemingway’s story of the old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, pits an old man’s grit and determination against the wiles of an 18 foot marlin which he has hooked. It details the battle each wages to survive. The trophy fish is finally defeated and slain by the weathered old fisherman, but the pride of victory is short-lived as sharks, drawn by the marlin’s blood, soon attack the carcass strapped to the side of Santiago’s skiff. By the time fisherman and boat reach home shores, the skeleton and head are all that remain of his capture. Not only has he lost his prize, he also seems to regret that a creature of grace and beauty which he greatly admired has been destroyed. Santiago ultimately validates his action as a “kill or be killed” battle with the great fish. But, in reality he simply could have cut the line thus releasing the catch. But, in his world, that sign of weakness, that compromise allowing man and fish to live for another day, is not an option.
I sometimes believe that I live in Santiago’s world. My identity, my worth is too often dependent on being the victor incapable of compromise. Just as the wizened old man in his skiff on the deep waters, in the desperate moments of life I often wish for that which I don’t have forgetting to appreciate and utilize that which I do have.