There is a commonly heard adage that if you give someone a fish they will eat for a day and if you teach someone how to fish they will eat for the rest of their life. On the surface it seems intelligent and loving – provide tools and education then voila! A desperate situation is healed.
If we look a little closer we see the change from giving fish to teaching fishing as a paradigm shift within the “giver/teacher.” Yet, does the new paradigm go far enough? It still implies that one individual needs to do something to help another who nowhere in the story actually asks for help. What if the “student” is not interested in learning to fish? What if they see the attempt to teach them to fish as humiliating and interfering?
All of a sudden a simple adage that has been accepted as wise puts us in another dilemma. What does it mean to be truly helpful? Is it possible to ease the suffering of others?
Who is suffering here?
"We suffer from what we want and what we don't want; from what we think should be and should not be."
The paradigm shift from giver to teacher is not enough as it is still based on what one individual wants for another. It is the suffering that sees others as suffering that needs to be healed.
When we find ourselves suffering from wanting the suffering situations in the world to change – we can focus on healing our own suffering. Instead of wanting the world to be the way we think it “should” be – we can turn our attention to “being the good we would like to see.” In Metapsychiatry we call this beholding. Seeing that in the broadest, infinite context everyone and everything is already all right – what we see with human eyes is all the ignorance blocking the view.
The enlightened first grade teacher who sees her students struggling with learning new skills does not see the struggling as a problem or an indication that there is something wrong with the child – she can see the beginning steps on the path of understanding taking place right before her eyes and she can appreciate the importance of the struggle that she is witnessing. She can then respond to what is needed to guide each student. That’s beholding.
We can continue to get better at “fishing” within our own lives in whatever form that may take. We can then be open to sharing the fruits of the “joy of fishing” with anyone who is interested.