Lyrics and Life
By Caitlin Ward
I’ll tell you why I can’t find
You gone fishin’ / Well how you know?
Gone fishin’ by a shady wady pool
/ Shangrila, really la
Papa Bing / Yeah Louis?
Mmm, folks won’t find us now because
I have this habit of naming things I own. My car is called Charlie, my iPod is Clement, my computer is Malachi. In a strange way, this has made me much less prone to consumerism. Naming things imbues them with a personality whether you want it to, or not. My iPod, for example, is not in good straits. Clement is on his second screen, the first one having cracked when it hit the cement floor at a karaoke club. This second screen has cracked, too, but it’s not as devastating as it was last time, and I’m not sure I can replace it a second time, anyway. Part of me thinks I should give up on him because, at 32 GB, his capacity is not big enough for my music collection, and he’s getting on to be three years old. That’s geriatric in terms of electronic equipment these days. But then, the other part of me knows he’s Clement, the sardonic French iPod. What’s he to do when I get a new, shinier piece of electronic equipment?
I recognize this is all rather silly, but in some strange
way, it does make me a more sensible person. I don’t covet expensive electronics,
because I have a decided affection for the ones I have. And to my mind,
this is a good thing. Many of our electronics use ill-gotten compounds
and are produced under harrowing circumstances. I don’t think I
could get away without a cellphone these days, but I’m not going
to get a new one until the one I have has completely ceased working.
I’ve been thinking about consumption, lately — probably because
I’ve been thinking about the way the western world works. September
is a particularly busy time of the year for me. Though I work a fair
amount of overtime at certain points, I don’t really mind. I know
that the craziness only lasts a few months of the year, and I like my
But then, I wonder at the people who work that hard for
the whole of the year. For some, as in the case of the working poor,
a choice. For others, it’s a passion for their work, which I can
understand. But for others still — and frankly, quite a few — it’s
a means of making money, or getting ahead, and I’m not sure if
that’s the best course of action. It’s as if we work hard
to get ahead to get a raise to buy nice things that we end up being too
tired to enjoy. It wreaks havoc on the environment and the economies
of other countries, and we’re not even happy about all the stuff
we have, because there’s probably a new and cooler iPhone coming
out next month and we’ll have to work a whole bunch to buy it to
add it to our fleet of exciting phones.
I think we forget how much more valuable time is than many
of those material things. Sometimes when it’s this time of year — or an equally
busy time — I remember the year I couldn’t find a steady
job. I was always on the point of being completely broke, but I had just
enough for what I needed. What I did have was time. My mom had only recently
got sick at that point, so she had a lot of time, too. I remember driving
to get coffee with her every day around four o’clock. I remember
long walks and reading a lot. I love my job, but when my schedule goes
nuts I miss that time I had with my family. It didn’t look like
I was doing much to the outside world, and I’m not going to pretend
that time in my life wasn’t hard, too, but there was something
much more simple then.
I know it’s just a pop song from the late 1950s, but I wonder if
Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong had more of a point than the song might
initially suggest. Maybe I’m a bit cynical because I am quite tired
at this time of year, but I’m far from convinced being able to
afford a lot of stuff actually makes anyone happy in and of itself. Instead,
we could be gone fishin.’ That year I was broke, I got used to
not having things, and so I got used to not wanting things. I didn’t
have to talk myself out of getting a new phone or a new iPod or a new
computer, because it just wasn’t going to happen. But more importantly,
I didn’t mind. I had enough, and I feel like if we all (myself
included) could just be happy with “enough,” we might be
able to sort some of the world’s problems out a lot faster.
Either way, come the end of September, there may well be a Gone Fishin’ sign on my office door. I’ll leave the milking to someone else for a day or two.
Ward is a freelance writer and aspiring documentary filmmaker based in Saskatoon. You can find her short bursts of insight and frustration at http://www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings