Release Candidate One with Chris Clark

Leisure, Part I

As I stood untangling kite string with my old man the other day, he mused that it reminded him of taking me and my brother fishing as kids. For him, a three hour fishing trip would go something like this:

  1. Cast my brother’s line
  2. Cast my line
  3. Untangle my brother’s line
  4. Re-cast my brother’s line
  5. Untangle my line
  6. Re-cast my line
  7. Cast his own line
  8. Untangle my line from my brother’s line
  9. Rinse, repeat

Just hanging out, untangling fishing line, not catching anything. He found it relaxing.

As he recounted his experience, I remembered hating those trips. We never caught anything! And I still don’t enjoy fishing to this day. The stuff people seem to love about it—the quiet contemplation, sitting around in nature—has nothing to do with fish. No matter how good you are at fishing, some days you go home empty-handed. That’s utterly insane to me.

But that’s because, in the coarsely-defined language of Bartle’s Player Types, I’m an Achiever. I need to be able to see the results of effort and improve my performance. I need yardsticks. There’s skill in landing a fish, maybe even quantifiable skill, but some days the fish just don’t bite. Some days a few teeny fish bite, and some days you land a whopper. It’s out of your control, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for me.

Flying kites, on the other hand, I adore. As far as quiet, contemplative leisure activities are concerned, it’s tops. And that’s because flying kites is the whole point of flying kites. You can start out crummy, just barely keeping it aloft, and that still counts as kite-flying. You can graduate to all kinds of cool stunts as you please. You will have setbacks, but you can learn from them.

The only factor outside your control is the wind, but you can check that before you even decide to go out. You don’t put on a special outfit, you don’t go out in a special vehicle, you don’t buy any perishables, nothing smells weird, and ultimately you decide how impressive your kiteship’s going to be that day. You choose to take it easy or take some risks. No luck involved.

There’s just as much standing around, just as much quiet enjoyment of nature, just as much untangling of knots as with fishing. But it’s a completely different feeling. And I’m glad it lands at an intersection of things my dad and I enjoy.