“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”– The Old Man & The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Sometimes when you pick a book out of your shelf without preparation, without knowing what the book is about, or knowing what to expect, it becomes the right book for the right time in your life. It’s as if the universe is telling you – pointing you to the book to read and when you do you see yourself in it.
This was The Old Man and The Sea for me.
I have only read two of Ernest Hemingway’s books, A Moveable Feast and A Farewell to Arms both of which I loved. I also have his collection of short stories which I have dabbled and from what I have read, I have enjoyed.
He has a succinct manner of writing which I love because it allows my mind to fill in the gaps. As such, it is why I prefer authors of the past than those of today who seem to place as many descriptive words in the sentences that becomes tiring because it doesn’t allow us to immerse ourselves in the story – it’s being done for us.
No such case with Hemingway’s writing.
Although I will share what the book is about in my video review, in a nutshell, it’s about an old and experienced fisherman in Cuba who’s had a run of bad luck and for over 80 days has not been able to catch any fish. His superstitious fellow fisherman keep their distance for fear that they may also catch this bad luck. There is a young boy who helps him and who doesn’t believe that his luck is gone but one day the old man goes out to see by himself and for nearly four days, he’s out there without food and very little water to catch a huge marlin. Whilst at sea, we go through all the trials and tribulations of the fisherman attempting to hold it together to bring this beautiful 15 foot sea creature back to port – but as he returns, he battles with sharks that eat through the marlin leaving the skeleton. In the end, exhausted, he returns to his home and falls asleep while the fellow fisherman marvel at the huge size of the beast he had caught. Later, the marlin hangs in the nearby bar and an American couple who are tourists to the town remark that they’ve never seen a shark have such a fin structure.
Now you might be thinking, “THAT’S the story??”
To me, that old man was ME.
The themes I got out of this book was that the old man represented experience, knowledge, wisdom that comes with age. Someone who loved his craft and knew all about the sea. He saw the beauty around him by way of the sea creatures, fishes, marlins, dolphins and had a huge respect for them but also understood that the sea could be harsh and it’s not for everyone as he comments on a small bird that comes to sit tenuously on his fishing line. He’s someone who also respects others who are like him and who also put their “all” into their craft as he’s a fan of the baseball player Joe Di Maggio.
The themes for me was that the sea was life and sometimes you come across all sorts of people who help you along and that you respect and there are others who battle it every day but they keep on going. The sharks in the story who the fisherman hates are those things in life, challenges and obstacles that will come our way and it’s up to us to keep going and fighting them.
The sea is life. I don’t see that he ‘battles’ the sea – instead, he has a huge respect for it. It’s him AND the sea.
The young boy represented to me, youth who have so much to learn from the old people. And yet, can also see the naivety of others around them who believe in superstitions and follow in packs. The boy represents those people who can see through the crap, ‘play the game’ but know that they’ll learn far more about themselves, craft and their life from the experienced ones who don’t follow others.
There are Christian themes in the book too such as dragging the mast back to his shack after the exhausting days at sea and lying face down, arms splayed across in the sign of a cross while he sleeps and dreams of things OTHER than his ordeal. To me, it rings that what Jesus went through in his life is what we all go through in our life – the struggle, the ordeals, the challenges because at the end, it doesn’t matter (the clueless American couple summed it up perfectly) that our salvation will occur (and how we will dream of other things other than what we went through in our life).
In some way, The Old Man and The Sea for me, is the perfect book to have started 2021 fiction because it personifies my life to date.
I have spent years in the field of learning and development and written heaps about it. I’ve shared my learning to the world through this blog and vlogs over many years. I keep at it despite having ups and downs over the years when it came to my own business.
One time, I even had someone tell me that they watch what I do and share online so they do everything the OPPOSITE because they don’t want to risk their professionalism or it affecting their work by following what I do. (If that wasn’t an underhanded insult I don’t know what is). However, in some way, I knew that was the case and didn’t take too much notice of it because I realised that they, like the other fishermen in the book were scared and superstitious.
Thinking about it now, to them the sea/life was their livelihood and not something that teaches them about themselves. They wanted to control it. To them it was something they had to beat, to overcome and to compete with rather than respecting it for what it taught them about themselves. In my mind, I thought that they were pretending to be the marlin when all the time, they were simply and naively thinking that it’s best to act like sharks. Luckily, many people see through that.
I particularly liked the end of the book when the clueless American couple comment on the skeleton of the marlin mistaking it for a shark meanwhile in the shack, the fisherman is asleep dreaming of lions. To me, this personified that it doesn’t really matter what you do in life. Everyone will have their own interpretation or understanding of it and not realise the pain, challenge – even the opportunities and elations you went through to achieve what you did.
What’s important is you did it. And, you did it in your own way.
Here is my video book review.