Life Spoils

For this week’s blog I’ve decided to reproduce a story I first saw on the wall in Jimmy John’s. I didn’t write it, and I don’t know who did, but it really resonated with me, and it’s stuck with me ever since I first read it. It’s been passed around a lot, so maybe you’ve already seen it, but I think it captures the essence of some of what I wrote in Spiritual Blueprint. Here it is…

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.  With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

I think the moral of the story is that life spoils. It goes bad. You can’t save it for later like some kind of leftovers. If the fisherman in the story would have followed the businessman’s advice, all he would have done was lose years of living a good life, and he would probably not live as long. But too many people work too hard thinking they’ll enjoy life later, and they never live to see retirement. Or they aren’t healthy enough to enjoy it. Or the places they wanted to see are now war zones.

You can’t postpone life for later because if you try to save living for later you find out you’ve wasted your life. I once wrote a song that started out, “Now won’t last ‘till later… you can’t keep it in your refrigerator.” It wasn’t a very good song… and no, you can’t hear it, because it’s never been recorded (did I mention it wasn’t a good song?). But if you want to hear a missed opportunity for a more successful use of the word “refrigerator” in a song, check out Steve Miller’s song Kow Kow Calculator from 1969.

Anyway… the point is that if you put off doing the things you enjoy in life, you might find that later you don’t have the time, or the good health, to do them. If you put off spending time with the people who matter, someday they won’t be there. You get the idea. Live now. Bloom where you’re planted. If you have to reprioritize your life to live it now, do it.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, but that’s my advice – and I’m passionate about it because I think this kind of philosophy is literally life-saving. So what are you waiting for? More money? Reprioritize your budget. More time? Reprioritize your calendar. Make whatever changes are necessary so that someday you won’t have to open the refrigerator of your soul and realize your life went bad.

Jim Papandrea

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About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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4 Responses to Life Spoils

  1. Nick Cardilino says:

    Right on, my friend! Dave Smith and I wrote a song like this too that all takes place in an airport–so no refrigerators 😉 –called “You Can’t Take It With You.”

    This has really hit home with me in the past month since my boss, the Director of Campus Ministry has been called by his religious order to become Director of Novices. A number of folks have asked me to apply for his position. I thought and prayed about it, but realized that my only reasons for doing so would be a little extra money and prestige. I would much rather be able to spend more time with students actually doing ministry rather than more supervising and administrative stuff.

    Life does spoil, and I’d rather keep enjoying what I’m doing!

    Preach on, bro!

    • Nancy Krebs says:

      I agree with Nick (and ‘Hi’ to you both, by the way). We spend so much time lining up all our projects, preparing, promoting and presenting, that we honestly cannot ‘live in the moment’. We miss so much by either constantly thinking ahead and/or regretting the past. It’s very difficult to attend to what is staring us in the face in this very moment. I have been experiencing a lot of time compression these days–with family commitments, parents who are declining, a busy schedule with my career–yet finding no time to devote to writing the songs that God could be giving me to share–simply because I’m too busy to listen! Or I am not really listening to my mother or father speaking to me, because I’m already pondering where I’m going next in my day. I ‘check off’ one more commitment, and prepare to move on. I recognize that time is short–always too little time to get in all that I need to ‘do’. But how about just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ for a little portion of each day. I believe that we are called human ‘beings’ because God loves us for who we ARE not for what we DO. I plan to spend some time each day just listening–rather than planning –as I move into the Lenten season. Thanks for the post and the thought-provoking submect Jim.

    • Thanks Nick & Nancy for your comments. Nancy, your phrase “time compression” is something that resonates with me right now. A few years back I went up to CAM a couple days before the retreat just to be on a solo retreat and I read a book called “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.” That really spoke to me.

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