THE FISH AND THE FISHERMAN
John Steinbeck’s “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” is not meant to be a book on business, but has things to say in this regard. The book is about the expedition experiences Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts had on a voyage to catalog the different marine species off the shore of California. Steinbeck embarked on this journey to get away from the fame and controversy caused by his book “The Grapes of Wrath.” He needed time to recharge, to reset his spirits, and thoughts.
Experiences he recounts on aboard are thought provoking regarding the business age we are in. An age when so much of what reaches our desk is already evaluated, quantified, and carry with it specific instruction on how our work is done.
Steinbeck writes about the Mexican Sierra fish, one of the mackerel species of fish found in the Pacific. The Sierra can be identified in a lab by counting the number of spines. All done by employing the cold objectivity of a lab technician who opens a specimen package of a dead mackerel, lays it on the table, and proceeds to count the spines.
Steinbeck elaborates on how different the experience is when a fisherman catches a mackerel fish at sea. You gauge how it fights, the depth of its sounding, how your hands are scarred from the burning of the line, how the fish looks when brought over the edge of the boat, the shimmer and color of it, the weight and length. How the eyes glisten with the fight for life. Only then can you identify from the sum of your experience the type of mackerel it is.
More important, Steinbeck alludes to how the involvement of all the expedition crew in the process spurs enthusiasm, adding to the passion for more exploring and discovery. Everyone feels a true part of the expedition. A feeling that overcomes the long hours of work and challenges necessary to make it a success.
Steinbeck went on to write about the many adventures and scientific knowledge gained by the expedition. Ones they would never have had, but for the experience gained from understanding the relationship between the fish and the fisherman forged by the Mexican Sierra.
“None of it is important or all of it is…” John Steinbeck
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