Bil Sharpe was a dear friend of mine who has been on these pages many times and even had his own column section. I took him fishing one time which was a wonderful experience for both of us. He came from Fargo and met me somewhere and we took off into Minnesota, up to the Northwest Angle and began our fishing. We got up early in the morning and took boats out for about another 50 miles to the wilds of Ontario on Lake of the woods. Bill could not get over this. He says he knows a lot of people in Minnesota who have boats and some of them even live on lakes. He said they never fish on their own docks, they always go somewhere else about 50 miles away. He said it wasn’t enough that we got to a lake where presumably there are fish all over the place, but we still had to travel a long distance to get to where our guide said, “the fish were.”
There is plenty of theological discussion about that. Lakes can be dishonored by familiarity the same way a prophet can be dishonored in his own country. Just as the people couldn’t imagine that Jesus, the little boy they watched grow up, could be the Messiah, folks living on, say, Oak Lake were told that somebody got a 30 pound musky would be astounded and aghast. It would have to come from Lake Winnibigoshish for that to be possible, they would say, and they would laugh the reporters to scorn. Secretly of course, the old men living around Oak Lake, will be out in their boats the next morning casting for muskies.
I chided Bill by telling him that he and whatever committee chose speakers for the pastors conferences weren’t any different. Just as the best fishing for a fisherman is always at least 200 miles away, the best speaker at a conference has to be an expert and that means he has to live at least 200 miles away and teach at a seminary. The district might have a 37-year-old veteran of the cross who lived through years of work in rural churches and understands their mental health and spiritual issues, but he would never be called on to give a paper because he doesn’t have a bunch of letters after his name, he doesn’t live far enough away, and he’s not teaching anywhere.
The good water is a long ways off, and when we want information we get the best from an expert who is far from us physically and usually philosophically and sometimes theologically.
I’ve been thinking about the death of the experts for a long time. As far as I’m concerned if someone says that so and so is an expert about some thing I want know why?. None of the experts in the latest crisis ever got any prediction right. Not one. The amount of flip-flopping they’ve done on the orders and recommendations they’ve made has been incredible. Not one model has proved to be true or correct in anyway. Not one of any at the experts are ever called to account and never asked to Explain how they could have messed up as colossally as they have done. The experts at the WHO and the CDC have never been asked to explain. These two agencies still cannot agree on the efficacy of masks. The experts have all been wrong on the economic reaction to all the nonsense of the last few months. Experts have all been wrong on elections that have taken place over the last few years including those in Australia and of course Brexit. There were no correct experts or pollsters in the 2017 election, none. I truly believe that those bloviating about the virus and speaking their esoteric language don’t really know much about this virus and never will. It will mutate and something else will come along that can be used to terrify. Notice attention to the virus almost disappeared during riots. Experts try and shape our attitudes hopes and ambitions. They are up against folks who don’t know what they want and won’t be happy until they get it.
I remember the morning I took off from the dock to go musky fishing with equipment I had gathered over the years. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone what all that specialized fishing equipment cost. The boat looked like the old pictures of PT boats from the Pacific in World War II. Talking to the experts over breakfast of course gave map coordinates for the best places muskie’s had been “seen”. I have to explain that a part of this sports mystique is that seeing one rise to the bait is almost as exciting as catching one. The fish of 1000 casts it’s called. The experts say that most people will never catch a musky until they have casted at least 1000 times. So when you catch a musky it is part skill, part stubbornness, and part obsession. Armed with hundreds of dollars worth of equipment and never seeing one is painful, but coming back late in the evening as the sun is going down and finding out that some eight-year-old kid with a snoopy rod and reel caught a 30 pound musky off the dock with a worm and a bobber is devastating. I have never fished for musky since, and I probably won’t again. I will definitely never listen to another expert