The ideas are good; the sentiments ring true. The fishermen lounging in the sun that I wrote about in the last post lives in the present and is content with what he has. The tourist who thinks the fisherman should fish constantly and amass a fortune is set up in the Heinrich Boll story to look a little foolish, wanting the fisherman to strive after what he already has.
For some reason, the story reminded me of the song "The Hungry Years," written by Neil Sedaka, about a couple who had everything they needed in their early, poor years and who lost their connection with each other as they became more successful.
My first thought was that I love this song, especially sung by Rita Coolidge. My second thought was that I really wouldn't want the hungry years back at all. Sure, there were positive things about those years, but there were negative things that caused stress and worry. Sometimes hungry isn't a metaphor, and sometimes in the (often) student years, only a few dollars separate one from social assistance. One small bump in the road can become a pretty big catastrophe.
Maybe we all want a peaceful idyll, a pastoral innocence, and certainly living in the present moment, content with what one has, is always the best prescription.
But consider: the fisherman cannot retire; when he's ninety-two, he will still have to fish for his daily needs. What if he gets sick? What if there are one or two really bad fishing seasons?
The tourist, following his model of working really hard and amassing a fortune, will be able to retire - and in comfort. He will be able to lounge in a boat in the sun, but will also be able to jet off to see an opera at La Scala if he chooses. He won't have to fish almost daily and will have some resources built up in case of a catastrophe.
Ultimately, there is a lifestyle clash between the tourist and the fisherman. Neither would like the other's life very much. Like anything else, both have advantages and disadvantages and could take something from each other. The fisherman likely has a tight-knit community around him which would support him in tough times. The tourist likely has more mobility, more choices in life.
Being in a situation more like the tourist's, I like the sound of the fisherman's life, but realize that it involves much more constant and necessary physical labour and more restrictions than I really want
"The Hungry Years" is a great song, sadly nostalgic for things lost, but conveniently forgetful of anything negative. I don't miss the hungry years, and I don't want them back.
(The whole double take on the Boll story reminds me of my own views on readers trying to fix THE theme of a work of literature. Themes there may be, but to light on any one as IT, is usually somewhat foolish.)