Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category
Moving on to happiness.
Whatever one’s view is about the significance of CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, this blog is about integrity. As the byline states, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.” Regular readers (and thank you for being one) know that this blog ranges far and wide in pursuit of stories, essays and examples of integrity, all the more better when they involve a dog!
All dog owners know that one of the prime things we can learn from our dogs is the ability to remain in the present. No, more than that! To value and cherish the present. Dogs manage this in an effortless manner, in a way that humans can only dream of achieving.
This came to me as a result of a recent post on Damn the Matrix, Mike Stasse’s fascinating blog. The post was about what we humans regret at the end of our days, which I will come to in a moment.
Bronnie Ware is an inspiring and creative soul from Australia.
Through her work Bronnie weaves delightful tales of real life observations and experience. Using gentleness, honesty, and humour, Bronnie celebrates both the strength and vulnerability of human nature. Her message is a positive and inspiring one.
Bronnie is the author of the full-length memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, released worldwide, with translations in 27 languages. She also runs an online personal growth and songwriting course, has released two albums of original songs, and writes a well-loved blog called Inspiration and Chai.
A quick visit to that blog site reveals:
Every challenge brings its own gifts. Sometimes though it is not always easy to see those gifts at first. Suffering and wounds can blind us. We have all been there. It is at times like these that Inspiration and Chai is needed. Inspiration to soothe the heart. Chai to soothe the body.
Even during happier cruising chapters, being inspired is still a beautiful thing. It keeps us going. It reminds us of what we already know.
Inspiration and Chai is an ongoing journey. The aim of this site is to share inspirational stories and motivational thoughts and for it to reach more and more people in need, seekers on their path. It is a positive environment to revisit whenever you feel it calling. It is also somewhere for me to share my love of story telling and to share memories of life.
Jean is no stranger to the death of a dog. Over her many years of rescuing dogs Jean has seen far too many deaths. I have been living with Jean since 2008. In that short time five of our dogs have died.
Of course, we have no idea of what goes through a dog’s mind in those last stages of life. Dogs appear to embrace death in an uncomplicated way but we will never know for sure.
What about humans? On Bronnie’s blogsite there is a post under the title of Regrets of the dying. Whatever age you are, read what Bonnie wrote and ponder:
REGRETS OF THE DYING
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
I hesitated to write anything more because that last sentence should be the one that continues to resonate.
So just a reflection on how easy it is for a dog to wag its tail – dogs so easily choose happiness.
A guest post from John Hurlburt.
The trouble with today’s post title is that while the analogy with the loss of the Titanic is accurate, indeed too bloody accurate, the phrase has dissolved into the depths of the barrel of smart, clever-dick sayings. The brutal consequence of ‘fiddling while Rome burns‘, to use another ‘smart’ saying, is obscured.
So before you read this guest post from regular contributor, John Hurlburt, let me plead for something?
That is that you don’t treat this as just another anecdote in the affairs of man, but a symptom of the blindness of societies right across the world. As my guest essay tomorrow reveals, waiting for leadership on this planet is a wait that you and I and millions of others just can’t afford. Each and every one of us has to do something, however minute, to make a difference. Even just sharing John’s words.
It seems that there’s no escaping politics in daily life.
I recently got together one evening with two friends at our local Elks Club.
They are a couple. Two old friends of about ten years who live across the street and around the corner from me during the summer season. They’ve been together for more than half their lifetimes and spend the fall, winter and early spring in Yuma.
He is a frequent fishing buddy. Sometimes wears a side arm when we fish the beautiful mountain lakes above Payson. Mountain lakes and related campgrounds that are maintained and supervised by the U.S. Forest Service. Rather cheekily, I once asked if the plan was to hook trout or shoot them!
Anyhow, this was our first get together of the season. It was noted that attendance and participation is down in Arizona for such fraternal organizations as the Elks and the Moose. We had a discussion with club management about the nature of the problem.
Fraternal club management tends to be cautious and well paid. However, it seems that placing discomforting restrictions on people is not popular. The case in point was a recent club smoking ban. The logic seemed reasonable enough. Unfortunately, no realistic accommodation was made for the members who chose to smoke. The reaction was emotional.
For many, it was apparently the last straw. There were perhaps four other people at the Payson Elks club at 5:30 p.m. that Friday evening. An evening with a moderately priced dinner buffet on hand that had been advertised online, in a newsletter and by word of mouth.
There was a point when a comment seemed appropriate. I offered the observation that the source of the problem might be political. No one seemed to register the observation.
We talked a bit about aches and pains; the usual organ recital. We spoke about what we’ve been doing. I told them about church and transition town activities. The conversation turned to our illusion of a stable economy. An observation was made that the USA was leveraged over twenty-two times above any material foundation. There was no disagreement.
Despite the clear New York Times warning that morning, climate change never entered the conversation. A remedy was to note that so far Katrina has cost U.S. taxpayers over sixteen Billion dollars and climbing. Sandy is expected to cost American taxpayers as much as sixty Billion dollars.
It was a pleasant evening and we plan to get together again soon.
Take care out there.
The sound of scraping deckchairs is deafening!
A delightful exploration of the letter ‘r’.
This was sent in by reader Colin Reynolds. To be honest, I cannot do better than to reproduce the entire email.
I only just subscribed to the OED ‘owotd’ yesterday.
Today’s made me think of you
“There is only the difference of the dog’s letter between friend and [fiend].” The Westminster Review (London, UK); 1830.
Some days the best I can do is stick a pencil in each nostril and go ‘wibble‘.
OED Online Word of the Day
The March 2013 quarterly update is now available. New words and meanings have been added across the dictionary, including braggadocious, podium, Vulcan, and whip-smart. Find out more…
Your word for today is: dog’s letter, n.
dog’s letter, n.
How the linking of minds offers us vast horizons!
I subscribe to two blogs: Pendantry’s Wibble and Christine’s 350 or bust. But a temporary lack of quiet reading time has meant that recent posts from each of them were initially only briefly skimmed. I made a mental note to read the one from Pendantry, Where oceans meet, because I have always had a love affair with the oceans. When I did read it, I was blown away, to use the modern vernacular. Why? Stay with me.
Where oceans meet opened thus:
I’ve recently been introduced to two things that demonstrate (to my satisfaction, anyway) that the universe is much stranger than I first thought. Mind you, my first thought was quite some time ago, now.
Then after showing a wonderful photograph of where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, (this one below) …
…. Pendantry goes on:
The other one of those ‘strange universe’ things is something that I find even more surprising: after decades of eating meat, an hour watching just one film has persuaded me to reconsider the habits of a lifetime.
That really jumped off the page at me because Jeannie has been a vegetarian for most of her life and I have been flirting with the idea.
That ‘one film’ was Vegucated. Here’s the rest of that Wibble post republished with Pendantry’s kind permission.
A TED talk highlighted yesterday over on 350orbust (well worth watching — thanks, Christine) included a reference to the film Vegucated. Intrigued, was I, so I trundled off to watch it, and returned a changed man. Well, maybe that’s a bit ambitious, but I do now feel motivated to think more about what I eat, why I’m eating it, and to actively seek out vegan alternatives — something that I have never considered before.
Vegucated reinforces the betrayal of a society that has sold us all on the idea of having ‘consumer choice’ — but continues to withhold from us the information necessary to make informed choices. And on that point: don’t just take my word for it that this is a film well worth watching: there are many other reviews and quotes about it.
Our world is changing, and, one way or another, we must change with it. I believe that films like Vegucated are essential to help us to choose to move in the direction of a healthier, happier world.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. “— Paul McCartney.
Naturally I was curious and wandered across to that post. Here are Christine’s own words,
It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust, and today’s presenter is Zoe Weil who spoke to the young people who gathered at the TEDx Youth symposium held at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, last December. Ms. Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education. Ms. Weil’s inspiring talk is entitled “How To Be A Solutionary.” Enjoy!
I tell you what! That 11 minute presentation by Zoe Weil was not just inspirational, it was one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard! That’s EVER!
Take this quote that comes in less than 2 minutes from the start of the speech, “Never before have we had the capacity to cause the breakdown of so many ecological systems that sustain our life.“
Now if that doesn’t have you gagging for the rest of what Zoe talks about, nothing will. So here it is.
Published on Jan 11, 2013
Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement, which provides people with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a better world. Zoe created the first Master of Education and Certificate Program in Humane Education in the U.S. covering the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation, and animal protection. She has also created acclaimed online programs and leads workshops and speaks at universities, conferences, and events across the U.S. and Canada. She has taught tens of thousands students through her innovative school presentations, and has trained several thousand teachers through her workshops and programs. Zoe’s most recent book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life, won the 2010 Nautilus silver medal in sustainability and green values. She is the author of several other books including Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times for parents; The Power and Promise of Humane Education for educators; and Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs, winner of the Moonbeam gold medal in juvenile fiction, which follows the exploits of two seventh graders who become clandestine activists in New York City, righting wrongs where they find them. Zoe received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania.
So from the meeting of vast oceans to the meeting of minds.
Sent to me by Richard Maugham – truly gorgeous.
You think English is easy? Well, we think a retired English teacher was bored and came up with this.
Read all the way to the end and appreciate how much work this took to put it together!
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- We must polish the Polish furniture..
- He could lead if he would get the lead out.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..
- Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
- A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
- When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
- I did not object to the object.
- The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
- There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
- The buck does funny things when the does are present.
- A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
- To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
- The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
- Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..
- I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
- How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all.
That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
PS. – Why doesn’t ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’?
You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .
There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is ‘UP.’
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
We call UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has real special meaning.
People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.
We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP. When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry UP.
One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so…….it is time to shut UP!
Now it’s UP to you what you do with this email.
What a wonderful exploration with, of course, more beautiful examples yet floating around. A couple come to my mind.
One is if the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.
I will close with a quote reputed to have come from Ronald Reagan, who argued that, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.“
Not saying anything more!
Apologies, forgot who sent me the link to this video.
Which is a little over 5 minutes of watching Mark Gungor speak about the differences between the brains of men and women. I hadn’t come across Mark Gungor before but his website reveals he is “one of the most sought-after speakers on marriage and family in the country.“
A personal journey
In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before. Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.
But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey. So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow!
The fickle finger of fate
I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II. Nothing remarkable about that. Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies. My father was an architect; my mother a teacher. Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!
In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer. I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956. That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer. To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep. I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.
My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th. I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house. On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!
It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral. That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.
The good and the not so good.
The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school. I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.
I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.
From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.
But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful. If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!
A little more background.
When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors. My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles. Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later. I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.
I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus. (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)
In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes. Once settled I took up business mentoring. In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing. In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.
One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop. (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)
Out of sight, but not out of mind.
In time I became married to wife number three. Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.
Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003. At the time, I had no idea how important!
On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.
I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!
High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening. Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!” I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.
Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin. However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist. I pleaded with Jon. He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered. Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]
Finding one’s true self after 50 years!
Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died. And, guess what!
Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection. Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences. Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways. Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.
Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.
In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘ I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia. It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California. Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.
One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?“
I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June. Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!“
Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably. ”Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas. Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?“
And I did. And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean. Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago. Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.
Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other. Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos. So many of those dogs loved me from the start. It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for. In such stark contrast to just a year ago.
In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico. Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.
In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.
Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.
What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true. A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her. Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.
We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.
So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!
Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat. On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)
Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals. That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog. Funny old world.
I’m clearly not the only one to believe we really can learn from dogs!
Last Friday, I published a post under the title of The healing power of dogs. This is how that post opened:
How dogs offer us humans health and happiness.
Many months ago, I was contacted by a Peter Bloch offering to write a guest post on the subject of the healing power of dogs. Peter had read a post that I had published in July last year which prompted the email dialogue between us.
Not going to say much more at this stage except that today I am republishing that post from last July. On Monday, I will introduce Peter and his guest post. Then on Tuesday, I will speak of my own experiences both as entrepreneurial mentor and as a ‘customer’ of a wonderful psychotherapist back in Devon during 2007.
So, as promised, here is that guest post from Peter.
My dog Fergus is a philosopher, and the nature of health and happiness is his area of special expertise. When he learned about Paul’s blog he became very excited because he has always been convinced that dogs have so much to teach humans about life. As much as anything to have a little peace from his continual philosophical musings, I agreed to set out his theories here for the benefit of everyone who loves dogs.
Fergus would like it to be known that when he is free to pursue the activities to which his particular breed is most naturally attracted then, as a dog, he feels happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way. Fergus has also observed that when he is able to participate as a co-operating member of his ‘pack’, he feels safe and secure, is clear about how to proceed with his life, and at night he sleeps like a dog.
But Fergus says that when these conditions do not apply, he can be quite remarkably miserable. As a Greyhound, he loves to run very fast, and he is not at all interested in things like retrieving balls, or wallowing in water.
However once he was in the care of someone who Fergus thinks we should just call ‘Sarah’. Sarah has a Labrador and thinks that all dogs really ought to be like her dog, resulting in Fergus being put under considerable pressure to enjoy activities that he could not understand.
That lead to Sarah telling Fergus’ owners that he was a difficult dog when in fact he was just a misunderstood dog. He was amazed how, in just one day, he went from sleeping ‘like a dog‘ to ‘living in the doghouse‘!
Indeed, within a week he was suffering from digestive problems and skin disorders, despite an identical diet, and was found to be engaging in several bizarre neurotic behaviours. Fortunately, when more congenial conditions were restored, Fergus returned to feeling safe and secure.
Fergus often expresses surprise that people often do not understand that the freedom to be himself, the true dog that he is, including living in unifying solidarity with his pack, is a fundamental requirement for his health; in all meanings of the word.
For instance, Fergus noticed that Sarah has a son called Henry, who really wanted to be a designer. But his mother thought that it would be better for him to be a lawyer. In fact, Sarah was so certain that in the end Henry became a lawyer. Fergus observes that Henry is always suffering from digestive problems and skin disorders and sometimes behaves a little strangely. Doctors have not been able to find out what is wrong with him, despite all sorts of diets and medicines being tried.
But here’s the rub. When Henry goes out for a walk with Fergus, Fergus always runs as fast as he can and his resulting happiness always makes Henry feel so much better.
Henry is convinced that Fergus is a healer! Who could argue with that?
Trust me, when I’m feeling a little down the dogs all know. All of them allow me to come and bury my face in their fur, or rest my face alongside their face. Perhaps one of the most powerful gifts from our dogs is their wonderful, unconditional love for us funny humans.
I have no connection with Peter other than being delighted to have this guest post from him (or was it from Fergus??). Peter offered this brief summary of his work, which I am pleased to include:
Peter Bloch has developed a form of existential and person-centred psychotherapy through touch. In this therapeutic model, health is defined as the ability to be true to oneself and open to genuine relationships with others – qualities that he finds in abundance in his dog.
How dogs offer us humans health and happiness.
Many months ago, I was contacted by a Peter Bloch offering to write a guest post on the subject of the healing power of dogs. Peter had read a post that I had published in July last year which prompted the email dialogue between us.
Not going to say much more at this stage except that today I am republishing that post from last July. On Monday, I will introduce Peter and his guest post. Then on Tuesday, I will speak of my own experiences both as entrepreneurial mentor and as a ‘customer’ of a wonderful psychotherapist back in Devon during 2007. Hope that works for you.
So here’s that Learning from Dogs post.
The bond between dogs and humans
Such a beautiful and mutually-important relationship.
But then a flurry of other articles conspired to pass my desk.
In no particular order there was an article on the Big Think website, Do Dogs Speak Human? As the article opened,
What’s the Big Idea?
Perhaps the better question is, do humans speak dog? Either way, the debate over whether language is unique to humans, or a faculty also possessed by wild and domestic animals from dogs to apes to dolphins, is an interesting one. The answer depends on exactly how we define “language,” and who’s doing the talking, says David Bellos, the Booker prize-winning translator.
The article includes this three-minute video,
Broadly, a language is a mode of expression. ”The argument that only human language is language and that animal communication systems, however sophisticated they are — and some of them are quite sophisticated — are not languages because they consist of discrete signals is a circular argument,” he argues. “It’s a self-fulfilling thing. And I think we should be a little bit more interested in the complexity and the variability of animal communication systems and less rigid about this distinction between what is a language and what is not a language.”
For now, we’re happy with this:
The June 30th edition of The Economist had an article entitled, Can dogs really show empathy towards humans? (You may have to register (free) to view this.) That report ends, as follows,
As they report in Animal Cognition, “person-oriented behaviour” did sometimes take place when either the stranger or the owner hummed, but it was more than twice as likely to occur if someone was crying. This indicated that dogs were differentiating between odd behaviour and crying. And of the 15 dogs in the experiment that showed person-oriented responses when the stranger cried, all of them directed their attention towards the stranger rather than their owner.
These discoveries suggest that dogs do have the ability to express empathetic concern. But although the results are clear enough, Dr Custance argues that more work needs to be done to be sure that such behaviour is true empathy. It is possible, she points out, that the dogs were drawing on previous experiences in which they were rewarded for approaching distressed human companions. Dog-owners, however, are unlikely to need any more convincing.
It was then an easy follow-up to that Animal Cognition article which is available online here; here’s the abstract,
Empathy covers a range of phenomena from cognitive empathy involving metarepresentation to emotional contagion stemming from automatically triggered reflexes.
An experimental protocol first used with human infants was adapted to investigate empathy in domestic dogs. Dogs oriented toward their owner or a stranger more often when the person was pretending to cry than when they were talking or humming. Observers, unaware of experimental hypotheses and the condition under which dogs were responding, more often categorized dogs’ approaches as submissive as opposed to alert, playful or calm during the crying condition. When the stranger pretended to cry, rather than approaching their usual source of comfort, their owner, dogs sniffed, nuzzled and licked the stranger instead.
The dogs’ pattern of response was behaviorally consistent with an expression of empathic concern, but is most parsimoniously interpreted as emotional contagion coupled with a previous learning history in which they have been rewarded for approaching distressed human companions.
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.“ Niels Bohr
I love this saying from Mr. Bohr and often repeat it, albeit at times with my own twist to it. I was reminded of this uncertainty of the future from some comments to a recent post over at Lack of Environment. The particular post was called Can technology save us? and was a reflection of Martin Lack, the blog’s author, watching a recent BBC Horizon special called Tomorrow’s World. (There’s the YouTube of the broadcast at the end of this post.) Martin opened his post by saying:
I happened to stumble across a BBC TV Horizon special, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’ last Thursday. It begins with a fascinating review of humankind’s history of – and propensity for – invention. It also explains some truly fascinating – and inspiring – developments in the spheres of space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and power generation.
In the introduction, the programme presenter and narrator Liz Bronnin explains how, after 100′s of thousands of years of technological stagnation, the fast-moving world of technological innovation is very definitely a modern invention.
Then a little later Martin goes on to say:
After about 32 minutes, Bronnin introduces the power of the Internet to promote innovation – crowd-sourcing research funding and the concept of open-source technology – the complete abrogation of intellectual copyright… It is a fundamental challenge to globalised Capitalism; but it may well be the solution to many of our problems…
However, to me, the final third of the programme is by far the most fascinating… It looks at the challenges of finding a replacement for fossil fuels. It provides a very clear message that this is a technological challenge driven by the reality of physics – not by ideology.
But, overall, Martin lets us know his perspective with his final paragraphs:
Re-engineering nature for our benefit will, without doubt, be very very useful. However, I still think the optimism of the comment at the very end of the programme “…I never worry about the future of the human race, because I think we are totally capable of solving problems…” is very unwise. This is because anthropogenic climate disruption is a problem that is getting harder to solve the longer we fail to address it effectively.
Bronnin concludes by saying that, “it is an exciting time to be alive…” However, I remain very nervous. This is because, as Professor Peter Styles of Keele University – a strong supporter of the hydraulic fracturing industry – recently acknowledged, it will be impossible for carbon capture and storage to remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent very significant changes to our climate. This is because of the collective hypnosis that deludes most people into seeing perpetual economic growth as the solution to all our problems.
In short, I am certain that technology alone cannot save us. In order to avoid the ecological catastrophe that all but the most ideologically-prejudiced and wilfully-blind can see developing all around us… we need to modify our behaviour: This primarily means that we need to acknowledge the injustice of a “use it up and wear it out” mentality and, as individuals, all learn to use an awful lot less energy.
Climate change “sceptics” have picked a fight with history and science – primarily with the concept of Entropy - and they will lose. The only question that remains is this: Are we going to let them put us all in (what xraymike79 recently called) ‘the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments’.
Now Jean and I also watched the Horizon special and, to be perfectly frank, found it both uplifting and inspiring. It seemed a great counter to the overwhelming volume of commentary these days along the lines of ‘The end of the world is nigh!‘ some of that coming from yours truly! That’s not to make light of the huge hurdles ahead.
But it was a couple of comments on Martin’s post from Patrice Ayme that got me thinking. Here’s the exchange that went between Patrice and Martin following on from a comment from Thomas Foster.
Considering that it is technology which has enabled us to “conquer” nature and thus the degradation of the environment which is a consequence of that it seems most unlikely to this writer that the cause will also bring about a cure. Thomas Foster
The genus Homo has been technological for 5 million years. Give or take two million. Homo is the cure for life. Patrice Ayme
If we Homo Sapiens have been technological for 5 million years, we have spent most of that time being very unsuccessful; and have spent the rest being far too successful. Is there no scope for just living in harmony with our environment (as opposed to being at war with it)? Martin Lack
Hominids have been masters of the environment for at least three million years. By a million years ago, only Homo was left (but for places like Flores). Dozens of megafauna species got annihilated. Homo’s technology has extended to the entire Earth for at least a million years. The Earth itself was turned into a tool. A tool we are not at war with, but that we use. Patrice Ayme
A utilitarian attitude to Nature is one that does not recognise its inherent value (i.e. which it would have even if we did not exist). Seeing ourselves as superior to Nature rather than as part of it has resulted in our not living in harmony with it. This is, by definition, equivalent to being at war with Nature. QED. Refer: Nature is not your enemy. Martin Lack
Call it what you want, Martin. Man manipulates nature, and that nature one calls nature has not been “natural” for more than a million years. Except if one views man as part of nature! Patrice Ayme
Patrice is a very clear thinker even if, at times, pretty hard-hitting. But this exchange confirmed in my mind that clearly looking out to the future must always be hard. Most certainly in this period of mankind’s evolution predicting the future is especially difficult. Hence my contribution to Martin’s post:
Jean and I watched the Horizon special a couple of evenings ago. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my overall thoughts are in response to your post, Martin. What does come to mind is that old saying, “Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.”
So it may be that we are at a particular point in time, or more likely an era, where seeing clearly into the future is challenging.
The one aspect of modern life that is a game-changer is what we are doing now. Sharing ideas and thoughts across a far-flung net. Not only as the Horizon programme illustrated but as ordinary people trying to make sense of the world.
These are incredibly uncertain times. Undoubtedly not the first in man’s long history as an historian will explain (cue to Alex!). But to all of us alive today, these are the most uncertain times we have ever experienced!
No wonder so many of us feel lost at times in today’s world.
Here’s that BBC Horizon, courtesy of YouTube.
I will close with this thought from one masterly ‘wordsmith’, William Wordsworth.
“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”