Category: Spirituality

The beauty and power of words!

You are going to love this – guaranteed!

Eleanore MacDonald is the author of the blog Notes From An Endless Sea. It’s a blog that I have been following for a while.

On the last day of last year, I published a post that contained the following:

There is much in this new world that concerns me and I know I am not alone with this view. But the rewards of reading the thoughts of others right across the world are wonderful beyond measure.

Little did I know that in just five days time Eleanore would demonstrate “wonderful beyond measure” par excellence! With her very kind permission I republish in full her post from last Sunday. Please don’t read any further until you can be very still and read Eleanore’s post with your total concentration on her stunningly beautiful prose.


January 3, 2016
devotion (©Paul Kamm)
devotion (©Paul Kamm)

I didn’t have to search for it. My word for the year just came to me, and with it, a host of lovely synonyms in its wake. Devotion. Well, devotion––minus the religious connotations––holding hands with dedication, fealty, loyalty, commitment, fortitude and constancy.

In the past I have labored over what it might be for me, that word that embodies all I want to do with my intentions in the year ahead. But this year, it came floating to me like an errant leaf, late falling on a winter’s breeze. It resonated deep within and because it came with an entourage I felt like a farmer with acres and acres of fertile, unblemished land spread before me all waiting for me to plant an endless bounty.

So I start my new cycle, this new year, with the sowing of seeds of intention, digging deeply into this dark, rich soil.  It begins with a renewed Devotion and dedication to loving. To magic. And to beauty.

chalice well, glastonbury
chalice well, glastonbury

And writing – something I failed so miserably at conjuring last year. A block is no joke, it is a deep, dark hole that any creative soul can fall into and in my case is called ‘writer’s block’, and it is real.  And it sucks.  I banish it now with a loyalty to work, those further and continual efforts to paint with words from a palette-full of color.

and more words ...
and more words …

And then there is Fealty. A deep and resonant fealty to my love/partner/mate, to family and those dear ones who love me as I am whether broken or whole; to those who love the animals and celebrate empathy, truth and compassion; to those who will be happy for me when I succeed, and cry with me in my sadness, who try to pick me up when I fall, and push me hard to continue to explore the vast continents of my interior and to walk onward along the path to becoming the best I can possibly be.

Those beloveds who allow me, in all of that vulnerability, to do the same for them.

Loyalty. Loyalty to my path. And to the greater good. To honesty, integrity, goodness, caring, loving––to kindness and empathy, to staying awake with eyes and ears and heart attentive to the big world around us, to laughter, to weeping buckets when I’m overflowing, to connection, to speaking up and speaking out (loudly!), to celebrating beauty and color, and to a nurturance of the evolution of soul and spirit, my own and that of others.

there is a world ...
there is a world …

Commitment.  To continuing to wield light, through music.

Commitment to seeing the glass half full.

And to the voiceless ones, who really are my reason for being. The animals. Commitment to doing what I can to ease the burden of suffering for those in need of compassion and caring, of rescue and respite.

Dear Ouranos
Dear Ouranos
the grande dame
the grande dame

Commitment to honoring those others who continue to do the hard and mostly thankless work attending to the emergent needs of those barely surviving untenable lives in the shadows; those caring for the pets of the homeless, animals who act as angels for the people of the streets whose only tether left to any comfort in this life is a beloved dog or cat companion; those pulling the newborn kits and pups from garbage bins, or flimsy boxes set in the cold rain along busy streets, those rescuing dogs from a brutal existence of abuse, abandonment, fighting, life at the end of a cold chain; those earthly angels whose hearts have been broken over and over again yet they continue on, continue giving, helping, trying to make a better life and a better world for those left behind.  (I have always held that, were humans to collectively realize that the other beings we share this glowing, gorgeous orb with––the animals, the trees, the waters, the land––all require and deserve our recognition, our action, our honor and caring, then the world’s ills would resolve. And so it goes…)

but who rescued who? (©Paul Kamm)
but who rescued who? (©Paul Kamm)

Fortitude. The fortitude to walk my path ahead in constancy, through dark and light with no time or inclination to curl into a ball and sink to the bottom of the well. Life now is too short for that.

Dedication, fealty, loyalty, commitment, fortitude… in action, together they reduce down and distill to a fine and pure constancy of devotion.

I am good with that! Right?

Do you have a ‘word for the year’? If so, do try to hold it close, in honor of its gift. When 2016 comes to pass, I would love to hear what your word was and how it served you. Or, how you served it.

Spreading my wings now…  With love and light, and hopes that your year ahead is graced by all that is good,


all that trails behind
all that trails behind

all photos © Eleanore MacDonald except for those taken by Paul Kamm.


 Adding anything from me runs the risk of diminishing the beauty of Eleanore’s words.

See you tomorrow!

Moments in history

You can blame John Zande for today’s post!

John left an intriguing question as a comment to yesterday’s post.

Oh to have a time machine!

Tell me, Paul, if you did have one, a time machine, what three moments in history would you visit?

It really grabbed Jean and me and we spent quite a few minutes during the day kicking around ideas. At first, it was easy just to do a web search on epic moments in history and see if any of them related to me. But that seemed too easy. So I have picked three that do connect with my life.

  1. May 8th, 1945

I was born on November 8th, 1944. I was born in North London (Acton). It was the period of the Second World War when the V2 rockets were landing all around. Take, for example, the incident just eleven days after my birth, when on the 19th November, 1944 a V2 landed in Wandsworth causing much damage and many fatalities around Hazlehurst Road and Garratt Lane. Spend a moment reviewing who died, and their ages, in that bombing.


So I was precisely six months old when the armistice was announced on May 8th, 1945. As Wikipedia describes it:

Victory in Europe Day, generally known as V-E Day, VE Day or simply V Day was the public holiday celebrated on 8 May 1945 (7 May in Commonwealth realms) to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces.[1] It thus marked the end of World War II in Europe.

On 30 April, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin. Germany’s surrender, therefore, was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was signed on 7 May in Reims, France and on 8 May in Berlin, Germany.

I would have loved to witness, by being in the crowd that day, the King and Queen acknowledging the end of the war in Europe.

May 8, 1945: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, are joined by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Nevertheless, that day in May, 1945 has been memorable for me for all of my life. Because my mother, who is still alive today, aged 96, (still living in London but spending Christmas with my sister in Cape Town, by the way), held me in her arms and said aloud: “My dear Paul, you are going to live!” I grew up with those loving words deeply rooted within me.

2. Stonehenge – too many moons ago!

For reasons that I am not entirely clear about, I have always been fascinated by the stars. From the point of view of using the stars to help me navigate strange parts of the world, both on land and at sea. I grew up regarding Polaris, the North Star, almost as a companion. Later in my life when sailing solo from Gibraltar to The Azores, a distance of just under 1,150 nautical miles, on a Tradewind 33 yacht, despite having an early GPS unit it was backup to me using a sextant to maintain (some) awareness of my position.

Tradewind 33 - Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.
Tradewind 33 – Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

(Reminds me of a anecdote when I was crewing on a privately-owned East Coast Essex fishing smack. I was asking Bill, the owner, why he always laid his thumb on the position on the chart in response to the question, “Where are we?” Bill’s reply: “That’s as accurate as anyone can be!”)

In 1969, when I was driving across the desert plains of Australia, often with inhabited places more than a 150-mile radius away (the Simpson Desert especially coming to mind) the Southern Cross seemed to keep me grounded and remind me that I was making progress.

Back when I was living just outside Totnes in South Devon, my frequent drives up to London along the A303 took me past Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. This year the solstice occurs on Tuesday December 22nd at 04:49 GMT (Universal time) with the sun rising over Stonehenge in Wiltshire at 08:04.
The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. This year the solstice occurs on Tuesday December 22nd at 04:49 GMT (Universal time) with the sun rising over Stonehenge in Wiltshire at 08:04.


It is possible that features such as the Heel Stone and the low mound known as the North Barrow were early components of Stonehenge,[3] but the earliest known major event was the construction of a circular ditch with an inner and outer bank, built about 3000 BC. This enclosed an area about 100 metres in diameter, and had two entrances. It was an early form of henge monument.[4]

Within the bank and ditch were possibly some timber structures and set just inside the bank were 56 pits, known as the Aubrey Holes. There has been much debate about what stood in these holes: the consensus for many years has been that they held upright timber posts, but recently the idea has re-emerged that some of them may have held stones.[5]

Within and around the Aubrey Holes, and also in the ditch, people buried cremations. About 64 cremations have been found, and perhaps as many as 150 individuals were originally buried at Stonehenge, making it the largest late Neolithic cemetery in the British Isles.[6]

Taken from here.

I would have loved being present at Stonehenge when the builders finally were able to stand back and see the Sun “speak” to them at the first Solstice after that point in its construction.

It seems to me to be a most magical place yet Stonehenge offers a mathematical and rhythmic foundation to that magic.

3. First man into space – 12th April, 1961

It was, of course, Yuri Gagarin, who made the first complete orbit of Planet Earth in space.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin

I would have given anything to be in his seat (and suit). For to look out and see our planet as a small object in an enormous outer space would have to change one’s perception of almost everything; for evermore.


My wish for the New Year is that we recognise our place both in history and on our Planet Earth, and care for it as the sole, beautiful home that we have.

Now that global recognition would be a moment in history that I would want to experience before I die!

(Thanks John for inspiring me to jot down these thoughts!)


Saturday serenity.

If you don’t care for yourself, then you can not care for others.

This beautiful Tao Wisdom was published over on Find Your Middle Ground, Val Boyko’s blogsite, and is republished here with Val’s very kind permission.



Knowing the world is intelligent.
Knowing yourself is enlightenment.

Bending the world to your will takes force.
Willing yourself to bend is true strength.

Succeeding in the world yields riches.
Being content with what is yields wealth.

Apply Tao to the physical world and you will have a long life.
See past the physical world to the enduring presence of Tao and death will lose its meaning.

Lao Tzu*

This is one of my favorite passages from the Tao Te Ching.
May it enrich the whole of you and your day. ☯

*Braun Jr., John; Tzu, Lao; von Bargen, Julian; Warkentin, David (2012-12-02). Tao Te Ching (Kindle Locations 492-498). . Kindle Edition.


May you, and all your friends and loved ones, including your beautiful animals, have a very contented weekend, extending forever more!

The art of stillness.

Another fabulous lesson we can learn from our dogs.

Stillness. It is a very simple, single word yet, somehow, it sounds as though it belongs to a different age. As though stillness is a very long way from the modern society that millions and millions of us subscribe to.

The dog is the master of being still. Being still, either from just laying quietly watching the world go by, or being still from being fast asleep. The ease at which they can find a space on a settee, a carpeted corner of a room, the covers of a made-up bed, and stretch out and be still, simply beggars belief. Dogs offer us humans the most wonderful quality of stillness that we should all practice. Dogs reveal their wonderful relationship with stillness.

Now watch this entrancing talk from Pico Iyer.

Published on Nov 26, 2014
The place that travel writer Pico Iyer would most like to go? Nowhere. In a counterintuitive and lyrical meditation, Iyer takes a look at the incredible insight that comes with taking time for stillness. In our world of constant movement and distraction, he teases out strategies we all can use to take back a few minutes out of every day, or a few days out of every season. It’s the talk for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the demands for our world.

Why you should listen.

Acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel — the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of Tibet or the embargoed society of Cuba.

Iyer’s latest focus is on yet another overlooked aspect of travel: how can it help us regain our sense of stillness and focus in a world where our devices and digital networks increasing distract us? As he says: “Almost everybody I know has this sense of overdosing on information and getting dizzy living at post-human speeds. Nearly everybody I know does something to try to remove herself to clear her head and to have enough time and space to think. … All of us instinctively feel that something inside us is crying out for more spaciousness and stillness to offset the exhilarations of this movement and the fun and diversion of the modern world.”

What others say

“[Iyer] writes the kind of lyrical, flowing prose that could make Des Moines sound beguiling.” — Los Angeles Times

When dark shadows fall across our hearts.

One of the most important lessons we can learn from our dogs: coping with death.

In writing about the lesson of death that we can learn from our dogs I am, of course, speaking of our own death, of the inevitability of our death. That largely unspoken truth that Sharon Salzberg described in her book Faith: “What does it mean to be born in a human body, vulnerable and helpless, then to grow old, get sick and die, whether we like it or not?” [page 34.]

Anyone who has loved a dog has most likely been intimately involved in the end of that dog’s life. It is, to my mind, the ultimate lesson that dogs offer us: how to be at peace when we die and how to leave that peace blowing like a gentle breeze through the hearts of all the people who loved us.

Our beloved dogs have much shorter life spans than us, thus almost everyone who has loved a dog will have had to say goodbye to that gorgeous friend at some point in their lives. Very sadly, perhaps, saying goodbye to more than one loved dog.

All of which is my introduction to a recent essay published on The Conversation blogsite. The essay is written by Bernard Rollin, Professor of Philosophy, Animal Sciences and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. The essay is called: When is it ethical to euthanise your pet?


When is it ethical to euthanize your pet?

August 12, 2015 6.18am EDT

In the 1960s, I knew people who, before going on vacation, would take their dogs to a shelter to be euthanized. They reasoned that it was cheaper to have a dog euthanized – and buy a new one upon returning – than pay a kennel fee.

Two decades later, I was working at Colorado State’s veterinary hospital when a group of distraught bikers on Harley-Davidsons pulled up carrying a sick chihuahua. The dog was intractably ill, and required euthanasia to prevent further suffering. Afterwards, the hospital’s counselors felt compelled to find the bikers a motel room: their level of grief was so profound that the staff didn’t think it was safe for them to be riding their motorcycles.

These two stories illustrate the drastic change in how animals have been perceived. For thousands of years, humans have kept animals as pets. But only during the past 40 years have they come to be viewed as family.

While it’s certainly a positive development that animals are being treated humanely, one of the downsides to better treatment mirrors some of the problems the (human) health care system faces with end-of-life care.

As with humans, in many cases the lives of pets are needlessly prolonged, which can cause undue suffering for the animals and an increased financial burden for families.

The growth of veterinary medicine and ethics

In 1979, I began teaching veterinary medical ethics at Colorado State University’s veterinary school, the first such course ever taught anywhere in the world.

A year later, the veterinary school hired an oncologist to head up a new program on animal oncology. Soon, our clinic was applying human therapeutic modalities to animal cancer. The visionary head of the veterinary program also hired a number of counselors to help pet owners manage their grief – another first in veterinary circles.

I’d been under the impression that people would be reluctant to spend much money on animal treatments, so I was genuinely shocked when the following April, the Wall Street Journal reported individuals spending upwards of six figures on cancer treatments for their pets.

As a strong advocate for strengthening concern for animal welfare in society, I was delighted with this unprecedented turn of events. I soon learned that concern for treating the diseases of pets besides cancer had also spiked precipitously, evidenced by a significant increase in veterinary specialty practices.

One of the family

So what’s behind the shift in how pets are perceived and treated?

For one, surveys conducted over the last two decades indicate an increasing number of pet owners who profess to view their animals as “members of the family.” In some surveys, the number is as high as 95% of respondents, but in nearly all surveys the number is higher than 80%.

In addition, the breakdown of nuclear families and the uptick of divorce rates have contributed to singles forming tighter bonds with companion animals.

Such attitudes and trends are likely to engender profound changes in societal views of euthanasia. Whereas before, many owners didn’t think twice about putting down a pet, now many are hesitant to euthanize, often going to great lengths to keep sick animals alive.

Vets caught in the middle

However, veterinarians continue to experience extensive stress as they experience two opposite – but equally trying – dilemmas: ending an animal’s life too soon, or waiting too long.

In a paper that I published entitled Euthanasia and Moral Stress, I described the significant stress experienced by veterinarians, veterinary technicians and humane society workers. Many chose their profession out of a desire to improve the lot of animals; instead, they invariably ended up euthanizing large numbers of them, often for unethical reasons.

These ranged from “I got the dog to jog with me, and now it’s too old to run,” to “If I die, I want you to euthanize the animal because I know it can’t bear to live without me.”

In other cases, the animal is experiencing considerable suffering, but the owner is unwilling to let the animal go. With owners increasingly viewing pets as family members, this has become increasingly common, and many owners fear the guilt associated with killing an animal too soon.

Ironically this, too, can cause veterinarians undue trauma: they know the animal is suffering, but there’s nothing they can do about it unless the owner gives them permission.

The consequences are manifest. One recent study showed that one in six veterinarians has considered suicide. Another found an elevated risk of suicide in the field of veterinary medicine. Being asked to kill healthy animals for owner convenience doubtless is a major contribution.

How to manage the decision to euthanize

Here is my suggestion to anyone who is thinking about getting a pet: when you first acquire it, create a list of everything you can find that makes the animal happy (eating a treat, chasing a ball, etc). Put the list away until the animal is undergoing treatment for a terminal disease, such as cancer. At that point, return to the list: is the animal able to chase a ball? Does the animal get excited about receiving a treat?

If the animal has lost the ability to have positive experiences, it’s often easier to let go.

This strategy can be augmented by pointing out the differences between human and animal consciousness. As philosopher Martin Heidegger has pointed out, for humans much of life’s meaning is derived from balancing past experiences with future aspirations, such as wishing to see one’s children graduate or hoping to see Ireland again.

Animals, on the other hand, lack the linguistic tools to allow them to anticipate the future or create an internal narrative of the past. Instead, they live overwhelmingly in the present. So if a pet owner is reluctant to euthanize, I’ll often point out that the animal no longer experiences pleasant “nows.”

In the end, managing euthanasia represents a major complication of the augmented status of pets in society. Ideally, companion animal owners should maintain a good relationship with their general veterinary practitioner, who has often known the animal all of its life, and can serve as a partner in dialogue during the trying times when euthanasia emerges as a possible alternative to suffering.


So much to learn from these beautiful creatures and so many ways to return the unlimited love we receive from them.

Synecdoche : Little World

The concluding part of Hariod Brawn’s wonderful essay.

Haroid’s opening part was republished by me in this place yesterday, under the blog title of Alone in a sea of many. For the concluding part, I have named this blog post in accordance with Hariod’s chosen name. Thank you to all who read Part One and I hope you find Part Two equally stimulating.


Synecdoche (Part Two): Little Person

Fool’s Cap Map of the World. Unknown origin c.1580-1590
Fool’s Cap Map of the World. Unknown origin c.1580-1590

In the first part of this article, we discussed how each person, in coming to understand how they construct themselves as the self-entity they take themselves to be, must in the process come to understand how all others do too. In other words, self-knowledge is not particular to the individual, because the self – in essence an embedded, accumulating and by graduation morphing narrative and body schema – comes into being by identical means in our species. Each of us remains unique in many ways, such as in our formative experience, our psychological make-up, conditioned traits, genetic inheritance, and in our individuated physicalities. Yet that which we regard as our quintessence, the enduring internalised construct we each unquestioningly hold as the self and the aspect of ourselves which we most intimately cling to, is little more than a formulaic pretence determined and governed solely by means of evolved, unbidden and unconscious processes.

Each character has a given name, societal position, cultural identity and perhaps a hierarchical status; yet all such markers are in part a figure of speech, or synecdoche, denoting an undeniable correlation with countless others. The markers delineate superficial distinctions alone, and the greater the number of them, the more we remove from our understanding the underlying truth of the other’s commonality with us. In much the same way, in our coming to understand how the worlds we ourselves inhabit are constructed, we see also that same world as a synecdoche for all others. How I relate to my home and environment, my relatives and loved ones, those I engage with out of chance or necessity, and those whom I depend upon or those who depend upon me, human or non-human, all make up my little world. It is a relational world, an interactive adventure forged from myriad connections, surprisingly few of which do I have great control over.

The argument against this is to assert that such correlations are facile, that how can I, a materially secure Westerner living in a largely strife-free state, possibly share any commonality with the oppressed and malnourished other on, say, the Indian sub-continent? Are these conditions not worlds apart, if only qualitatively? Well, in examining human suffering, we find it has a common genesis, proceeding as it does from the mind. For example, we commonly mistake unpleasant bodily sensations for suffering, failing to distinguish between physical pain and the attendant overlay of mental anguish. Is the suffering of the wealthy financier who contemplates suicide at her portfolio’s decimation greater than that of the homesteader in sub-Saharan Africa facing a crop failure of a few sacksful of grain? Objectively, then yes, these are worlds apart, yet the subjective suffering of each may be qualitatively indistinct, even in their wildly differing experiential settings.

Geography of Twitter. By Eric Fischer, Washington, DC
Geography of Twitter. By Eric Fischer, Washington, DC

And what of care and affection; are we to suppose that our world as comprising love is any the lesser or greater than others? Ought we to suppose the human instinct to loving solicitude is greater than that of our fellow creatures? Who amongst us knows what human love is as distinct from other forms of animal love, and whether it is qualitatively superior? Am I so arrogant as to suggest my altruistic benevolence is any the greater than that of my pet Border Collie, for it seems far from being so? If I am unable to define precisely what constitutes this world aspect, how am I to know that those of other animals are not simulacra of my own, there being no original and authentic love-world other than the one as represented by the many – is this not a truth hard to refute? I may describe a personal world of felt affection, yet in doing so prescribe but a figure of speech alone, a synecdoche for all worlds inhabited perhaps by most beings of sentience.

My little world is forged at the interface between psyche and otherness, between ideas and the world as impressed upon my senses. Those impressions and the precise nature of that otherness differ in every detail from the next person’s, yet the means of forging are identical. This shared action results in distinct narratives of course, and it is these that are held to in our bids to assert the pre-eminence of individuality over commonality. I want to believe I am, if not special, then unique; yet that is only true in the differing stories of what I am and what my little world is. To those without privilege to my narratives of self and world, my assumed mantle of uniqueness is meaningless, and the same is true of theirs to me. We may here be at a cold and sterile juncture, yet it also is a starting point from which we may begin to introduce the binding agents of humankind – our innate qualities of kindness and compassion, of empathic understanding.

So what, why should I care about such ideas when I have altogether more pressing concerns? What is the point in abstracting notions such as these from the warp and weft of daily living, the place where I earn my crust, feed my children, and work on my betterment as a means of personal fulfilment? Perhaps the answer lies somewhat starkly in the evidence, and which seems to me to be in a state of constant deterioration. We live in a polarised world, where theists fight theists and atheists argue against both, where the wealthy seldom flinch in their impoverishment of others, and where power-hungry and psychopathic leaders crush the potential of all they have dominion over. Is it not time to find our common humanity, or even our common animality? We humans are destroying our sole environment; we are chasing down the darkening corridors of economic systems at the point of failure. Can we not rest awhile so as to perceive our little worlds as one?


My sense is that for quite a few readers who read yesterday’s and today’s postings, they were not the easiest read that has been seen on Learning from Dogs. But in a world where the dumbing down of the English vocabulary seems ever more present, to read Hariod’s essay slowly and carefully, and let the deeper meanings of her arguments settle within the mind, is a profound and compelling reminder of the beauty and elegance of the English language.

This introspective mood continues tomorrow: you have been warned!

Alone in a sea of many

A few days of inner contemplation.

I suspect that many, if not most, originally came to this place expecting the blog to be directly about dogs. And, in many instances, the posts are directly about canis lupus familiaris. But the original idea behind choosing the blog name Learning from Dogs was the sense that we, as in mankind, have to change our ways if we are to offer our grandchildren a viable planet upon which they may live. More succinctly expressed in The Vision for this blog:

Our children require a world that understands the importance of faith, integrity and honesty,

Learning from Dogs will serve as a reminder of the values of life and the power of unconditional love – as so many, many dogs prove each and every day,

Constantly trying to get to the truth …

The power of greater self-awareness and faith; faith that the only way forward for us is through the truth …

If you have read this far you may be wondering if the old guy has lost yet another marble!

So what has prompted this introspection? I’ll tell you.

I subscribe to Hariod Brawn’s blogsite For those that do not know Hariod’s writings then her About page offers (in part):

We’re here to discuss aspects of human well-being as they relate to our sense of self, our personal identity and whatever other notions we may hold for our own uniquely human sense of being. This means the discussion centres upon the pragmatic or real-life dimensions of experience – things like our sense of contentedness, of personal meaningfulness, and other tangibly perceived aspects of well-being. The discussion is positive, respectful, non-judgemental, considerate.

That, as you can see, resonates very much with me thinking of Learning from Dogs as a means, metaphorically so, of finding greater self-awareness.

On June 10th, Hariod published the first part of an essay called Synecdoche: Little Person. I found the essay extraordinarily interesting and wanted to share it with you in this place. Hariod generously gave me permission, so here is Part One.


Synecdoche (Part One): Little Person


I am just a little person, one person in a sea of many little people who are not aware of me, yet each potentially a simultaneous understanding of the other; each, in a sense, a simulacrum or synecdoche for all others: if I understand myself sufficiently deeply, then in that moment I understand the other, however remote my presence to them. This is not to say I can appreciate their specific complexities, of course, and the detail, the true intricacy of any given life, remains forever removed from that quota of awareness I am privileged to. Each little person, tagged with their own unique package of characteristics, is still a synecdoche though, potentially at least, for all the little people out in the sea of otherness. The word means literally ‘take with something else’, so conveying the idea that even a partial representation alone is sufficient to apprehend the whole, or vice versa.

This sounds rather fanciful to the contemporary mind, conditioned as it is in a belief as to the total, inarguable individuality of each little person. What an appealing belief this is too, for this same little person here finds a seemingly plausible counter to a reluctantly intuited sense of homogeneity, which word itself derives from the Greek ‘homogene’, meaning ‘of the same kind’: Homo Sapiens. Even though each of the little person’s internal organs are replaceable with those fished from the sea of many little people, even though their blood, hair, bones, limbs, eyes and hands can be substituted with biological or manufactured alternatives, still the little person resists the evidence, demanding their status as a uniquely enduring entity. It is of course the mind itself that insists upon countering the intuited and actual homogeneity, and the mind, so the little person believes, belongs to them.


This raises a problem, for if the little person’s physicality is all but totally interchangeable, then at what point during this theoretical process does the supposed possessor of the mind cease to exist? When does the point arrive at which we can no longer claim the mind belongs to any little person? If we hold to Physicalism, or Hard Materialism, we assert the mind belongs, if not to the little person, then to the organ of the brain. Should we be an Eliminative Materialist, we say there is no mind, and so no such question arises. I resist these philosophical perspectives, for to me there is a non-locality of awareness, meaning it arises both within as well as about what we think of as the little person, and whilst we call this aware experience ‘mind’, I do not adhere to any Cranialism; it’s not exclusively headstuff. In accepting this, we logically must ask whether the mind is under ownership.

Ownership implies agency, or self-determination, and it is belief in this that makes the little person feel unique and autonomous, directing their life just as all others would theirs. Yet this owning agent is never verifiable other than as consciousness, for it is only ever a belief that resides within and as that consciousness. Now, all conscious displays are themselves non-local simulacra, representations of otherness that are neither the little person nor any owning agent, and which clearly may never be evidenced outside of consciousness. This means the little person is always a thought-construct, a put-up job forged by mind and subsisting in otherness but never in essence itself. Should this hypothesis obtain, then the little person is a synecdoche for the entirety of others in kind; this is because every little person, being a fabrication of mind, comes into apparent existence in an identical manner.


Where are we? We heard that the mind persists in countering a reluctantly intuited homogeneity of all the little persons. Further, we said the mind forges each little person as a thought-construct, and that the little person does not exist as an enduringly instantiated entity – just like a house, a car, or a computer, its parts are interchangeable. Beyond this, we learned the mind produces only conscious effects as verification of its own fabrications, and that these subsist universally for all the apparent little persons, being as they are culled from the same sea of otherness. And lastly, we found that the hypothesis as a whole demonstrates that each apparent little person is a synecdoche for the sea of many little people. So, in understanding myself sufficiently deeply, then in that moment I understand the other, which was the assertion of the opening paragraph and a challenge to the curious mind.

In the ‘Ship of Theseus’ paradox, a parallel question is raised: in replacing a wooden ship plank by plank, are the ongoing resultants still the original ship? In point of fact, only the conception itself endures across the constant transitioning. The ship, as known, is not a wooden construct; it is a thought-construct, a fixed conception presenting to any observing little person, all of whom create each the other in identical fashion. Each parallel the ship in that their structure constantly mutates whilst a sense of enduring selfhood smears out across the whole, forged in mind in homogeneous ways. Now, if the little person turns the mind in on itself reflectively, they in time realise that they must be more than a thought-construct, a belief. They see that the little person whom they believed they existed as was a synecdoche: a motif in play which in its perfectly clear seeing brings knowledge of all of its kind.

Images courtesy of New Zealand Government Archives.


The concluding part of Hariod’s essay is published tomorrow.

A chance in love.

Our neighbourhood watch garage sale has Jean and me fully occupied for these next two days.

Plus much of yesterday afternoon was spent getting our ‘site’ all set up ready for today.

I have taken the opportunity of showing you two videos, one today and one tomorrow.

This was sent to me by Suzann and will melt your heart in a very big way.

►If watching the flowering of love could inspire love, then “The Story Of The Weeping Camel” would forever alter the world…

►The Story of the Weeping Camel.
Mongolian: Ингэн нулимс, Ingen nulims, “Tears of the Camel” is a 2003 German docudrama released internationally in 2004.

►During Spring, a family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi Desert, South Mongolia, assists the births of their camel herd. The last camel to calve this season has a protracted labor that persists for two days. With the assistance and intervention of the family, a rare white bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) calf is born.
This is the mother camel’s first calving. Despite the efforts of the shepherds, the mother rejects the newborn, refusing it her milk and failing to establish a care-bond with it. The family resolve to secure the services of an indigenous ‘violinist’ to play the music for a Mongolian ‘Hoos’ ritual.

When repeatedly intoned the calming sounds and beautiful melody of the violin, the mother camel starts to weep, tears visibly streaming from her eyes. Immediately after the rite the mother and calf are reconciled and the calf draws milk from her teat.

►Added music: Sad Romance – Thao Nguyen Xanh

Learning about last breaths from our dog.

The wisdom of a six-year-old.

Very grateful to Chris Snuggs for sending this on to me. As seen on the BoredBug website:


They Told This Little Boy His Dog Was Going To Be Put Down. His Response STUNNED Them.

On Belker’s last day, Shane seemed calm, petting the old dog as if he understood that he was saying a last “goodbye”. Within minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. Shane seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.


They all sat together after Belker’s death, wondering aloud how sad it is that animals lives are shorter than humans. Shane, who had been listening quietly, spoke ”I know why! People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, ”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”



You all have a good, loving weekend.

Has the human ‘pack’ moved on!

Believers and non-believers alike owe Pope Francis a giant ‘thank you’.

As regular followers of this place will have heard before, one of the roles of the ‘alpha’ dog, or more accurately referred to these days as the Mentor dog, in other words the female dog that in the days before domestication was the leader of her pack, was to move her pack if she intuited that the pack’s home range was not sustaining them. (Her other role was pick of the male dogs!)

Thus the title of today’s post came to me as just possibly the metaphorical equivalent. That the global human ‘pack’ has been sharply reminded by one of the world’s key religious leaders that ‘more of the same’ isn’t going to work for much longer.

Quite rightly, there has been a huge amount of reporting and analysis of last week’s Papal Encyclical. But one of the most beautiful and profoundly eloquent came from the writer Jennifer Browdy. If you haven’t come across her before then do drop across to her website; you will love what she presents!  I have been a subscriber to her blog posts for some time and that was how I came across her post called: And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Pope Francis Shows Us the Way. Jennifer very kindly gave me permission to republish her post today.


And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Pope Francis Shows Us the Way

By Jennifer Browdy

The Encyclical on climate change and the environment released by Pope Francis this week has all the magic of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991. Back then, the antagonism between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. seemed implacable and unresolvable, a fight to the death. And then suddenly the wall came down and the world walked through, marveling, into a new era.

Now we have another abrupt shift, this time of a religious order. The leaders of the Catholic Church can hardly be accused of being “radical tree-huggers.” And yet here is Pope Francis, solemnly exhorting his flock of a billion Catholics worldwide to be respectful to Mother Earth and all the living beings she supports. In the blink of an eye, the language of Native American spirituality has been taken up by the same Catholic Church that once tortured and executed indigenous peoples precisely because of their different religious beliefs.

I urge you to read the entire Encyclical for yourself. It is a truly remarkable document, worth serious study. Of many passages I’d like to underline, here are two:

228 Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion. Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers and sisters. Fraternal love can only be gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us. That is why it is possible to love our enemies. This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and accept the wind, the sun and the clouds, even though we cannot control them. In this sense, we can speak of a “universal fraternity”.

229 We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.

Here we find spiritual ecology enshrined as Catholic doctrine. And one thing about the Catholic Church—it is big on obedience. For believers, to ignore the Pope is to risk hellfire and damnation. In this case, though, the hellfire and damnation will be earthly, if we do not listen to the wise advice of Pope Francis and curb the insanity of industrial growth that goes beyond the limits of the planet to support.

Scientists appeal to our sense of reason, presenting compelling evidence that if we continue on our present path of wasteful consumption of the Earth’s resources, we will destroy our own future as a flourishing species. Religious leaders appeal to human beings’ moral conscience in invoking the responsibility of current parents and grandparents to leave a livable world to our descendants. It is up to the politicians, though, to translate vision into practice.

For too long, Christian conservatives in the U.S. have played the role of the ideological wing of Big Business, using money, manipulation and scare tactics to buy politicians and votes. In the face of the new Papal Encyclical, can American Christians really continue in good conscience to support the worst of the planet’s polluters and plunderers? Can they continue to elect mercenary politicians who hold our country hostage to the highest bidder?

If all good people who love our Earth and its creatures were to translate our love into action, as Pope Francis has just done so forcefully, I have no doubt the seemingly invincible wall of the industrial growth society we’ve been living with these past 200 years would melt away, revealing the path into a green, prosperous future.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” the saying goes. Pope Francis has just shown us the will, and the way. It is now the task of us ordinary citizens to break the stranglehold of Big Business on politics and insist that our politicians follow his lead.

I close with an excerpt from the Pope’s “Christian Prayer in Union with Creation,” a vision of ecological interdependence if ever there was one:

“Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,

teach us to contemplate you

in the beauty of the universe,

for all things speak of you.

“Awaken our praise and thankfulness

for every being that you have made.

Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.

God of love, show us our place in this world

as channels of your love

for all the creatures of this earth,

for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.

Enlighten those who possess power and money

that they may avoid the sin of indifference,

that they may love the common good, advance the weak,

and care for this world in which we live.”


And the meek shall inherit the Earth…. Photo by J. Browdy, 2015


I am sure that, whatever your religious or spiritual persuasion, you will agree with me with regard to the beauty of Jennifer’s essay. I know there are millions and millions of people who will want to look back in a few years time and see how Pope Francis’ legacy literally saved our lives.