A new book about dogs by John Bradshaw offers a theme for today.
Yesterday, I mentioned an article from the current issue of The Economist. Also in that issue was a review of a new book from John Bradshaw, called Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behaviour Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. You can read the review here. But in terms of the theme of today’s post, read this paragraph from that review,
Dogs are not like nicely brought-up wolves, says the author, nor are they much like people despite their extraordinary ability to enter our lives and our hearts. This is not to deny that some dogs are very clever or that they are capable of feeling emotion deeply. But their intelligence is different from ours. The idea that some dogs can understand as many words as a two-year-old child is simply wrong and an inappropriate way of trying to measure canine intellect. Rather, their emotional range is more limited than ours, partly because, with little sense of time, they are trapped almost entirely in the present. Dogs can experience joy, anxiety and anger. But emotions that demand a capacity for self-reflection, such as guilt or jealousy, are almost certainly beyond them, contrary to the convictions of many dog owners.
That last sentence is key, “But emotions that demand a capacity for self-reflection, such as guilt or jealousy, are almost certainly beyond them, contrary to the convictions of many dog owners.”
So in yesterday’s post, when I wrote about the terrible uncertainty that millions and millions of humans must be experiencing, there is no useful metaphor available to link this human idea to how the dogs feel; as John Bradshaw writes, this level of reflection is just beyond them.
We hug a dog (or any animal) to escape from matters complex. As Sue Miller wrote so beautifully, “I was taken up by them [pets] and their life and energy, by what they needed and asked of me. I let go of everything difficult or complex in my life. As I was driving home, I thought of all this, and it seemed to me that I’d chosen work which offered me daily the presence of pure innocence, a forgiveness for all my human flaws.”
So accept the gift of pure innocence that our pets give us.
But what ‘gift’ can we humans accept that relates to the very complex world that we humans see all around us?
What about hope? Let’s accept the gift of hope. As I wrote recently in an email to a friend (before the London riots burst upon our consciousness),
‘Hope’ is going to be the key message over the coming weeks and months because the feeling that the ‘end of the world is nigh’ is incredibly strong, well it is to me!
Of course, the ‘end of the world’ feeling is, as you well know from me, really the end of an era. But an era where for decades money has equalled power; ergo money has equalled control.
Now the speed of change must be terrifying to millions across the world. So out of that terror must come a new order, a new way of understanding that how we have treated our planet is a busted model and that it is time, indeed the 11th hour as it were, to find that new order, of love and sustainability with our planet, both in earthly and spiritual ways.
We must have faith in the hope that we are living through the chaotic transition from an era of greed and destruction to one where we have a future that goes on for thousands of years.