Suzuki..a reflection

Page 3, The Essence of Wisdom

Shunryu Suzuki: “Our ‘original mind’ includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Imagine: My dogs, both Labs, are Lola and Salem, and I want to teach them to be more like me. For days now, I have given each of them two bowls- one containing dry dogfood and the other filled with greasy, chopped chicken meat. Today, I served only the dry dogfood and they both stood, looking up at me with pleading in their eyes. I rewarded each of them for their newly found desires with a slice of pizza.

Imagine: I bought Lola and Salem each new rubber squeak toys, the kind they love. I’ve kept them inside one small room of the house all week and played with them constantly. I’d throw a ball across the room, and Lola would run for it. I played Tug the Rope with Salem, over and over. It was exhausting for me, but they loved it. I was their total source of inspiration and stimulation and they loved it. Today, I snuck out of the house for a few hours, but left the back door open so they could go outside and play if they wanted to. When I returned, they were both asleep in their special room, so I closed the outside door, and woke them, with another piece of well-earned pizza.

Imagine: Our two cats, which the dogs formerly adored, have been sticking their conniving, suspicious noses into our special room. The first few days they did that, the dogs would go over to greet them- to touch noses, just like they used to do a hundred times a day. This week, I gave each of the dogs a sharp smack on their backs with a flyswatter every time they did that. “Cats? Cats? You don’t need no stinkin’ cats,” I’d yell at them. By yesterday, when the cats came near, all I had to do was wave the flyswatter in the cat’s direction and the dogs backed off. Today, I didn’t even need to do that. Salem growled when he saw the cats, and Lola followed his example. I gave them each another piece of pizza and lots of loving. “Good, Lola. Good, Salem..”

Imagine the implicit human cruelty in me if such scenes were true. Imagine how awful it would be for me to have manipulated all the natural tendencies and instincts of the dogs in such a way! The dry dogfood is healthy for them and they don’t overeat it, and it actually duplicates what canines would eat raw and naturally in the wild better than fried, greasy chicken ever could. It would be horrible of me to feed them “people food” exclusively just because the dry dogfood repulses me.

Left to play outside, both Salem and Lola will play fight with each for hours a day. They will chase after sticks on the ground, and squirrels in a tree with endless gusto and abandon. They enjoy it when I play with them for awhile, but they can- bottom line- take me or leave me for much of the day. The yard, the wind, the birds, and each other are what makes them dogs just as much as their specie’s biology. How dare I artificially take away their natural desire and ability to be dogs.

And dogs love their packs; packs are a big part of what makes them be dogs. Salem and Lola, complicatedly and consistently, like any dogs, try to make every other animal that comes near them, a part of their pack. The cats, other dogs, my wife and me, friends, visitors- everyone gets nudged, smelled thoroughly, licked, played with, and watched until their place in the pack is determined. But I can also make the dogs hate anything. Give me week (well maybe two) and I could make Salem and Lola hate each other. I could, with a little work, plenty of pizza, and a circumcised soul, make them both into growling, cat-hating, neuroses-filled extensions of my own suspicious self.

Now, re-read Suzuki’s quote again, and this time think of a child, a human child- maybe one you have influence over as an adult. Think about the cruel imaginings I undertook with the dogs, and imagine similar training being applied to that child.

Imagine it.

That’s all.

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