Tao Te Ching, Chapter Two

The dogs know everything:

where the food is

where the other one is

where they are walking

and that sound, that smell.

Is there more?

When there is no good,

there is no better.

When there is no bad,

there is no very bad.

When there is no beginning,

there is no end.

The dogs know everything

about their moments,

and so teach me about

these moments.

And these.

And now these moments, too.

.The dog, by the way,

does not understand

its name as a name

but as a sound

a blessed sound

and so has no need

nor desire

for that sound to be

perpetuated, honored,

or enshrined,

but only spoken.

@David Weber, 2011

Obituary

(this is a poem because I say it is. I don’t know why I wrote it, so don’t ask. In fact, don’t read it.)

Obituary

TSINGWALLER
HAROLD EVELYN “Jack” of MontMichel, Texas was born on a batting-filled mattress covered by a white, unstarched, 100% cotton percale sheet, from the womb of his mother, the former Jessica T. Southington, of Bryson, on the 17th of September, 1931.

He died of complications: too much beer, too much fear, and a genetic code born of innumerable impregnations of various women over the last several millennia.

He graduated from West Stovall High School in 1948. He is survived by everyone alive today. He was a member of the Siddartha Baptist Church, the Downtown Club of the MontMichel National Bank, and was the last active member of the Texas Communist Party. He worked briefly in the early 1960s as a file clerk in the offices of Sturm and Drang, an accounting firm, before entering oblivion through the doors of obscurity. He had several dogs and was known to have enjoyed medieval erotic literature in his later years.

At the time of his death on Friday night, “Jack” was folding the morning papers into a plastic bag to be deposited in the trash. A pain tore through the left side of his chest, and simultaneously, his left arm and neck. He dropped the bag and it and the papers were falling to the floor as the wall of his left ventricle burst open. His adrenal gland poured into the synaptical canals of his brain and he lost consciousness with the white vision of a wastebasket reflecting the buckle on his sixth grade teacher’s shoe, filling and defining his last moments of being.

He wanders now in the Elysian Fields just outside the perceptible dimensions that encompass Farm to Market Road #834 south of MontMichel, near the old gin.

A memorial service will be held in the chapel of Ramsbottom and Sons Funeral Home on Wednesday at 1:00. In lieu of flowers, few other things in life really matter.

 

David B.Weber, 2007

Lola, 2004-2009, beloved friend

Lola, our five year old golden retriever, died yesterday. She was a chubby little thing and we took a walk in the too-hot midday sun. While it was a walk we had taken many times before, this time she could not catch her breath and we were not near enough to cooling water. I carried her, tried to revive her, but I was unable to help. She tried, she died. Hopefully, I will one day be able to stop second guessing myself because I loved Lola . She loved everybody. Her physical absence is today excruciating.

I wrote an article for the emailed version of “The First Morning” in October of 2006.  I reprint it today because I am unable right now to write what I will write later about Lola.

IMG_0192 Lola is our three year old yellow Lab. She is sweet in every sense of that word which humans overuse when they’re talking about their pets. She will fetch, over and over, any ball that fits into her mouth, until she is exhausted from running. At almost 80 pounds, she still stands by the chair I’m sitting in waiting for me to pat my lap as a signal to her to “crawl on up here.”

Last night, I was outside, it was about 10:00. I was reading and Lola was sitting beside me, her head resting on my knee. As happens once in a while, in a field across the highway, about ¾ of a mile from our backyard, a pack of coyotes began howling and barking. Now that’s always a remarkable sound, which usually goes on for several minutes. Perhaps a hunt has been consummated, maybe females are being called, or some danger is near. Whatever the cause, it is a sound of wildness that calls to my imagination.

And this night, Lola heard that call, too. She left my side when it began and walked to the middle of the yard and sat down, her attention fully focused in the direction of the coyotes’ howls and barks. She was alert, but relaxed- not tense and on edge the way a noisy truck on “her” street causes her to be. She was so relaxed, as the coyote chorus continued, that she laid down sphinx-like, very still and totally concentrating on the not-so-faraway sounds.

What was she hearing? This was a sound from far beyond the normal barking she hears when we take our dogs on walks and dachshunds, pit bulls, or other retrievers bark at our trespassing. Nor did Lola react to the sounds of these coyotes like she does when dogs behind fences bark at us on our walks. Fence-barkers are reacted to by Lola with much false bravado and silly gnashing of teeth. Lola is pretty much a sissy, though, and runs the other way if she perceives in any way that the fence protecting her has a weak link somewhere.

As I watched Lola listening to the coyotes, I believe I was watching her responding to the eons of DNA wound through every one of her bodily cells. Retrievers, as a breed of dog, have only been around for several hundred years. But they, like every Chihuahua, Great Dane, Pit Bull, and new little Foo-Foo of the month, have ancient common ancestors among the wolves of Northern Europe and Asia, and more recent ancestral cousins among the dingoes of Australia and the coyotes of North America. I think; no, I know, that Lola was hearing a real call of the wild. It was a call to the wild in her that she has, through breeding and spoiling, no idea how to respond to. But she can hear it. She can feel it.

clip_image004When the barking and howling stopped, Lola sat back up. She looked back at me, as her ‘real world’ was coming back into focus. I went over and hugged and ‘talked dog’ to her. It just felt to me- maybe I’m making all this up, but I don’t think so- it felt to me like there was a longing in Lola that could never, would never, be able to be expressed. The life of the pack, as her 1000X great-grandmothers knew that pack life, will never be part of Lola’s experience. But I could see that some deep and real genetic chord in her had been sounded. And she had enjoyed it.

I often wonder how many of those ancient and genetically ripe moments catch our own human attentions. Most people respond to the seashore in ways which cause them to describe it as “beautiful” or “awesome.” But those words, they also know, even as they are saying them, do little to describe what the ocean is really making them feel. That feeling is the real response to the ancient, genetically sensitive, call which the ocean makes on most people.

Most, but not all. While significant and numerous communities of humans lived over hundreds of generations by ocean shores, their DNA codes being sculpted by the foods, winds, and climates there, there were other communities with ancient histories living inland. Some people today are affected by mountains or deep forests in the same way as others are affected by the oceans. Some communities, many of them around the world, never left the base of the mountains where life-giving streams full of fish and clams were present. Others hunted and gathered in the forests and the edges of forests. Their present day descendents might feel their calls to the wild in the scent of pine, the taste of wild onions, or, in ways very different from the way Lola heard them, the howls of wolves, dingoes, or coyotes. (“Run!”)

Something which all humans in all places seem to share is a fascination with fire. In a shared setting especially, where the fire is purposefully built and controlled, the fire-fascination of people is that same kind of fascination which comes from beyond words, beyond the need for language. Fire, shared and communal, is always quieting, always a cause for reflection and wonder. It is settling. That kind of shared, life-enhancing fire is something which the majority of persons in everyone’s family trees depended on, gathered around, slept near, and were made warm by. Our genetic, human DNA was shaped by that warmth; it is not serendipity or even mere coincidence that we are, as humans, attracted to it. It is inevitable. We can’t stay away from it.

On beyond the campfires, mountain streams, forest glens, ocean waves, and calls of the coyote, there is another even more ancient and powerful call. All humans have that call in common, too. The Apostle Paul said that even the trees and rocks hear it. I’ll write about that call later in the week.

God Damn Dog Fighting (Again)

Dogfighting Subculture Is Taking Hold in Texas

from today’s New York Times:

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

HOUSTON — The two undercover agents were miles from any town, deep in the East Texas countryside, following a car carrying three dogfighting fanatics and a female pit bull known for ripping off the genitals of other dogs. …….[etc.,etc.]

dog fighting

Somewhere, in some obscure lexicon of the Inquisition, or in the dictionaries of Bergen-Belsen or Treblinka, or perhaps in the indexes of Jonestown, My Lai, or Abu Ghraib- in some collection of heart-ripping words like those collections must represent, there might be found the right words to describe this despicable practice of that particular debris which postures in human form.

Go ahead, knee jerk reactionary, blame it on the breed. Swallow the media’s fear-mongering use of the sharply spit, so easily spoken description, pit bull. Make it easy on yourself to hate, to fear, to write off en masse a whole species by allowing those with a vested interest in making you afraid of everything outside the walls of your flat-screen television to tell you how, what, and with what degree of terror to think.

And above all, don’t dare look too hard or too long into the eyes of the dog pictured above. Because it’s impossible to not see the confused hunger for human attention and affection pouring from that dog’s one good eye, isn’t it? Deep within his/her genes the synchronistic and ancient communal relationship between humans and dogs is still pulsing, still resounding. Don’t you just know that dog’s tail is wagging at the photographer’s brief attention?

For the record, here’s the kind of pit bull our grand-parents and great grand-parents grew up with, and that many of us can remember watching on television, before the words “pit” and “bull” were twisted around the pricks of drug-addled thugs and  and turned into pornographic metaphors for manhood and virility:

petehomeimage

Yeah, it’s “Petey” of the Our Gang films. Petey– whose descendents would one day be hauled in the back of a pick up truck to obscure locations in Texas (and Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and..hell..wherever bloody handsful of hundred dollar bills are regarded as orgasmic) and starved  before being placed in a cage surrounded by sweating, screaming Michael Vick wannabes and then rewarded for tearing off the genitals or out the eyes of the other frightened scared dog in the same cage, or drowned or head-bashed the next morning for failing to do so.

Look at those eyes, go ahead..once more. One of them belongs to the dog. And one of them belongs to us..

 

A Respite from the Muck and Mire of Fundamentalism

I find the whole subject of fundamentalism tortuous. But I also know that one of the best ways to eradicate bacteria and mold is to expose them to the Light. So I will continue doing that, but I needed a break, and Graciel offered me one today with “What Do You Love?”at her blog, Evenstar Art, which everyone should go read frequently. It’s an antidote for many things. She writes:

“Today, I want you to quiet your monkey-mind. The part of your mind that swings wildly from one illusion to another. From one worry to another. From one judgement to another. I want you to practice focusing the part of your mind that leads you into made-up trouble on something positive. Practice focusing for one minute. Yes, just one minute. I want you to think about what you love. Not who you love. That’s another minute. This minute, I want you to think about what you love. Because it takes a bit of concentration and the monkey-mind must come to a rest while thinking positive thoughts.”

So here is my own one minute (or so) list of things I love:

*the golden finches which devour the sunflower seeds I put out for them this time of year

*the two soaring pines in the neighbor’s yard and the two single-note wind chimes that hang from them

*Wednesday nights

*the vultures at the lake, so crazily beautiful in their bigness and boldness

*sitting outside when the coyotes across the highway begin their howling

*the house in Ohio where I grew up. I walk through it frequently in memory

*Salem and Lola (OK, I’m cheating- they are both who’s to me, but since they are dogs I’m passing them off here as what’s)

*pick a beach, any one where salt water is lapping will do

*van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

*Madonna singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” (Yes, I know, odd. Deal with it.)

*thinking about and writing Sunday messages

*listening to stories that have never been told before

*Rumi

*the Moon, as it rises between those same two pine trees

*reading (again) Matthew 5- 7, and 25; John 1, 14, and 15; Genesis; and Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Revelation (the latter three because it’s just so strange for them to be in the Bible)

Yes, that took me more than a minute. You have my (and, I think, Graciel’s) permission to take more than a minute with your own list, too.

God Damn Dog Fighting

(That’s a prayer, by the way..)

It looks like Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick will feel the revulsion of the NFL for his off-the-field pastime of dog fighting, as Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce Vick’s suspension this week for the 07-08 season.

Hopefully, Nike and other members of Vick’s endorsement gravy train will follow suit.

Any doubts about what the NFL is doing to Vick? This should eliminate any thoughts of “unfairness” someone might still be harboring:

dogfighting

That’s what a human fingerprint looks like, gouged into a pit bull’s face. If it’s nauseating, that’s my point. It is meant to be.

It is almost unfathomable at times what humans are capable of doing to animals. Dog fighting, cock fighting, exotic animal hunting, and even rattlesnake round ups are systemic manifestations of the religiously chauvinistic attitude that humans are at top of the food chain and, therefore, “have dominion..over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1: 28) That single biblical phrase, twisted in the minds of men who measure their virility by the blood they can cause to flow from other living beings, or by the neglect they have institutionalized under the agenda of economic development, puts us- this generation- directly in the path of what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction.

440 million years ago, 85% of marine animals were wiped out in the First Great Extinction. 367 million years ago, many fish and 70% of marine invertebrates met their doom. 245 million years ago, 95% of all animal species died. 208 million years ago, another extinction of sea animals primarily, but also some land animals took place. And 65 million years ago, 3/4 of all species, including the dinosaurs, were eliminated.

All of these five great extinctions occurred because of volcanic eruptions, meteorite strikes, and changing climates. This sixth great extinction is one we are able to witness and one which we are largely the cause of. (Statistics from Earth Policy Institute)

It is estimated that 10 million species inhabit the earth with humans. And each year, 1000s of these species, including microrganisms, are lost forever. Deforestation, mining, urbanization, and ocean pollution and over harvesting are the primary reasons.

How do the attitudes and actions of Michael Vick fit into this dismal picture?

Perfectly.

As long as our human and predominate worldview is one which regards everything outside of ourselves as, well, outside of ourselves, then the abuse and death of pit bulls behind barns in the Virginia countryside, as well as the poaching deaths of Mountain Gorillas in the Congo, will continue. As long we crush our natural empathetic response to other living beings, with the mechanistic attitude that we’re in control of the toolbox, then it will continue to be easy to regard other species as things– in our way, expendable, toys for our amusement, even trash.

Imagine the outcome of a democratic vote by the world’s species on which species should be next in line for extinction?

Amen

 

 

 

Belonging..

The most consistently moving and poignant website- to me- is postsecrets.

In it, people anonymously are able to share their deepest secrets. Often, it is that One Secret that has has defined her or his life, that a person is able to share for the very first time. These secrets are shared on a postcard of the secret-sharer’s own design, and sent to an address in Maryland. Looking at the way these secrets are presented visually is sometimes even more difficult than reading the words of the secrets themselves.

forgive

A new collection is posted each Sunday. One of them this week is among the saddest I have ever read there because it represents, I’m afraid, the tip of an enormous iceberg of isolation and loneliness, being experienced by many, many people.

part

Years ago, at a prison ministry weekend event, at a point when the residents of the institution were relaxed enough to feel comfortable sharing real feelings, I heard a man named Monty say this (I am reconstructing this from notes I took quickly as he spoke, because I knew I was hearing something profound):

“All my life, I thought everyone was having a good time, except for me. When I was in the army, we’d go to bars and everyone was laughing. I’d laugh, too, even though I didn’t feel like laughing. I’d make jokes about women that I didn’t believe, because I thought they were what the guys wanted to hear. People liked me, but it was the pretend-me. It wasn’t me.

“It wasn’t until I’d been in here for several years, and finally made some real friends, that I found out that everybody in that bar felt that way. People feel that way everywhere. I was envying everybody, and everybody was envying me, and we were all laughing and none of us had a goddam friend in the world. Hell, that’s why we were in the army in the first place!”

In prison, irony of ironies, Monty had found a real group of friends. Their shared circumstances, and Monty’s own abilities to be vulnerable and honest, were the foundations of his new relationships. (Which would, because of the crime which landed Monty there, need to last a lifetime.)

Loneliness is a plague of the most widespread and severe sort. It is a plague born, in large part, by the viral cultural environment in which almost all of us live. We learn early on that it is our own bootstraps we must be pulling on, that the point of everything is winning, and that fun- good times- is the reason for living.

Our models in life are the two dimensional beings we see on television or at the movies who seem to have to have mastered those three ‘truths.” They’re happy like I wannabe, but can’t be. They’re on top, like I wannabe, but won’t ever be. They’ve got lots of friends, and I just want one.

The assumptions that most people begin to make, from the time they sit in front of a TV and are able to comprehend, are that there must be something wrong with them if they cannot be like everybody else. Insidiously, a solution to that personal assessment follows almost immediately: a person can buy their way out of their apartness. Thirty thousand scripted commercials into life, and the five year old knows exactly what kind of cereal, toys, soda pop, and clothing will make them happy, “like those kids.” (the two dimensional ones) Over the next 15 years, or so, they will learn that the thrill of purchased “victory” is either unattainable (poverty) or short-lived (there is always a new and better thing, looming). But by that time, the dies of American consumerism have been set, and the 20 year old begins his or her life as a continuing cog in the American Gross National Product.

The only real fulfilling relationships in life are with life. My personal circles of inclusion are almost crazily without boundaries, so what I say may be skewed for you, but I think all living things have the capacity to ground us as individuals in that which is fulfilling, meaningful, and satisfying. All living things offer us the opportunity to belong, “to be a part of something.”

And belonging really is the point. (“Let us make humankind in our image.”) It takes vulnerability to be able to say, out loud, even in secret, “I need to belong” because false bravado and superficial happiness are sub-strains of the infections of American individualism and consumerism.

Here are some living things to which persons can belong. I’m mentioning only a few, as keys to unlock what everyone already knows, but which is often buried under an avalanche of advertising and other cultural bullsh*t:

Belong to the forest, the ocean, a field of wildflowers. They are as alive as you, they will listen to you, and they will sing to you in return. Don’t go to them with any expectations. Listen. Stand still. And listen some more. (I learned from a local rancher- bless him- that if you sit very still for about 25 minutes, the animals- birds, rabbits, deer- will start coming near again. They were watching you; now you can watch them trusting you. It feels good.)

Belong to a living God. God’s not stuck in a book like many of God’s followers. God is still creating. Plant some trees, some tomatoes; learn how, if you don’t know how today. Help God do what God does! There are fellowships of people all over the place who are talking about God, often without even using God’s name. Garden clubs, rose societies, shoot- even cemetery auxiliaries maintain what is often the beautiful place in town. Clean the yard of the old lady across the street who can’t. Call the local Senior Center and find who needs a ride. Re-present God to someone who needs it!

Belong to animals. There are thousands of dogs and cats within a hundred miles of anyone that need adopted, taken care of, or whose cages at their shelters need cleaned. A dog’s love is unique (my personal prejudice) and I’ll shout for the rest of my life that a person can learn as much about God’s love from a dog as anywhere else. But I’ve got two cats I’m fond of, too, and I’ve heard that some people do, against all odds, prefer them over dogs. IMPORTANT: There is NO NEED to buy a name brand pet! In fact, please DON’T! Pick the goofy hound/shepherd cross that licks you through the cage at the pound..you belonged to him before he was born. And you know that.

Belong to people. Big Brother/Big Sister. Mentoring. Downtown Soup Kitchens. Habitat for Humanity. Et al., et al., et al. You will develop relationships in those endeavors, over time. You will belong. It may take a few weeks, even months, and those relationships may lead elsewhere besides the places you thought or falsely hoped they would at one time in your life, but you will be doing vital, necessary, important work. You can even be doing revolutionary work as a volunteer, by demonstrating to others that it is possible to jump off and stay off the treadmills others have designed for us to spend our lives on.

Y’knowwhatI’msayin?

I know you do. Or will. Monty figured it out. I figured it out. If we did, then there is loads of hope for you.

 

 

 

 

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.