George Carlin once described dogs as having a simple philosophy: If they can do it, you can watch.
Their decisions are simple. They're either eating, drinking, barking, peeing, playing, pooping, mating, licking, scratching, or sleeping (my Ratcha actually barks and poops at the same time, which I call sharking). Dogs do have thoughts, but nothing like, Should I go with the gold or the indigo blue eye shadow? Should I break up with Amanda, become a Buddhist, or take a fencing class?
I was wandering around the lower level of Neiman Marcus the other day, searching for the restroom. This lower level was for men's clothing and fine housewares. Odd combination, don't you think? Anyway, I was looking at a whimsical furniture line and thinking to myself, This might go well in a small English cottage, someplace Beatrix Potter might have written Peter Rabbit.
Then my phone rang. It was my 9 year old daughter saying she had to stay after school because she'd failed to finish a social studies assignment on supply and demand. Just after I hung up, a heavyset woman asked if I needed any help. I was bent over, trying to see a price tag of $285 on the underside of a crystal decanter. I told her that no, I was fine. Just looking. Then we discussed the types of items on display, including the whimsical furniture with it's black and white checkered patterns mixed with grandma floral upholstery, how much my husband would hate it, and I said, "It all boils down to what's soulful and what's not."
She agreed, although I don't think either one of us knew what the hell I was talking about, not yet at least.
My husband insists that dogs don't have souls. I don't agree. I think all living things have souls, that to be alive is to breathe, to inspire, to have an essence. My husband thinks that only humans have an essence, a soul, that only they get to go to heaven.
Heaven would be boring with only humans. We're too unnecessarily complicated, too petty, too stupid. It takes us too long to learn the most important things, how to love well, how to live and die well. Dogs don't have to learn these things. They just know them.
I think it's significant that humans were created last. Almost an afterthought. God created all of nature, the flora and fauna, the planets and stars, and then he made the messed up people, the only part of creation to fail. Why is that? Why would anyone create creatures with a known failure glitch? A surefire trigger to fall? That's like using playing cards to build a skyscraper.
What was he thinking? I'm gonna make these big, hairless, talking mammals that mess up all the time. It'll be fun.
Considering all the choices we humans have, it's no wonder we make the wrong ones. There's too much going on around us, social media, thousands of religions to choose from, deliciously unhealthy foods, and cable channels galore. Dogs don't have this problem. They don't have to decide what they're in the mood to eat or Tweet, which god to follow or movie to watch on HBO. Dogs don't have to search for the down escalator to find a place to pee within a mega-commercial-worship-complex. They just....Go. Need to eliminate? Nature says, Not a problem.
Dogs live in the uncomplicated moment.
Not humans. They go nuts when making decisions, either too impulsive or indecisive. Sometimes they have to research how to make these decisions, with the head or the heart, whether to follow their intuition or make pros and cons lists. They even ask trusted friends for advice.
Why would we ask other people what we want?
Henry Miller once wrote, "The purpose of discipline is to promote freedom. But freedom leads to infinity, and infinity is terrifying."
People aren't free. We're too mentally untethered to be free. We've either got thoughts scattered all over the place, like a train wreck, or our heads are so crowded we have to go to classes to learn to focus on what really matters, our own breath. We meditate to get away from our own minds. We have to clear out space, find a focal point of nothingness in order to pray, to listen, to hear.
Again, dogs don't have this problem.
I have a great coffee table book titled A Home For the Soul by Anthony Lawlor. Lawlor introduces the reader to the soulful connections found in all homes, how a stove expresses the transforming power of nature, how clothes closets reveal our inner personalities, how to find the mythological and archetypal meanings within common objects of daily life -- beds, bathtubs, shoes, loaves of bread. He explains how to use wood, tile, brick and stone to express qualities of the spirit, how to create meaning with furniture and personal objects.
This is just another example of humans trying desperately to find soulful connection, to locate the pulse of their own souls, or connect with others.
But check out Fido, taking a nap, snacking, licking himself or his poor anxious owner. Dogs aren't feeling any existential angst, looking for their lost souls or struggling to keep them out of the mud of sin. For dogs, there's no such thing as sin. There's no such thing as evil or a haunting Devil. For our canine friends, there's just nature, biology, instincts. Dogs feel no shame, have nothing to apologize for, no reason to ask forgiveness (unless we yell at them for peeing on the synthetic carpet).
Dogs are just hairy, stinky, uninhibited creatures full of natural joy, which must be pretty awesome.
Maybe the problem with humans is that we have too much supply, of everything. We have too much time, too many choices, too many unnecessary decisions to make. All these choices, and we still demand too much. The opposite should be true. Demand should go down, but it doesn't. Humans are never satisfied. Our minds are fragile, inflamed, eternally stunted.
Maybe it's us humans who are soulless. Maybe we're here to learn from the dogs. Maybe we've got it all wrong. After all, Dog is God, backwards.
We have this vast complex world all around us, exquisite beauty and mystery, but we always ask for more, bitch about no WiFi or why Seinfeld had to end, why there's not more leg room on airplanes or Doritos chips in a bag.
Maybe some day we'll figure it out, how we're supposed to go about this life thing with less misery and complaint. We'll learn how to be consistent, how to cooperate with each other, how to be free without getting stuck or running over each other, killing each other.
Life is life. It's a gift. It's not meant to be squandered or broken into pieces. We've been poisoned by ego and endless layers of soulless stuff, the Jimmy Choo shoes and $285 decanters, political hierarchies and "reality" TV, warring religious views, superstition. We're stuck on which brand of deodorant to buy, how many cents per kilowatt we pay, who's kissing whom and what's for dinner.
We've become terminally distracted and suffocated beneath mountains of heavy, heavy stuff. Now we can't breathe, and forget finding a pulse; we don't have one.
Pay attention to Fido. He's here to teach you what you once knew. Take it easy. Romp and play. Shark if you want. Really live.