Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dog Bone Rescue

Moose was possibly the smartest dog that ever lived. Not in the obedient kind of way, but in the way of finding loopholes in the rules, general mischief making, and her extraordinary autonomy. She made me laugh every day of her life.

She was tuned into the universe in a way that I never would be, and I accepted that her wisdom was greater than mine in certain things. Here is an example:

One Saturday afternoon Moose demands a walk. It isn’t her regular time, but she scratches at the door and paces and fixes me with a very stern look.

So, what do I do? I clip on her leash to see what this is all about.

Moose tows me downstairs and out of the apartment building, tows me to the park. Focused and looking neither right nor left, she pulls me down the path and into a street that we may never have walked before.

With no hesitation at all, she gallops onto the front lawn of the third house, plucks up a giant bone from the grass and charges around the corner, still towing me like a water skier.

The bone is enormous. It is half a cow’s leg, and it juts out on both sides of Moose's mouth, hoof dangling. It is a prize. Her tail is high.

Moose pauses at a bush, glances up and down the street, then digs a shallow hole. In goes the bone. With her nose, she covers it lightly with pine needles and dirt.

Mission accomplished. We start home.

Back in the park, halfway home, I meet another woman coming the opposite way with two dogs. I don’t recognize her, but the dogs greet each other like old friends, so we pause to chat.

“You wouldn’t believe what my dog just did,” I say, and launch into an account of the bone retrieval.

“That’s funny,” she cuts in, and then she tells me her half of the story:

She gave her dogs a bone that day. A big bone. The dogs were overjoyed. They were supposed to gnaw it in the back yard, but they kept dragging it through their dog door, parading it around the house and getting beefy drool all over the carpet. Exasperated, the woman repossessed the bone and chucked it onto the front lawn, where the dogs couldn’t reach it.

That happened about the same time Moose demanded her walk.

We glance down at the three dogs, all wagging and smiling. Happy. Self-satisfied, even.

And it dawns on us: the bone has been relocated exactly according to plan.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Extra Senses

Imagine you hug your mother. You talk to her, look her over and smell her shampoo. It's more satisfying than a phone call, right? But if you’re trying to avoid her, like if you owe her money, for example, you might want to just text.

Sight, sound, smell and touch (let's set aside taste for now): Every sense adds more information, and more information helps connection. So in this way, connection is communication. With fewer senses involved, communication is harder. There is more room for error, for disconnection.

Over and above those first four senses, which I think of as our ordinary senses, we have our Extra Senses. Yes, like extra sensory. They’re not going to sound all that glamorous at first, but bear with me.

Attention. Paying attention sure does help. Have you ever tuned someone out while they spoke to you? I do it all the time. I should probably work on that.

Familiarity. With friends and family, we don’t have to explain everything. We can communicate in short hand. Sometimes even in grunts.

Place. There’s a reason you kept driving past your crush’s house in high school. It’s the same reason we want to see our friend’s new apartment and go back to visit the lands of our ancestors. It helps us to understand subtle things. And that understanding makes us feel closer.

Time. The past fades as we move through our lives. The future is hazy. The present is more accessible, and so are those who share our time.

Affinity. Sometimes you just GET someone. You’re on the fast track to connection. You share interests or values or personality traits. Maybe you’re genetically related. Maybe you’re just fooling yourself, especially if they’re charming and good looking, but that’s a whole other topic.

Now here’s where the Extra Senses get exciting. If every one of them contributes to connection, then each of them, alone, can be the basis for connection.

And connection is communication.

So, theoretically, if two of us share just one Extra Sense, we can communicate. Not as successfully, perhaps, as with our ordinary senses, but enough, if we really try, to be almost magical.

P.S.- I left out taste on purpose. It brought up disturbing images of cannibalism.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Axiom Worthy of a Tattoo

Don’t Panic: It's an Axiom Worthy of a Tattoo

But what is panic? What’s going on when we scream at the paramedics as they try to strap us to the gurney or snipe at the Target cashier for being too slow or decide to kill our spouse for the insurance money to pay the bookies (just being theoretical here)? We are rightfully ashamed of these moments, because what’s going on is more than just a loss of critical thinking.

We’ve decided that we’re trapped, and that we might as well make everything much worse, because at least then we’re doing something.

Panic rails against what we don’t want, rather than focusing on what we do want. And it’s not always about the big stuff. We all panic every day in subtler ways: We seethe with righteous rage at those other assholes. We cut people off in rush hour traffic. We tear up the bills instead of paying them.

I know, in the short run a tantrum is so much more exhilarating, which is why it’s so hard to resist. But if we take a moment to breathe, we might see a way out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


"According to psychologists Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, awe is the sense of wonder and amazement that occurs when someone is inspired by great knowledge, beauty, sublimity or might. It's the experience of confronting something greater than yourself. Awe expands one's frame of reference and drives self-transcendence. It encompasses admiration and inspiration and can be evoked by everything from great works of art or music to religious transformations, from breathtaking natural landscapes to human feats of daring and discovery." 
From Contagious: why things catch on, by Jonah Berger