Thursday, July 16, 2015

This dog, my dog

"This dog, my dog" is my final line in the play that I'm in this month; an outdoor performance of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.  (I play Moonshine/Robin Starveling the Tailor, a small part but with a certain snarkiness that befits me, I think.)

And yes, this dog is my dog, shown here sleeping on the couch in the home we left 2 months ago.  The couch, much frayed by cats' claws, we gave to the local rotary auction, so he's had to get used to a newer couch -- no easy task, as he's blind.

So why, today, am I writing one of the longer posts I used to do every day, finding ways to learn from the daily events in my life?  Because I'm just coming to the end of a marvelous book called Without Buddha I Could Not be a Christian (by Paul Knitter) and I've encountered something the author calls "The Law of the Cross." I want to write about it, but it isn't really something that can be encapsulated in a few poetic lines (though I will do my best, for my facebook post, which always needs to be short.)

Yup.  I don't usually write about things like Jesus and the cross, either, because they're such loaded words.  But this passage was really powerful, and given how I spent my morning it really made me think.

So Knitter's take on The Law of the Cross is that (and I have to agree with this) the church over the centuries has gotten all caught up in the theology of "Christ died for our sins," that somehow He was some sacrificial lamb and because he was willing to suffer all our sins are forgiven.  But Knitter, in the latter years of his life, has finally come to understand something Bernard Lonergan tried to teach him way back in 1965: that the REAL impact of the cross is that Jesus -- who, faced with the violence proposed by Pilate and the Romans, could easily have responded with violence of his own -- chose NOT to do that. 

Witness his words to Peter in the garden, when Peter tried to defend him: "Put your sword away." And, presumably, as Son of God, He could have commanded miracles, or legions of angels, if he had wanted to, and wiped the Romans off the face of the earth.

No, says Knitter, the law of the cross is that Jesus was modeling, in the most dramatic way he could, the ultimate impact of his first and greatest commandment, the one about loving God and loving your neighbor.  As Knitter puts it, Jesus chose to die rather than express either hate or violence.

If only Christians understood that better, right?

So what does this have to do with my dog?  Well.  The dog is not only blind (and struggling to find his way around a new home) but also elderly and diabetic.  So when he woke me at 5:20 this morning, his feet clicking on my wooden floor, I had no choice but to leap out of bed and quickly escort him to the door, leash him up, and take him outside to pee. He doesn't care if my back's been out and I'm a little stiff in the mornings; all he knows is he needs to pee.

So I let him out, let him do his duty, and then headed back to bed hoping for a chance to get a bit more sleep and wake up slowly with some good stretches before I started my day.  Turns out HE was hoping for breakfast, and when it didn't turn up right away he promptly threw up on my silk persian rug.  So instead of a slow wake-up I was down on my knees trying to scrub throwup out of the rug.  It's a small rug -- only 3x5 -- in two steps he could have easily thrown up on any of the floor around it, but NO, he had to throw up in the middle of the rug.

So 5:30 am found me screaming like a fishwife at my dog.  I didn't hit him, but I did scream. A lot. Because that was NOT how my aging body wanted to start the day. 

I felt horribly guilty afterwards, and even more so after reading Knitter's thoughts on hatred and violence.  I mean, no, I don't hate my dog.  And he doesn't cower when I scream, so I guess my screaming doesn't seem all that violent to him.  But I was angry, and I couldn't think how else to get that anger out of my system.  It didn't matter that he was old and blind and diabetic; what mattered was that I'd been awakened out of a sound sleep and forced to move in ways that are hard for me before that first cup of coffee.

So what am I saying here?  That I'm not perfect?  You probably already suspected that -- I mean, who is? That I'm a terrible person? Not really, my response was understandable under the circumstances.

No... I think I'm saying non-violence is a lot easier to talk about than it is to live into under stress.  Knitter points out that the decision to go to the cross was not an easy one for Jesus; that contemplating it made him sweat blood.  And that's pretty much what it takes, when the mood hits, to make the choice not to carry anger into action: the effort almost turns us inside out.  Which is why violence is the easy choice, the automatic reaction. 

But really.  We are, before all else, adjured to love our neighbors, to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek.  Hatred and violence are not the answer. Ever. Which is what makes Jesus' decision to go through with the cross so extraordinary, so other-worldly, so out-of-the-box, so Divine. 

And for some reason, at this point, I keep thinking of that wonderful Einstein quote -- that no problem can be solved from within the consciousness that created it.  To make the kinds of choices Jesus calls us to make -- and we have those opportunities every day, all day long -- requires, in the end, a transformation of consciousness. And clearly I'm not there yet.

But that doesn't mean I won't keep trying.


Bill said...

Interesting, since I was cleaning up cat puke first thing Thursday morning. Reacting violently is the easy way out. Have you noticed that in all paths to positive enlightenment, the hard way is required?

Diane Walker said...

So true, Bill! Fortunately -- or should I say presumably? -- the payoff is worth it!

On the other hand, I have to confess that after all that screaming at the dog, the rest of my day was pure joy. So maybe that was a relatively harmless way to get something out of my system that needed to leave...

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Diane, for your story, your observations, and the book recommendation. I hope you will continue to share your "longer reflections" once in a while. Doris