"I made a list of all the persons I harmed. I thought I made amends to everyone on the list. And then I saw a bumper sticker the other day: I want to be the person my dog thinks I am. And I realized that I'd left one off the list. I remember the day you found me. You were left on my doorstep, abused and filthy and scared. You learned to trust me...."
I was slipping and the only thing you could do was watch.
Dogs are children of the World Soul and subjects of their own lives. In many ways they are at the frontiers of the evolution of consciousness. They know how to love as deeply, often much more deeply, than us humans. We have so much to learn from them.
When they bond with us and we treat them with respect, our relations with them become sacraments: contexts for receiving God's grace. For some among us, these relations are the very deepest of sacraments. We have a bit of difficulty with other people; they can be so strange and sometimes even hateful. But dogs are a different story.
How long did you look out the window and wait?
Through their devotion and love, we experience something deep and divine, something mysterious yet supportive, something that tells us "it's all right" even if things aren't at all "all right" on other fronts. Many a soul has been momentarily saved by the grace of a dog. And that's the way salvation always works: one moment at a time.
Even in heaven it unfolds moment by moment. It is only through the sacrament of the present moment that love is found. This is but one of ten thousand reasons why there better be dogs in heaven. They know how to live in the sacrament of the present moment. They teach us spiritual lessons we cannot easily gain otherwise. Dogs can be the greatest of Zen masters.
And this is one reason it can be so painful when we violate the trust of a dog, or a cat, or a horse. Anytime we violate the trust of one who trusts us, human or more than human, we have torn asunder something very deep. Buddhists tell us that the universe consists of inter-being. When we violate a trust, we've put a hole in inter-being.
It took me a long time to ask Mom about You.
Ask Ed Popvits. In his story we get a feel for what it means to be the abandoner. He seeks to make amends in the way that we all do: by doing something good for others as a way of repairing the breach that cannot be repaired.
This doing something good -- in his case, taking care of two new dogs, Boomer (age 8) and Buster (age 4) -- adds beauty to the world and beauty to the World Soul. God is engraced by acts of love and trust, justice and mercy. They help complete God.
Still we and he ask: But what about the one whose soul we harmed and whose trust we violated? What about the dog whom Ed -- or the narrator -- left behind? What about Opie?
I've spent the past twenty years to figure out how to say I'm sorry to someone who can't hear it
On this matter there can be no final pronouncements. On all matters of true import, we see through a glass darkly. No need for false pontifications. But maybe there's room for a little hope.
We process thinkers trust that there is a spirit at work in life -- we call it the spirit of creative transformation -- by which all living beings, not humans alone, can be guided into the wholeness they seek. And some among us believe in a continuing journey after death. We even think that relationships can improve after death, on both sides.
For all too many, a significant degree of wholeness will need to be found in the next life or the one after that, if at all. So many of us, human and more-than-human, die in incompleteness, and some among us in sheer terror. If you are ever tempted to view the world with overly sentimentalized eyes, consider simply the suffering of innocents: children killed by gunshots, teenagers by bombs, elderly people by abandonment. There's so much sadness in our world. As Buddhist put it, so much Dukkha.
We process thinkers trust that the spirit of creative transformation -- the spirit of the World Soul -- never gives up on any living being, ever, and never gives up on any relationship, either. In the beautiful language of the Psalms, the spirit is steadfast in love. Steadfast does not mean fixed or rigid, it means perpetually adaptive to each new situation in a loving way, without ever giving up.
Can you forgive me?
So I close with a word to the dog in the story: Opie. The narrator speaks of Opie in the second person singular, as You. I'll do the same.
Opie....was creative transformation at work in you, too? We are told that you got a new home and that you have plenty of room to play. That sounds like creative transformation in the lives of those who took you, in the life of his mom who gave you a new home, and in your life, too. Divine grace is not restricted to human beings. Who could ever think otherwise?
And we know that Ed -- or the narrator, we don't really know your former owner's name -- is carried somewhere in your memory even today. There's so much at work in our unconscious lives. We process thinkers say that all past events are "immortal" in that they are carried in the memories of whose who come afterwards, consciously and subconsciously. You live in your owner's memory, and he lives in yours, too.
Happily, the spirit of the World Soul is at work in the unconscious lives of all living beings, you much included. Can the spirit enable you to get over the loss and even, in some mysterious way, forgive the one who abandoned you?
Imagine There's a Heaven,
The narrator doesn't think you can hear his "I'm sorry." We process thinkers aren't so sure about this. We think all our thoughts and feelings affect the thoughts and feelings of all other things. We live in a universe of inter-feeling and certainly mere species divisions -- however defined -- do not block the world of inter-feeling.
So maybe you do hear his "I'm sorry" at some unconscious level. Yes, maybe you prehend him unconsciously? Or, for that matter, consciously. We don't know.
Do you forgive him?
We do not know a lot about dog forgiveness, but we have a sense of it. Maybe it takes the form of being honest about the pain, accepting amend, and then forgetting the bad but remembering the good, as much as possible. This activity is creative transformation, too.
And maybe the outcome of such a process -- at least in some cases -- is the emergence of new connections which renew the earlier ones in a fresh way. We call it reconciliation.
Imagine there's a heaven. It's easy if you try. Perhaps in the mystery to come, however it comes, there will be time to hug again. In that time, so we hope, your old companion -- the one who left you -- will have become the one you always knew he was, deep down.
It's hard to predict, but perhaps at the end of time, which is always occurring in the heart of the World Soul, there's a whole lot of hugging going on. And tail wagging, too. They say that heaven is adjusted to each creature's needs. This means that there are going to be some marvelous smells and some great swimming holes.
For now, and it's always now, we'll remember the good. There's plenty of it in you and in your old friend, too. You were his teacher, you know. You still are.