Monday, May 16, 2005

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Have you ever seen a dog that has been beaten, abused, and doesn't even appear to have any fight left in him? Watching his body language (drooped neck, darting firefly eyes) is like watching a living history of its experiences, a history written in how its movements and idiosyncrasies differ from a healthier animal. No matter how far you take that dog away from the abuse, that dog remains skittish and hesitant for the remainder of its life. Written in its gait will always be a powerful reminder that it can never forget. The dog might even get a new master that loves it and protects it and makes sure it never has to be fearful again, but that dog will always wear its past like a tattoo (© Sade, 1992).

I don't think humans ever forget either. Some of us are all too aware of what our tattoos say about us, but we are very adept at hiding them from others and ourselves. After all, few people want to rescue a hurt soul (especially when they are hurting so much that they too want to be rescued) so we cover the wounds as best we can. As adults, we get to create our identity, and in creating our image, we can try to fool the world about our past...about what is still raging inside of us. But no matter how good we get at walking the walk and talking the talk, our hearts and souls still remember every detail of our past. Our histories inform our inner experience even if we completely transform the outer appearance. We may not consciously remember all of our experiences, but its obvious to me that they are documented succinctly in the way we seek love, make choices, search for joy, and parry fear. (I have observed in myself how much time I have spent trying to develop attributes within, that I was really seeking out in other people. I know this is completely ass backwards, but there is a very logical reason for this behavior: knowing what it is I truly desire in my companions, I have always assumed that there would be other like-minded folks who are seeking the same things that I am seeking. I could live vicariously through their experiencing what it is that I always wanted, yet was too fearful or pessimistic to think i could ask for and receive.)

No one blames the dog for being the way that it is when it gets older. We can instantly empathize with the dog. Even if the dog gets vicious and hostile when cornered, we might be scared of the dog, but we can still understand that the dog is reacting to its past, its history, and its training. But for some reason we expect humans to turn eighteen and instantly start transcending their entire past, history and training. Any poor decisions or unhealthy behavior made as an adult is completely the responsibility of the adult, and rarely do we take that person's past, history and training into account. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone needs a free pass. After all, if a dog becomes too dangerous we put it down, and in much the same way we have a penal system that is supposed to discourage acting out any kind of way. But in the realm of legal behavior, there is still so much that we as a society remain hostile towards. We remain hostile towards the promiscuous woman who offers her own weak form of love in a desperate attempt to feel loved. She is a whore, or a tramp, or a slut. We remain hostile towards the drug user (maybe a crime depending on the drug of choice and the location of the user) who seeks to escape the oppression of this own internal reality. We remain hostile towards just about everyone who has a past that is painful to the point of being unmanageable. I guess we are all so busy just barely trying to manage our own bullshit, that we are already up to our eyeballs in it, and cannot stand another ounce of it...kind of how nobody seems to mind their own vintage of flatulence, but are disgusted if they have to suffer through someone else’s stink.

Still it seems sad that we tell ourselves that all dogs go to heaven, but we never seem to really believe in our own innocence and goodness before the internal abstraction we call God.

mr. wilson

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Trent Jackson said...

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes!
Okay I think you have been reading my diary too.

Roderick said...

The verse was speaking through you prophet. Those were some very powerful words. I don't have much to say, because I believe you covered the topic quite well.


chad said...

Well today I will be the voice of dissent. Although your words are eloquent as always, I cannot offer the same "Amen" that the other two gentlemen have lauded you with.

The reason we don't blame an abused dog for his dysfunction is because a dog's behavior is a result of nature and nurture. Its genetic code predisposes it to certain behavior (we all know that certain breeds tend to be more docile than others), and then the dog’s environment or training ultimately makes that dog who it is. A dog becomes its experience. An abused dog is not self-aware. The abused dog cannot consider the impact that abuse has had on it, and decide to be a better dog.

What makes us human is our ability to rise above our experiences. We are self-aware, and we can adopt attitudes and behaviors that we choose. I don’t mean to suppose that this is something that is easy to do, and that I can overcome the dysfunctionality of my past by mere whim. However, man has a will, and with that will and self-awareness, he can learn to think and behave in ways that are incongruent with his past.

A simple example of this, that you can relate to Kacy, is jumping out of a plane. You had a natural fear of falling (I think), but through your will you were able to decide to get into a plane and jump, just for the hell of it. And with snowboarding…despite my past “training” telling me that black diamonds result in pain and embarrassment, I persist through my will in trying to get down more difficult terrain. Okay these examples are silly, but think about the holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl…Here is a man who was incarcerated for five years by Nazis in the German concentration camps and endured all kinds of severe emotional, physical, and psychologic abuse. But when Mr. Frankl described how he was able to survive this ordeal, he talked about using his mind to overcome his circumstances. He chose or willed himself not to become an “abused dog”. Frankl once said that, “a human being is a deciding being”. He touted personal responsibility as the only pathway to meaning.

Maybe I have tried to swing the pendulum too far in the direction opposite of you. I hear the points you have made. People do judge one another unfairly. We rarely consider someone’s past and how it has affected their behavior today. We as humans like to point out the speck of sawdust in our neighbor’s eye, while we have a plank in our own eye (to paraphrase Matthew 7:1-5). Jesus admonished his disciples to not judge one another, so I have no right to be “hostile" towards promiscuous women, drug users, etc (who incidentally I have a substantial amount of contact with through my work) when I know nothing of what they have been through. Because only God knows what you’ve gone through…huh huh huh huh huh (© Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1983).

I’m in complete agreement with you that we should not judge people who have been through difficult circumstances, but I believe that God’s judgment is just. God knows exactly what we have been through. He knows exactly what our genetic predispositions are. I believe that God’s final exam will be on a curve, so to speak, that recognizes our disadvantages. Fundamentally however, we all have to exercise our will. Dog’s don’t have a will, so maybe they all return to their creator. But man has a will, and if you believe the archetypical story of Adam and Eve, we rebelled with our will and separated ourselves from the Creator. As a Christian, I believe that by using my will to assert Jesus Christ as my Lord, I have reconciled my fellowship with God. But beyond Christianity, most religious faiths also assert that redemption is gained through an act of the human will. So I agree…we should not judge one another, but I think we must judge ourselves. We are self-aware humans, and although nature and nurture may point us in one direction, it is up to each individual’s will whether or not he will accept that direction or resist.

Since we are on a quote kick lately, let me leave you with Viktor Frankl’s most famous quote: In his book Man’s Search for Meaning he says, "Everything can be taken from a man but the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Knowing your reading interests (psychology, philosophy, etc…), I think you would enjoy this book…if you have not already read it.

Your loving brother in the search for truth,

PS: The subconscious reason that caused me to be so contrary with your entry was probably that last sentence about “the internal abstraction called God” As open minded as I try to be, some things just make the evangelical in me bristle. I can’t help it…I’m a product of my religious training ;-)

37oline said...

and what do you do with those who are good out of sheer spite for the meanness of things as we know them?

chase said...

I have to in a sense disagree with Chad, I may not be as eloquent in my explanations, however, I would like to make a point that some people are abused to the point that they have no will power, it leaves them almost in an animalistic state. I think that nurture can screw some people up so bad that upon passing the 18 mark their brains are so skewed that they may never be able to comprehend, react or behave on a higher level.

I have a theory that when someone goes to prison, due to the nature of prison itself, that they do not grow or age. They remain the same age they were when they went in...there is nothing in prison that can help them grow, there is only defense, hatred, suspicion...etc.

Not sure if I made my point, just saying that some people can be like animals in the sense that they have been hurt so badly, there may not be any turning back.

Eliza said...


While I do love the literary comparison between man and dog, I have to cooment that, is it not the mere fact that we are humans what separate us from our fellow animals?
What I mean by that is we as humans are "supposed" to be better than animals because as people we should always be striving to do better. I do agree that we are the sum of our experiences, and those expereiences infinetely shape us into the characters we become.

However, a big part of "growing up" is always looking to see how you can better yourself. Take for instance Erykah Badu's ode "Bag Lady"; If you are constantly carrying your load with you everywhere, some one sure will tell you that you are crowding thier space. As one grows up, they must learn to leave some bags at home.
We all have skeletons in our closets, but no one wants to see your skeleton walking down the street with you. I think the tricky part of this whole situation is to find the person who knows you and your skeleton and is ok with having hem in the house.