dogs French literature happiness humor wisdom

stop and listen if you can


Honey Girl is feeling frisky these days! As a part German Shepherd part Corgi, that’s not surprising; she’s a big furry creature who thrives in the cold.

Tonight’s walk made me feel keenly her physical superiority over mine. As I layered on the clothes and pulled things tight, hiding from the cold and squinting through the night, she trotted along gaily with her tail held high. She stopped confidently and sniffed deeply. She left a good trail in her wake and pulled short, sometimes, when a new discovery was afoot.

At times, she’d turn around and look at me, as if to say, well, something encouraging.

It made me feel humble, my blindness and fear of the cold. I strained to hear what she stopped to take in. I stumbled on the ice, while she watched in patient indifference.

Just then, I thought of Diderot! Denis Diderot is one of my favorite French philosophers of the Enlightenment (1740-89). He’s an expert at  irony and sarcasm, and his deadpan notes on mankind’s limitations are hilarious. Here’s Diderot’s description of man’s status vis-a-vis the wildlife of the world:

“Man’s perfectibility is borne of the weaknesses of his senses, none of which dominates the organ of reason. If [man] had a nose like a dog, he would sense odors all the time; if he had eyes like an eagle, he would be forever watchful; if he had the ears of a mole, he would be a listening creature… The human species is thus no more than a hodgepodge of individuls who are more or less crippled, more or less ailing.”

(Elements de physiologie, 1774-80)

I don’t know if Diderot ever read any Zen masters, but if he did he might have learned this kind of lesson, about Mind versus Body Mind:

“The Mind tenses up in fearful situations because it realizes that it’s really helpless. Only Body Mind, with its spontaneity, sensitivity, speedy reactions, power, and connection to the power of the earth, can protect you in severe circumstances.” Bob Klein, Movements of Magic.

Honey Girl’s playful delight in the snow, where she throws it on her back and rolls around rubbing her bum, is a fun site to see!



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