Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

As It Is August 29, 2013

Being RealI know when it’s real. I know when it’s fake. There is something in a person’s spirit that gives it away to a keen canine eye. The smile. Maybe it’s because we canines smile with our tails, but why anyone fakes it I will never understand.

But my lack of understanding of this basic human behavior does not (in itself) make it cease to exist. Quite the opposite in fact. As a regular observer of people, I know this fake smile happens all the time for any number of reasons. A need to impress. A need to console. A need to end a conversation so you can go to the bathroom.

Regardless of the why, I find it most unusual because most receivers of the fake smile know that’s what they’re getting. They’re not stupid. Life has taught me that most people are much less mysterious than they think they are. And the fake smile is no good for the giver or the receiver. It puts the person faking it in a position to act instead of live his or her true feelings. It puts the receiver in a position where they feel like they said the wrong thing, put the person out, or are wasting the person’s time.

I know I don’t speak for everyone when I say this, but that hasn’t held me back before and will not hold me back now. Just be real. I’d rather hear the truth than see a fake smile. Give it to me as it is, as Dido sings in “Let Us Move On,” even if it sucks. Life is messy sometimes. Live it. Chances are you will feel better for living it, and the person will feel better for his or her (albeit incredibly small) part they played in your overall well-being.

Because I’m not the only one who knows when its real or fake. A lot of people do too. The smile. I just don’t understand why anyone would fake it. In my little doggie eyes, it’s a sacred expression of joy that shouldn’t be wasted for reasons we can’t explain. “Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom,” as American president Thomas Jefferson suggested. And an honest smile starts in the heart. Now if only I could get my paws on a copy of that book.

 

Joy To The World June 1, 2013

I caught my mom listening to Christmas music today. There it was mixed in with the normal tunes of Phillip Phillips, Dido and Norah Jones. There’s no place like home (for the holidays). Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Sleigh Ride. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. That’s right, folks, all the classics joined the Christmas party. In June.Merry Christmas in June!

At first I was concerned, and thought perhaps she was confused by the really long winter/non-existent spring we’ve had around here. But we’ve had our fair share of randomly beautiful days too, so that couldn’t be it. My next thought was that something must be wrong at that place called work. But her job changed for the better a few months ago and the result was a much happier (not to mention more well-rested) version of herself. So it can’t be that. In my little doggie mind, I found myself making a mental checklist of anything else that might be awry with her, and nothing made sense.

That’s when I realized I was breaking one of my cardinal rules. Your resident optimistic pooch was assuming the negative before considering the positive. Maybe nothing is wrong at all, I realized. Maybe the music is actually reflective of her joyful mood.

At second glance, there is a way about her that exudes happiness as she hums along. Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la! (Silly me, thinking the worst.) I’m not sure what’s got her so giddy, but I sure do like seeing her this way. That’s got to be among my favorite things about joy: it’s so contagious. It may not be wrapped up in pretty paper and bows, but it doesn’t need to be. She’s happy, so I’m happy, so I’m sharing it with you. Merry Christmas in June.

 

I’m No Angel April 10, 2013

I can’t say I’m that big a fan of people calling me a mutt. I know my mom was a purebred Norwich Terrier, and I never knew my father. But every now and then I hear my mom say it (on a walk or at the dog park or whatever) in response to someone asking what kind of dog I am, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a bit that she occasionally refers to me as a mutt.

By Bing’s definition, mutt is synonymous with a mongrel dog of a mixed or unknown breed (which I suppose I am), also known as an offensive term that insults someone’s intelligence. While I would argue the former makes me who I am, I also say the latter is a complete dissention on what it means to be man’s best friend.I'm No Angel

The way I see it, a lot of purebred dogs these days are encountering more and more problems because of careless (or in some cases intentional) breeding decisions that result in health problems that haunt the breeds for the rest of their lives. I know standards of the Westminster Kennel Club are at an all-time high for complete impossibility in terms of the expectations they place on certain breeds. Obviously, the breeders make changes to adhere to the ever-changing regulations, but I can’t say I believe the changes are for the best of the breeds, or their intelligence.

Meanwhile, genetic scientists who study dog breeds are more supportive of so-called imperfect mutts than ever before. Due, at least in part, to our genetic diversity, we tend to inherit the best of our parenting breeds. Furthermore, if our parenting breeds are mixed as well, we are even more likely to inherit the best of all the involved breeds.

All of that said and done, it may or may not come as a surprise to some of you that I am in complete support of genetic testing to determine one’s makeup as a breed. Please do not misunderstand: my qualifications for participation on a genetic test would not be to find out how high I might score in a dog show. Oh no. My intention would be to find out where I’ve come from, what makes me who I am, and what these so-called imperfections mean for my personality.

Many famous thinkers have commentated on the concept of imperfection, and its surprisingly positive impact on personality. One of my favorite empiricist thinkers Soren Kierkegaard once said “it belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.”

Imperfection indeed. Let us instead focus on opposites by exploring one’s “imperfections” and embracing them instead of focusing extra emotional energy on what comes unnaturally (or opposite) to them.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,” said the late, great American actress Marilyn Monroe.

Imperfect, mad, and ridiculous as I may be, I don’t necessarily appreciate when my mom calls me a mutt. I’m no angel, but (as British singer Dido says) does that mean that I can’t fly? In fact, several human members of my family refers to imperfections in a surprisingly optimistic way. Rather than turn away from the attributes that make them who they are, they opt instead to embrace unique personality traits as those that make them who they are.

With that in mind, I honestly would rather be called these things (imperfect, mad, and ridiculous, for example) than any other adjectives because I know that with these words comes a certain sense of power and understanding of society that is unmatched by those who consider themselves to be perfect.

Perfection? No thank you. I would much rather embrace my inner mutt, regardless of the negative connotations of its definition. I would much rather be interesting. I would much rather be unique. I would much rather be imperfect in the best kind of way than be ordinary by anyone’s terms.