Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Learning to Live February 10, 2013

Influential psychotherapist Carl Jung would have classified me as an extrovert for sure. Known best for his personality theories, Jung’s works dug to the core of the human psyche to piece together its innermost workings.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings,” Jung wrote. “The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”Learning to Live

I was thinking today about how far I’ve come since my adoptive parents rescued me from the humane society two and a half years ago. The clearance dog that I was, I know my doggie adoption profile featured me as one of those difficult fixer-upper kind of dogs. There were a lot of references to me being a “really loving boy who really just needs some tender loving care” or something like that. Which (let’s face it) basically meant my new owners would have their hands full.

I was sent home from the shelter with what they called a “care package” that primarily included little doggie diapers because apparently I had such a potty problem in my previous adoptive home. My new adoptive parents were required to take me to see an animal behaviorist prior to adopting me because I was such a “problem” dog. The only trick I knew then was sit. So you can imagine my internal victory when the behaviorist told them some magical news that day. “He’s really smart,” she said. “I don’t know why the folks at the shelter would think he needs to see a behaviorist.” Halleluiah! A human who saw something in me, believed in me.

It’s amazing what a little faith in character can do for a relationship. I knew at first sight I could trust my forever mom and dad, for example. And as much as I hopelessly long to speak people, my adoptive mom and I communicate pretty well with each other. I would argue this is because the Jungian warmth we gain from our mutual affection.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists,” said great American author John Steinbeck. “Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

I know I’m incredibly biased, but I see my mom as one heck of an artist in the tapestry of my life. She has patiently (and tirelessly) taught me numerous tricks (with a little help from treats), like lay down, rollover, play dead, and (my own personal favorite) high five. I’ve never once needed my doggie diapers since I’ve been living in my forever home. And first visit to the behaviorist was also my last.

But by no means does that mean I’ve stopped learning. It is a rare occasion, but today I shall disagree with fellow transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau in his thought that “it is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”

Rather, living is learning. I rarely go a day without experiencing something new, which I welcome into my life as part of my personality. Perhaps it’s the extrovert in me, but (on this one at least) I side with stoic Roman philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca, who said “as long as you live, keep learning how to live.”