Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Through the Looking Glass May 5, 2013

Many great minds have commented on the relationship between theory and practice. Words like abstract, speculation and conjecture are among the definitions of theory, whereas practice is typically thought of as a conscious effort to get better at something. Today I join the conversation as I contemplate the powerful relationship between practice and theory.I'm a Half Full Doggie

It is not unusual for my optimistic doggie mind to agree with great transcendentalist philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson and today is no exception to the rule. “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory,” Emerson once said. So which comes first, Mr. Emerson, the chicken or the egg? The action or the theory? The thought or the behavior?

To answer this puzzle I dip my toe into a casual chat about philosophy and end up in the deep end of psychology. I am a believer that we are what we think, in agreement with German philosopher Immanuel Kant. “Experience without theory is blind,” Kant suggested, “but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”

Kant’s commentary brings to mind my mom’s journey with her sight. When she was a small girl, she was deemed legally blind with very little hope of the adult normalcy that sight has to offer. Thanks to what she refers to as her little miracle, she can now see almost perfectly with the help of prescription glasses.

Everything she sees is through those lenses. Those lenses are her looking glass to the world. This is how I see theory. Our theories are the lenses through which we view the world, providing our looking glass to all things. Our theories are the lenses filtering our perception of our surroundings. And just as mom carefully selected the lenses she wears each day, I dare say we choose the theory through which we opt to see the world on a daily basis.

It’s no secret to the world that I have carefully selected rose-colored glasses through which to view my world. My looking glasses are half full, and I’m proud to say they are. But today I gave some thought to these debates about theory and practice and I can’t say my life experiences enable me to agree with the popular opinion.

Experience lends itself to theory, but (in my doggie heart) the relationship between the two is give and take. “He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast,” said history’s most effective multi-tasker Leonardo da Vinci.

Indeed, it is not enough to see the world through a half-full pair of lenses. We need to practice what we preach. This is why I blog, why I share as much of my joy as I can with the world. “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with,” said great American author and humorist Mark Twain. So which comes first, Mr. Twain, the chicken or the egg? The action or the theory? The thought or the behavior?

Who knows. What I know for sure is my thoughts influence my behavior on a daily basis. I live to see and share joy, from the ground up. “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,” Emerson said, “This is to have succeeded.”

 

On Solitude: A Spoonful of Peanut Butter March 30, 2013

I am a believer in the theory that sometimes (but not always) less is more. This is why I can say with absolute certainty what I’m about to say. Solitude sucks. I know I have previously commented on silence and my loathing of the communication gap between canines and their people, but solitude is far worse a reality than silence.

While I tend to agree with the majority of what transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau had to say, I have found my exception to the rule.

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude,” Thoreau suggested. It is at this point that I take my turn away from the Thoreau way of thought. I would much rather be silent amidst a gaggle of loved ones than at a fabulously orchestrated event all by my lonesome.

I think it is true of most dogs who have an unbreakable bond with their humans – time drags on for us while they’re anywhere but with us. I know a lot of us make the most of our solitude by daydreaming, napping, or enjoying some peanut butter goodness in the Kong toys left for us in our peoples’ absence, but that’s all we’re doing. Making the best of it.

In reality, we are counting every minute until we hear that car come back up the driveway, listening for the door to shut, the garage door to go down and alas! The door opens and we are reunited at last. I think its related to the unconditional love in our not-so-little doggie hearts. Personally, I know it’s related to my understanding and appreciation that my joy feels the most sincere when I share it with someone. Whatever it is, there is nothing like that time when we’re together.

But as I am in the habit of seeing the glass half full, I found myself thinking that maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Solitude offers a unique opportunity to be alone with one’s thoughts, which (to some) is a mighty scary thing. Dark days are real. Seeing the light can seem impossible when we’re at our lowest of the low. And yet that is the most important time to see the light at the end of an otherwise pitch black tunnel. Today I seek the light in solitude, as I know there must be something in which to find solace in even the darkest of places.

Alone with My Thoughts

 

While I hope to never be exiled to a deserted island, I think I’d find a way to make the most of it. (Other than my allowable carry-on items of bacon, peanut butter, rawhide bones, water, my dog food and Mrs. Prickles obviously). Again I find myself attempting to change my perspective on solitude, and (in doing so) I change my perspective on life. “Loneliness is the poverty of self;” As American novelist and poet May Sarton said, “Solitude is the richness of self.”

And (if all else fails) a spoonful of peanut butter makes the medicine of solitude go down in the most delightful way.