Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Psychology of Science February 22, 2014

I can’t say I always agree with science. Chemistry is necessary, biology is interesting and physics completely confuses me. Given a choice of high school classes in which to enroll, I can’t say any science would be high on the priority list. Then there’s psychology. While some would argue its philosophical roots negate its scientific clout, I argue science is prevalent in its close examination of all things thoughtful.

Take this study done recently in Current Biology, for example. Scientists have uncovered the truth we canines know is so much more than science. Our brains contain within them sensory receptors for receiving and deciphering emotions in sounds. The study reports this is why we tend to respond to the unique emotional needs of our people in spite of our lack of English-speaking skills.Thinking

While I’m glad this is now scientifically confirmed, this is certainly not news to me. I know how my mind responds to unique emotional situations. I know because it happens all day every day in a dog’s life. Today I responded to love as my forever family cuddled together speaking in hushed tones (as not to wake baby Carter). I didn’t think. I cuddled. I paced nervously as baby Carter cried and cried when he accidentally scratched himself on the nose. I didn’t think. I cared. I sought immediate positive reinforcement when dad tripped and stepped on my paw in the process. I didn’t think. I loved.

“There are moments in life when the heart is so full of emotion that if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret, split on the ground like water, can never be gathered together,” penned American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

That’s the problem with science if you ask me. There’s not always enough room for emotion in things like chemistry or physics. And yet so much pressure is put on the “proof” that so many people need to see the science to believe. Let’s face it. While I am excited that science can now confirm what most dog owners already know, there is more to it than that. It’s more than a stimulus-response reaction. It’s more than a brain scan can show. Because really, it’s love.

 

You Are My Sunshine October 19, 2013

I learned some things today. Until today a shower has always been that thing in the bathroom where my people clean themselves. And the sun has always been that bright thing that rises and sets upon each day. It turns out there is more to these words than meets the eye.

The day began like most Saturdays, with my forever people doing chores and various tasks around the house following slightly more family cuddle time than usual. Except today they both kept talking about the shower. I didn’t understand it. It felt like every other word was shower and by noon I was incredibly confused. I remained in a quandary when they left me to go to the shower. It’s right here, I screamed in silence, in the bathroom.Sunshine

So you can imagine my stupor when they returned home a few hours later with presents. Lots of them. And (as is the case with most misunderstandings) it turns out I was missing a very important piece of the contextual puzzle. This shower wasn’t like the one in the bathroom. It was a baby shower, which I now understand to be a shower of gifts to help us all prepare for the arrival of my little person.

Mom and dad shared stories of the afternoon while they revisited each of the gifts. The story that stuck with me most was of two of my favorite little people (Sophie and Abigail) singing a song I hold dear to my heart with my mom’s friend Dorian.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray…you’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Once I got over the initial disappointment of missing the in-person show, these famous words (by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell) sunk a little deeper into my heart. As I sat by watching my people I was overcome with my own sense of gratitude for the situation.

They are my sunshine. My forever people will never know how much I love them, partially because I can’t say so out loud and partially because you can’t put love this big into words. And (at least from what I can tell) amongst the blankies and diapers the greatest gift of all was the love they received today.

I guess you could say they were showered with love. And I was overcome with joy. From the ground up, it was a pretty happy day around here. All of the clouds in the sky could not mask the sunshine in these moments. Joy and gratitude filled their hearts and I realized that is all the sunshine I really need.

I learned some things today. It turns out there is much more to showers and sunshine than meets the eye. Today these words did much more. They touched the heart.

 

Obedience School Drop Out June 28, 2013

I’ve been called a lot of not-so-nice things in my relatively short doggie life. Obedience school drop out. Behaviorally challenged. Approved for homes with children ages 12 and above. Yet I find in life’s greatest contradictions lie some of the most intricate sources of wisdom.

Its true of animals and people alike if you ask me. If you hear something enough times, you start to believe it as truth. In a dog’s life, words like stupid, naughty, and troubled haunted my puppyhood. In a person’s life, overuse of words like stupid, disabled, or challenged as a child can impact a person for the rest of their adult life. Truth becomes us. But can we become truth?

Becoming Truth

I’ve often wondered this as I think nostalgically back on my time before my people brought me into my forever home. I encountered a variety of characters in a myriad of settings who each taught me invaluable lessons along my journey. So how could I be so stupid? Why do they keep calling me naughty? What did the folks at the humane society say to my mom that almost made her give up fighting to adopt me?

Then it happened. The tides changed, and with them my life changed forever. Two distinctly similar moments come to mind when I think of the brilliance of contradictory wisdom. My first night at the humane society when I thought the world was coming to an end, Rusty the golden retriever showed me the light. Much like my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rusty believed we are not products of what the world tells us, but rather of what we tell ourselves. We are what we think, so of course if we believe the negative things that are said about us we indeed may become them.

The bookend to my understanding of this occurred only a few short months later, when my forever family took me to see an animal behaviorist for my alleged behavioral problems. (This was required by the humane society as a condition of my adoption.) I’ll never forget the first two sentences Jenny said when we began our session. “He’s got to be one of the most unique looking dogs I’ve ever met,” she said, “and so smart!”

It was the first time anyone had ever used the word smart to describe me. And in that moment I was both overwhelmed with joy and humbled. Rusty changed my interpretation of the world around me by changing my interpretation of myself, and here I was being praised for simply being me. I know it sounds contradictory, but in that moment I realized true wisdom is found through admission there is much yet to learn.

It is because of my personal admission of humility that I can say I honestly wouldn’t mind being called those negative names anymore. Sure, if we hear something repeated enough times we begin to believe it. But let us learn from the variety of characters life offers us. Let us choose to contradict the negative things with our positive thoughts. Let us become our own truth.

 

Do You Know the Muse-ic Man? March 10, 2013

I noticed something interesting about my blog posts this week: music is clearly one of my most reliable muses. It inspires me in ways that speak to my soul. So much of the music I enjoy is poetry that feeds my vocabulary set to brilliant chords and rhythms that spark my imagination. Six of the last eight of my blog posts incorporated music into either the title or the content. Let’s review:

1. Can’t Go Wrong, Phillip Phillips – I’ll take the best of what I can from my  mistakes/And now I know, now I  know I can’t go wrong, as long as I remember where I’m from/Hold  my head up just to keep it clear/I want a chance just to face my fear, face my fear

2. Listen To Your Heart, Roxette – Sometimes you wonder if this fight is worthwhile. The precious moments are all lost in the tide, yea. They’re swept away and nothing is what it seems, the feeling of belonging to your dreams. Listen to your heart when he’s calling for you.

3. Forever Young, Rod Stewart – May the good lord be with you/Down every road you roam/And may sunshine and happiness/Surround you when you’re far from home/And may you grow to be proud/Dignified and true/And do unto others/As you’d have done to you/Be courageous and be brave/And in my heart you’ll always stay/Forever young, forever young Forever young, forever young

4. Fix You, Coldplay – When you try your best but you don’t succeed/When you get what you want but not what you need/When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep/Stuck in reverse/And the tears come streaming down your face/When you lose something you can’t replace/When you love someone but it goes to waste/Could it be worse?/Lights will guide you home/And ignite your bones/And I will try to fix you

5. Beautiful Day, U2

You’re on the road/But you’ve got no destination/You’re in the mud/In the maze of her imagination/It’s a beautiful day/Don’t let it get away/It’s a beautiful day

6. Brighter Than Sunshine, Aqualung

What a feeling in my soul/Love burns brighter than sunshine/Brighter than sunshine/Let the rain fall, I don’t care

Musing the Day Away

Bing defines muse as a verb as the action of thinking “about something in a deep and serious or dreamy and abstracted way,” according to Bing. While some prefer to do their deep thinking in silence, I do mine with the muse that is music.