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.

 

From the Ground Up October 28, 2013

Scientists claim us canines can understand somewhere between 100 and 200 people words. I say that’s hogwash. What these calculations can’t account for is our keen awareness of human emotion, which so frequently is hard to encapsulate into a word.Gaining Perspective

Treat. Outside. Dog park. These are words a dog comes to know. Sit, lay down, roll over. These are tricks of the canine trade. But love, faith, forgiveness and loyalty? These are words to live by. In a constantly evolving language, these words remain steadfast.

I have never been a big supporter of the “less is more” philosophy, but perhaps there is some insight to be gained from it in the case of conversation. Sometimes less really is more, given the understanding is there to aid in translation. My favorite Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran challenged that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

I know mine certainly wouldn’t be treats, outside, dog park, sit, laydown and rollover. Mine would be the foundations from which all other language could be understood. Forgiveness. Compassion. Loyalty. Love. Laughter. Faith. Joy. From the ground up, these would be my seven words of choice because these are words us canines know inside and out.

We don’t hold grudges. We know when to be still and listen. We pause (in all our overwhelmed excitement) to welcome our loved ones home whether they’ve been gone five minutes or five days. We love unconditionally – and find creative ways to show it. We know how to bring fun to the party. We know who we are – and embrace it. We have faith in ourselves, which enables us to have faith in others. And, through it all, we know how to bring the light of joy into the darkest of situations.

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life,” Gibran suggested, “not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Scientists have their theories. And maybe they’re right. But they didn’t account for the unique perspective we canines bring to human emotion. Literally and figuratively, there’s this thing about the attitude I chose to bring to life. When you see life from the ground up as I do, you are already on the ground. Regardless of how you got there, you are at ground zero. And there is no where to go but up.

 

When Pigs Fly July 25, 2013

When pigs fly is one of those people phrases I don’t particularly care to support. Less is more? Sure. All good things come to those who wait? Definitely. But this pigs flying business is uncalled for if you ask me. The phrase is meant to say something will never happen or (if it does) it is incredibly unlikely.

Well I’ve got news for you. Pigs fly in my dreams all the time. They have little wings and they take naps in the clouds. They’re also animated because I like the way fake pigs smell much more than real pigs, but that’s beside the point. To me the phrase encapsulates a major problem with the way people think about the realm of possibility.

When Dogs Blog

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Albert Einstein, a man known and respected as one of the smartest in history, held imagination in high esteem. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he said. “It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Some scientists might argue that imagination is the arch nemesis of knowledge, but Einstein knew better.

Today imagination made reality of some dreams I didn’t even know I had. When I started this blogging journey when pigs fly was equivalent to when dogs blog in my mind. Sure, I want to share my joy with the world, but does the world want to hear it? I asked myself this as I pondered my decision to start blogging, and doubt filled my little doggie heart. But it wasn’t too long before the comments started coming in and the blogosphere became a group of friends I look forward to seeing each day.

Shortly thereafter, I went all out. I opened a Twitter account, and a Facebook account, and a Gmail account. Then I waited. A few of my blog friends have found me on Facebook and some of my Twitter friends have found me in the blog world so I suppose you can say social media is doing its job. But email remained pretty empty so I didn’t check it often. (Checking it to find nothing made me sad, and I generally avoid things that make me sad).

So you can imagine my surprise today when I logged into Gmail and was greeted with 57 emails. It might not sound like a lot to some people, but it’s a lot to a dog. When pigs fly, when dogs blog, and now dogs are emailing. And there they were amidst my correspondence from blog buddies, Twitter pals and Facebook friends: emails from two different service organizations asking if I’d like to partner with them to spread the word about adopting rescue dogs. Would I like to share the word about rescue dogs? That’s like asking if I would like some peanut butter (which is only one of my most favorite things in the whole wide world!)

These partnerships are in the beginning stages, but I can’t help but think of Mr. Einstein’s words about imagination when I contemplate how I got to this point. The way I see it, imagination empowers the realm of possibility. Without it there is only the impossible. Do pigs fly? They sure do. And tonight I am flying right along with them.

 

My Little Peace Ritual May 16, 2013

I have this nightly ritual I’m certain my forever parents must think of as complete madness. Every night, my ritual starts the same way at about the same time.

Some of the Comfort CrewI grab Mr. Prickles from my toy basket (I’ll never understand the purpose of this basket other than making fun inconvenient) and take him to my favorite place in the house. I’ll suck on him for a while, but not too long. Then I’ll grab Mrs. Prickles. Repeat. Then Mr. Flea. Repeat. Then Mr. Tiger. Repeat. Then Mr. Angry Bird. Repeat. Well, I think you get the idea. If I’m being honest, this routine would probably continue all night if I didn’t run out of toys and sleep wasn’t necessary.

I’ve previously referred to these (albeit stuffed) characters in my life as my Comfort Circle and for good reason. Ever since I was a pup, I have found comfort in nursing on the soft little bodies. Animal behaviorists have linked this behavior in doggie adulthood to early separation from one’s doggie momma and abuse in puppyhood. (I unfortunately experienced both of these things). Also, I’m not sure if all people know this, but us canines store up a lot of our pent up feelings in our jaw muscles. The shoulder tension of humans is the jaw tension of dogs. It physically relieves stress when I rhythmically nurse on the joys (er, I mean toys).

I understand science and psychology have their reasons but I have one more to add to the conversation. There is something pretty great about beingMe and My Gal transported to another place and time in your mind. That’s what these toys do for me, which I’m certain is why I find peace in my nightly ritual.

What transports you to another place and time in your mind? Do you find peace there?

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake,” said transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

Every night, my ritual ends the same way at about the same time. Before bedtime, dad puts my Comfort Circle collection back in the basket in the living room. And every night I hop off the bed, grab whichever one is closest to the top, and bring that special pal back to bed with me. (It’s usually Mr. or Mrs. Prickles, but I mix it up so the others don’t get jealous). I don’t care if my people think it’s crazy of me to repeat these behaviors night after night. And that’s not just because I know they love me unconditionally. It doesn’t bother me because I know my ritual is my way of making a pathway to peace in my mind that brings a smile to my heart.

And I prefer to sleep smiling.

 

Silently Speaking: Life’s Little Reminders January 3, 2013

I’m a glass-half-full kind of dog. I wake up each day and make a heartfelt commitment to see the good in people, places and things. But even our best intentions get challenged. For me, a constant challenge to my outlook on life is silence. I hate not being able to talk. Perhaps that’s why I find such comfort in writing down my thoughts…because the silence drives me bonkers.Smiling for Silence

What I find most ironically disturbing about silence is how it can be more powerful than words. As a lover of words, I can’t help but wonder why is it that silence speaks so loudly?

I take the challenge. I am going to find something good to say about silence. Let us welcome Sir Francis Bacon to the conversation. Talk about finding the good in people. The English philosopher wore many hats, including one of disgrace following his political career. Yet somehow, he remains thought of as the creator of empiricism and respected for his influence on philosophy and science.

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom,” he once said. Well, I like sleep. And I love wisdom. In fact, I think my passion for wisdom got me in some trouble recently.

I noticed today that I have been one day ahead of myself in my journey with Simple Abundance. Clearly the problem is not my obvious enthusiasm for this journey of my mine. But that got me to thinking about life’s little reminders to hit the pause button from time to time. To be still in this super-sized, action-packed, fast-forward world. To respect the silence.

And we’re really missing out. Its been my experience that (even though silence is not my favorite thing) sometimes the stillness speaks to us in ways no words can interrupt. Southern novelist Mark Twain knew a thing or two about this. “The right word may be effective,” he said, “but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” So today I pause my Simple Abundance experience and (in doing so) find something good to say about silence.