Last night, just as we released the hounds into their little “dog park” for a postprandial run, an unleashed (!) Great Dane left his people on the state trail that runs beside our home to dash over and chase our pups from outside their fenced playground. He really wanted to find a way in and they were equally determined to break out.
A wild dance ensued. Miles were covered, round and round, up and down, back and forth, all accompanied by extremely frenetic and high decibel barking…Finally, one of his people enticed the Great Dane to be leashed and led back to the trail, where another person and a well-behaved dog waited.
Our pups took forever to settle from all the excitement. This morning, Dooley and Micky were seated in the living room, keeping a very close watch on the trail.
Itching, I think, for Round Two and more fun.
Last evening’s entire episode spanned no more than 10 minutes. Phillip took one look, realized all were safe, and stayed inside, to allow the Great Dane’s person the security of knowing only her voice would be focused on her dog. I felt way too anxious, initially, and stepped out on the deck to observe the situation, entirely ignored by all involved, until the woman led her dog away and, clearly flustered, shouted, “Sorry!” as they headed back to the trail. I shrugged and called out, “Dogs! Right?!” I hoped she knew I was rather amused by the whole episode as it unfolded, but I don’t know; we were not close enough to even distinguish each other’s features.
Our pups, as I’ve mentioned, were hyped the rest of the evening and again this morning, when they stepped out for their early constitutional. I think the surprise of another and very large dog contributed to the general excitement, let alone the human stranger running into the yard and calling after her dog, but I also think the experience brought back the joy of the dog park and the freedom our dogs used to have in running around with new friends and their people. Truly, the Great Dane seemed more intent on play than threatening our pups. I think they were all a bit delighted by the memory of strangers who could be new friends.
This week, for many reasons, I’ve been noticing how short-fused people have become on social media and in the comments of online news articles. It’s not a new trend but it’s seemed to accelerate and multiply. Innocent comments are attacked and the authors are rapidly pilloried with language that would make a dockworker cringe. Accusations of every possible prejudice and politically-correct bias are hurled at a complete stranger with the intent, it seems to annihilate his or her existence. I’m surprised my computer isn’t left smoking.
When did this behavior become acceptable and even encouraged in adult discourse? When did this coarse and inflammatory language become tolerated so widely? I may question another stranger’s view, but I’m very weary of people feeling it’s necessary to shame and insult those with whom they disagree by using violent, incendiary obscenities. It disengages and saddens me. I wish we’d return to fueling our conversations with pondered intelligence rather than self-righteous anger. The intent seems to win a barroom brawl rather than nudge humanity forward in anything resembling the unity necessary to survive the problems we face.
And what, exactly, does hurling obscenities accomplish? How does it alter the energy? Where does it end? I think a little kindness and patience could help us out right now. What’s the endgame, after all? To feel self-satisfied or to invite a change in thinking and behavior? I miss gentleness and polite conversation. I miss basic etiquette. I miss people holding their tongues and listening more deeply before judging. I miss meeting strangers sans agendas.
A few years ago, the culture seemed honorably focused on the lasting pain caused by bullying. This makes me struggle with the current unfazed acceptance of the verbal/written bullying and nasty sarcasm tolerated online among “adults.” If I were having a conversation with someone in-person and they interrupted to bellow vulgarities at me, I know I’d feel intimidated and immediately shut down. I’d probably feel embarrassed or ashamed to be singled out by that kind of language, and I’d feel isolated and depressed…aren’t those the signs of being bullied?
And, if this is the way we treat each other anonymously, how will we behave when we can speak again with strangers face-to-face?
I thought about these things last night as we brought the 4-leggeds in and laughed about their adventure. I hope the woman and her companion walking their dogs back home had a giggle, too, and knew we weren’t angry or upset with them or their huge funny 4-legged. I’m still not certain I didn’t join her to help corral the Great Dane because it was better for her dog to have only her known voice directing it, or if it was more due to fear of unmasked viral exchange, or if I just wanted to avoid contact with another potentially angry human.
We have all had more stress than our health could bear this past year, and yet borne it all we have, but I humbly offer that we humans need to develop wiser methods for discharging our fear and anger than firing it directly into the hearts of others. Because we also have wonderful capacities for kindness and joy.
This long darkness is ending, and we’ll be face-to-face again soon. There will be awkwardness enough without the added anxiety of having uninvited opinions and judgments hurled at us. Let’s give consideration to the feelings of others, practice forgiveness, and try for greater kindness in the ways we interact, keeping our focus on the endgame: To extend the kindness towards others we’d like shared with ourselves, so that necessary progress may be achieved together. No one will always be right; no one needs to be shamed; no one should be isolated. Words can be chosen for the light and beauty they shine rather than the hurt they inflict or ugly noises they make.
I saw a quote on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s page this week: “Since the universe has no center, you can’t be it.” I laughed, and remembered another quote, attributed to many great thinkers. A paraphrase: “Love is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” Let’s put love at the center of every meeting and relationship, and see how we are then invited to treat each other.
Like the dogs last night, I hope that we can be surprised by the presence of each other, have fun together, and share so much delight that we sit at the window, anticipating our next meeting.
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