Last May I was relaxing for a few days at our spiritual retreat center in Mexico. The climate was warm and idyllic and the surrounds were uninterruptedly pleasant, featuring decorative stone walls, exotic plants and just the right quantity of friendly humans.
Our delightful American ex-patriot neighbor, Dorinda, comes every day to tend the garden. She knows all kinds of amazing things about plants and they know it, thriving under her care. On her daily visits she is invariably accompanied by her two puppies, Poppy and her brother, whose name I forget.
Author’s Note: To further protect the identity of the actual puppies, I’m not using their real names.
These two puppies are without doubt the dumbest, most useless dogs I have ever encountered. One afternoon, having nothing better to do, I tried to explain to Poppy the meaninglessness of her existence.
Poppy came over to me, eagerly listening, hoping for a treat.
But I had a greater gift than mere food for Poppy. I was planning to impart on this dog spiritual wisdom and a desire to better herself.
“I have no wish to offend you, Poppy, but your utter uselessness continues to astound me. You are defenseless, manifestly dumb as a rock, and you spend your days idly getting lost in this modest sized compound and chasing the same baby iguana up the same tree in the vain hope of catching it. You are, in short, a being entirely without purpose. And the same goes for your fuzzy headed brother who is so clueless I can’t even remember his name.”
The object of my derision lolled her tongue at me happily. Her brother trotted up, eager for a hard earned pat on the head. Unable to resist the cute innocent helplessness of his gaze, I obliged. I was aware that succumbing to his charm might take the edge off my important lesson but resisting temptation just felt too hard.
“The only reason anyone feeds you and protects you from your own stupidity is that you’re cute,” I insisted.
The two puppies took my tone of voice as a sign of hope. They gazed at me with large eyes, unconcerned with any pretense of meaning in their simple lives.
I could not bear it. Where was the struggle for existence? What was their place in natures complex web? Where was their drive, their ambition? Did nothing in their lives constitute any kind of challenge?
That night my fertile brain gave birth to a plan of such daring that it made a platypus flinch.
I was going to instill in the hearts of these meaningless creatures a sense of higher purpose, no matter what it took.
“How?” you might ask?
I had no idea…
One of the best methods I know for solving a problem is to stop thinking about it. Go to sleep, go for a walk, take some exercise, meditate, do anything but stare at the blank page. And often times, hey presto! The answer emerges from your unconscious intuitional creative genius space.
That’s sort of what just happened to me. It was not earthshakingly dramatic — this was not Einstein inventing the wheel and leaping out of the bath to run naked down the streets of Atlantis. It was more a kind of quiet noticing. All I had to do was stop thinking about the problem for a while and the solution was just there.
Most small domestic dogs are actually beyond useless. They’re too small to serve as guard dogs. (Some of them are frightened of cats!) They are often neurotic, and their high pitched yap is just annoying. They need taking care of, like babies, except that they never grow up and get jobs and start paying rent. Their only redeeming feature is that they’re cute. So I guess that’s their purpose in life — their Dharma, as we yogi/philosophers would put it.
From this perspective, Poppy and her brother, ‘fill in the blank’ (this, it occurs to me, is an excellent description of his state of mind) are actually pretty high up the scale. They are not ugly. They are not scared of cats, so far as I know. They at least imagine that they can guard us from baby iguanas. And they never yap in an annoying fashion.
And they are definitely cute! So cute, in fact, that they inspired me to write a whole silly story about them. While I, the ‘overthinking the problem’ type human, am now wondering about my own life purpose, Poppy and Blank have been joyfully fulfilling their Dharma, and then some, without even meaning to. Effortlessly showing us how it’s done.
Keep up the good work, puppies!