A friend sent me a Ho’oponopono cleansing meditation meant to help people repair the damage done to themselves. They believe as I do that we have no right to force our beliefs on others. I chased the mist this morning and recited this meditation:
“I am sorry, please forgive me. I love you. Thank You.”
For me this teaches humility and helps me to forgive myself, to find peace and joy as I seek my rightful place in the world and seek to rid myself of fear and anger. It helps me to withstand the angry and fearful people who shout their beliefs and force them upon me and other people.
I say this now 10 times in the morning, and 10 times at night and it soothes my soul.
I am sorry, please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
Monday morning, I posted a question on my Facebook Page: “Do You Believe The Only Morally Proper Way to Get A Dog In America Is To Rescue One? Do You Believe It Is Wrong To Buy A Dog From A Reputable Breeder?” Within a few hours I had more than 250 replies, and they are still coming in. I am interested in animal ethics, in the moral issues surrounding our life with animals, and people’s ideas about buying dogs have become intensely enmeshed with ethics as the comments show. Many people believe it is not only moral to rescue a dog or to get one from a shelter or rescue group, they increasingly believe it is immoral to get one any other way.
Most of the comments posted were reasonable and emphasized personal choice and freedom of choice. They supported the idea that people should get a dog in the best way that works for them and for the dog, and sometimes that means going to a breeder and sometimes to a shelter.
I posed the idea as a question, not an argument, knowing that in America, there are many arguments and very few discussions. The art of listening has become as rare as the practice of generousity and encouragement. I also know from my own ethical studies – Hannah Arendt, Thomas Merton, Aquinas, Socrates – that the most unethical behaviors in the world are often done under the banner of extreme self-righteousness. When people start believing their beliefs are noble and pure and everyone else’s are immoral and evil, then true evil is so often spawned and the worst horrors rationalized.Thus we live in a political system where no argument can prevail, no mind ever changed. This has also become one of the diseases of animal love, it is so closely connected to people hate.
I believe in Hannah Arendt’s approach to ethics, especially when it comes to animals. We are almost never ethical when we are telling other people what to do, only when we are striving to do the right thing ourselves. When we respect ourselves, and consider our choices and satisfy our own personal sense of honor It is, in fact, she wrote, unethical to assault people for having different ideas, or to judge them inferior because they differ from yours. Or to assume that your ideas are so noble there can be no question about them. I have never known or great of a great mind that did not frequently change.
Personally, I believe it is immoral to tell anyone how to get an animal or in what way. I believe that some of the best traits in dogs would be eroded or obliterated – I think in my own life of Rose, Lenore, Red – if good breeders vanished. Where do people think those wonderful border collies on TV come from? And I am grateful for the opportunity to take animals from troubled and difficult lives – Mother, Simon, Izzy, Frieda – and give them good homes and affection. I believe that much of the animal rescue impulse comes from a need to rescue ourselves and has little to do with animals, yet it nonetheless does much good and brings much joy and love.
My own idea of ethics is increasingly internal. When I have a pure heart and clear mind and open soul then I will start telling other people what to do. I hope I will never become angry if they choose a different path. In the meantime, it seems arrogant to me to presume that my ethics must be adopted by others. My wish for people and animals is that the people who acquire animals do so thoughtfully and that they live happily with them. It is not my business whether they go to a breeder or a shelter. There are good and bad dogs from breeders, good and bad dogs from shelters, honest and caring breeders and dishonorable ones, responsible shelters and irresponsible ones. We are all too human. For me, the first concern is the well-being of the dog I bring into my life, not exploiting them as a way of feeling superior to other people. And I hope I never lose the equally powerful impulse to make room in my life for animals who need my protection and shelter. As for each of you, I hope you do what is best for you and for the animals in your life.
“Dancing Dogs” is loose in the world as of tomorrow, its publication date. “Dancing Dogs” is my first short-story collection, and I am excited about. Book tour details on the website at the top of this page, under “Calendar.” These are the only events scheduled for this book tour and I do not choose the cities.
Connie Brooks at Battenkill Books, my bookstore, got about 20 cartons in this afternoon. The UPS man was tired. When I arrived, Connie was already exhausted, and when I left several hours later, we both were. I don’t really know how many books I signed but my arm is sore and they are going out in the morning, and there are a lot more waiting on the floor and many orders coming in. Good for Connie, good for me, too. I will sign and personalize any books bought from Battenkill and the store is offering free signed notecards free to purchasers as long as they last (we have a good quantity left.) I appreciate these orders, as they not only support my writing, but they help a great independent bookstore working hard to adapt to the sweeping changes rocking publishing. You can buy “Dancing Dogs” anywhere, and I thank you. If you choose to purchase my books through Connie, you can call the store at 518 677-2515 or go on their site, www.battenkillbooks.com. They will ship anywhere in the world and they take Pay Pal.
Tuesday night at 7 p.m., I will celebrate the publication of “Dancing Dogs” and my second children’s book “Lenore Finds A Friend” at Battenkill. I will read from the book and talk and take questions. Red and Lenore are coming, Maria too. If you need information on the reading call the store at 518 677-2515. Saturday at 7 p.m., I will be at the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt. for a talk, reading and signing. Here we go.
Red and the donkeys are getting easier with one another. This morning, in the pasture, Simon, Lulu and Fanny all came up to Red to sniff him and check him out and Red turned to me as if to say “can I herd them, chief?” And I did say, “Red, don’t even think about it,” and he didn’t. Rose tried it once and got kicked right off the back of the barn.
We live amidst the symbols of our lives. The dairy barn. The dogs and donkeys, sheep and chickens. The collapsed barn. Rocky. The Studio is my primary symbol of the farm, of the creative connection that drew Maria and me to one another and binds us still. Ben is a magical helper, a spirit who is making these symbols come to life. Work is at the heat of Maria, and at the heart of our love is a creative connection, a commitment to encouragement and support for one another’s work. When a book like “Dancing Dogs” comes out, she is as excited as I am. Her workplace is as important to me as it is to her. In this way, fuel one another’s work and life without becoming entangled or crossing the boundaries that mark our sense of self, our independence, our work.
I am so excited about the work Ben is doing on this wonderful space. So many works of art will be born here and shipped out into the world.