Just Words

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.” (Albert Einstein)

Humility is not only a sign of intelligence, but I suspect it also reflects a certain courage. The ability to admit that one's knowledge, experience, and skills are insufficient, incomplete, imperfect, and/or outdated is hard for so many reasons, but important for so many more. 

One thing I find fascinating is observing how people think in their Life with Dogs -- or maybe more to the point, do not think. People I know to be intelligent, thoughtful individuals seem to toss their critical thinking skills right out the window when it comes to their dogs. Lack of knowing is an invitation to learn and to team with others -- not to abdicate responsibility.

But it is not just critical thinking that crashes and burns -- it is also personal integrity and values. A family that would never dream to raise a hand to a child sends off a dog for pain-based training, for example. How is that congruent with a life of respect and kindness? 

And that is why I think Life with Dogs is a great way to assess people on a variety of dimensions. Lack of humility -- concerning. Easy abdication of responsibility -- concerning. Willingness to hurt a dog or be party to hurting a dog -- concerning.

But that brings me back to humility. I am constantly evaluating my thinking about Life with Dogs, and checking my biases and assumptions.

Maybe people send their dog off to a shock-collar trainer because they think that is just how it is done. Maybe they do not understand the alternatives. Maybe they fell for the "just a little buzz" kind of bullshit talk. Or maybe they are okay with controlling others through pain and intimidation. I can't really know, can I?

Maybe people let veterinarians vaccinate dogs annually because they see it as disrespectful to question professional advice. Maybe they are not interested in thinking too hard about the dog because their mind is occupied elsewhere. Maybe that is just how it has always been done, and the routine is comforting. I can't really know, can I?

Within reason, people have the right to be who and what they are, and operationalize their lives accordingly. But I also believe in an implicit social contract, one that exists because we live in community. And to me, that means we each have an obligation to make things better.

I am an educator, which is only about inviting people to think in new and different ways. This blog is a manifestation of my commitment to the social contract, as I understand it. I write in invitation to think about something seemingly so simple as Life with Dogs because I believe that it benefits dogs when we are thoughtful and discerning, but that it also helps us consider and rehearse skills that are essential for an intentional Life with as Humans.




1 comment

by CA Heidi :-) on Thu, 01/11/2018 - 15:49

When I first entered the medical field, I started in the Emergency Department at Stanford Hospital. I was awash in some of the best thinkers and finest minds in the medical field. Working in a teaching hospital is a wondrous delight for an avid learner, because the invitation to ask a question is permanent. I miss that to this day.

Many of the people I worked with were VERY learned -- multiple degrees like MD/PhD (sometimes more than one), were not uncommon. But at the end of the day, what I took from these the exceptional people was a comfort level using the words, "I don't know." I was a lowly ancillary worker, without even my degree from any college, and I can't count the times that I was told, "I don't know," when I asked a question, followed by the more exciting, "Let's go and find out." Before this, I had always hated admit I didn't know or understand something, thinking it made me look less intelligent. What an important lesson I learned! Being smart means embracing, "I don't know," and accepting the invitation to learn more and think differently. Now I don't feel bad, I feel excited, because I am about to learn something new.


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