Pedagogue dogs

That dog gazing uncomprehendingly (yet agreeably) at that treadmill reminds me, as most everything does, of something William James said:

We stand in much the same relation to the whole of the universe as our canine and feline pets do to the whole of human life. They inhabit our drawing-rooms and libraries. They take part in scenes of whose significance they have no inkling. They are merely tangent to curves of history the beginnings and ends and forms of which pass wholly beyond their ken. So we are tangents to the wider life of things.

This is James in speculative mode, towards “whatever [we] may consider the divine.” I prefer to keep the divinity (and cats) out of it myself, but I think the point still sticks: our experience merely brushes up against realities, most of the time, if and when it encounters them at all. So a little more good-natured humility, curiosity, and patient anticipation is in order. And unconditional loyalty. That’s what our dogs can teach us.

Books have been written on this theme, of course. Inside of a Dog and What’s a Dog For? are both on my list. And Rousseau’s Dog.

Schopenhauer was inexplicably partial to poodles. When they misbehaved he berated them: “Bad human!” Meanest insult he could imagine.

So, there’ll be a chapter in PW on walking the dogs. Rousseau did it, Schopenhauer did it, I do it daily.


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