Friday, January 25, 2013

A Literal Kick in the Face

I just kicked my dog in the face. Hard. So hard, it hurt my foot. In fact, my heel is still throbbing. And do you know where she is? She is sitting here with her head on my knee, looking up at me with eyes brimming over with love.

Before you call in the animal cops, I need to explain that it was an accident. My wife threw a toy for her to fetch and, as the dog was speeding by my chair, after it, I tried to lift my leg out of the way. As my foot came up, I planted a karate heel right into her snout.

No blood or broken teeth, but I sure thought there would be. She seems fine. In fact, she is better off than I, because I feel horrible, even though it was purely accidental.

Which one of us is superior? Does her total lack of anger, as a dog, make her inferior, in either a scientific or a philosophical sense? Or does it make her superior?

I suppose it comes down to the difference between "can't" and "won't." She is not smart enough, being a canine creature, to conceptualize resentment. (At least, I don't think so.) That would be "can't," of course. If someone accidentally were to kick me in the face, I would be really mad. I might even lash out.

However, if I were to control myself in these circumstances, people would admire me. Take it a step farther: If someone were to attack me I were to refuse to fight, I would be a poster child for pacifism. That would be "won't."

If you are waiting for the point of all of this -- beyond the obvious -- I fear I am about to let you down. Maybe I am reacting to pop-philosophy idea of admiring the innocence of the child we once were or of piling nobility on animals for their uncomplicated ways. Do beings, whether animal or human, deserve credit for simply being what they are; in a dog's case: simple and co-dependent? If they do, aren't we sort of contradicting our oft-parroted idea that "all men are created equal"?

All intellectualizing aside, I can't help thinking, though, that we'd all be better off if we followed the example of my poor, dim-witted, best friend in the world. Regardless of where her peaceful, forgiving qualities come from, she is, in those respects, better than every human being I know, including myself.

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