Category Archives: Animals

Tiny Houses and Religion

TinyHouse

Tiny Houses by Jay Shafer

When I think about what I most like doing at home, it is reading, writing, watching birds/squirrels/rabbits in the yard, and hanging-out with my cats – no disrespect to my spouse. (He’s just noisier and higher maintenance.) If I have a vice, other than eating chocolate and all forms of sugar, it is that I like entertaining. I’m not great at it, and meals are not gourmet, but I will have cloth napkins, fresh flowers, quality food, and wine. This is what I expect of myself. My entertaining is not extravagant, but I could not do it in a Tiny House.

“We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters” By Kirsten Dirksen

Though I envy those Tiny House people, I do have some stuff that I want to have around me; however, I don’t have offspring and what means something to me now, will mean nothing to those who are left to disperse my humble possessions after my demise. Maybe it will fall to my nieces, who I pray I have taught to not just send it all to the landfill, but at least find a thrift shop. So being middle-aged, I’m looking around thinking what a pain in the ass it will be for someone to deal with all this crap. And yet, a Tiny House? Where will I put my table linens? The litter boxes?

There you have it, the minimalist quandary. What do I keep? What do I shed? What do I refuse to take in? It’s no different in religion. The way that the major religions are practiced today is probably not the way they started, or even what used to be good about them. But do not be confused. Minimalism is not fundamentalism. Fundamentalism, as I define it, takes a religion to the fundamentals of days gone by, without a sense of context, e.g. Biblical Literalists. A minimalist view would look at the essence of a religion. In other words, I believe religious minimalism can be found in understanding the context of religious thought without being limited by its history or even modern corruptions. (All religion is interpretive and minimalism is one interpretation.)

Perhaps Buddhism is the Tiny House of religions. For me, it is the first religion that comes to mind in thinking about minimalism because it is both complex and simple. What is the essence of Buddhism? It depends who you ask. You could get answers like: mindfulness, life is suffering, detachment, compassion, noble truths, meditation, and so much more.

Buddhism can be practiced simply, but reconciling compassion with detachment always seemed complex to me. For example, one interpretation of Buddhism had monks sweeping the ants from the walkway in front of them, lest they step on and kill any of them. Yet in another account, I read about a Japanese monastery that drowned unwanted kittens – or worse, loosed their aggressive dog to do the dirty work and kill the kitten violently, (Janwillem van de Wetering, The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery, 1973, p.35-6). They must have had some discomfort with this killing because they did it at night. I introduce this story not to accuse those particular monks of hypocrisy, but to identify the difficulty in making choices and reconciling values. Essential Buddhism to me is found in the quote which I thought was the Buddha, though I have been unable to substantiate, it is: “Look at the world through the eyes of compassion.”

We could use more compassion. We now live in a world with rants and deeply disturbing photos posted online with global access. Last week there was a picture of a starving African woman on my Twitter feed. Some American (I think) white male responded by saying, “f-her.” Really? Condemnation for starvation? That makes no sense. I responded with something like, “Why are you so angry? Why does suffering not reach you?” He responded by repeatedly Tweeting a photo of himself (I assume) to jam-up my Twitter feed. I am baffled by his attitude, just as I am confounded by a world with the sophistication of social media and the barbarity of be-headings.

What is the appropriate response to proud, showy brutality, for the civilized and compassionate of the world? (Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly has a good story on this – link below.) I don’t think it is a time for Buddhist detachment in terms of action; but it is definitely time to detach from the vengeful emotions that I believe Buddhists rightly warn us would perpetuate the pain to which we might hope to respond in the first place. Even though it is popular to equate religion with conflict, the essence of most religions is compassion. A minimalist approach to these religions can inform better choices in a complex world.

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly on ISIS

I am one of those people who lives paycheck-to-paycheck and spends significant time worrying about money, so I’m not judging – I’m right there with you, but the financial obsession of Americans at all income levels, leaves little energy left to consider or confront difficult and painful social issues, local or global. I believe our consumer-culture and aggressive capitalism has anesthetized us from being all that we can be as human beings. In the grind of getting to work, staying employed, and paying the bills, it is nearly impossible to feel empowered. It’s even difficult to get Americans to vote and that is a simple, civic act that costs us nothing and is usually less than one mile from our homes. Do you know what does feel good? Yes, spending money.

I don’t have the answers, but I am comfortable posing some questions. What choices will I make today that will keep my life more simple, with fewer material distractions? What actions can I take that will not support global aggression? What thoughts and intentions can I nurture in myself that will send healing energy to the hungry and abused? What actions must I take to demonstrate my compassion and take it beyond private intentions? To quote Zen Master Seung Sahn, “Only don’t know.” Begging indulgence from my Buddhist friends, my unenlightened Western interpretation is that I don’t think we should stop asking questions, but rather remain humble in our pursuit of right action and right thought. Life happens in the small choices. Should I buy it? Should I keep it? What does vacation really mean? Does this activity nurture my soul or sedate it? “Only don’t know.” –J.B.

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Got soul?

When comparing the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic, perhaps many would find the Jersey Shore lacking.  I am not one of them.  Living in Pennsylvania, I enjoy proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  This summer I am part of the large group of Americans to whom the euphemism ‘under-employed’ is applied, so I have contented myself with day trips and good books.  Sitting on the beach, even in Wildwood or Atlantic City, comforts me and heals my soul in a way that church never has.  So here’s what I was reading on the beach this summer:

Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore (1992)

What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter and Me, Rielle Hunter (2012)

In his introduction, Moore said, “When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning” (p.xii).  Well, between daytime talk television and online or mass media news, the violence is abundant.  As Moore said (p.270), “We can only treat badly those things whose soul we disregard.”

In this country, I would add misplaced moral outrage to the symptoms that Moore names, which brings me to Rielle Hunter.  Part of the reason I read her book is because of the angry rants aimed at her by complete strangers on Facebook, online book reviews, and in casual social circles after her book was released early this summer.  She had a relationship with a married public figure that resulted in a child.  That is not an unusual occurrence and has no actual impact on the public at large.  But she does have the right to tell her story and it was interesting.  I don’t know how Moore would respond to Hunter’s story, but here is the quote I would select:

“One of the difficulties in care of the soul is to recognize the necessity of pathos and tragedy.  If we view love only from a high moralistic or hygienic peak, we will overlook its soul settling in the valleys” (p.85).

The entire U.S. Civil War is an example of misplaced moral outrage by the South.  I am astounded by how the rich got the poor to suffer and die in such numbers when there was no possible gain for them.  One book (The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara) suggested the wealthy Southerners convinced poor whites that the North would take away their “rights.”  What rights? – Was it their right to be poor?  The Southern propaganda machine kept the details vague, invented falsehoods, and turned on the outrage with all vigor.  They exploited ignorance, racism and xenophobia to other (used as a verb here) black slaves and inspire a to-the-death-rising-up.  If slavery had been defended by wealthy Southern whites alone, the Civil War would have been over quickly.  The prolonged and painful years of Civil War was only possible with the ongoing support of the Southern ignorant poor and their misplaced moral outrage.

While I am tempted to use this as a jumping off point to correlate the wealthy Civil War Southerners to today’s wealthy Republicans, instead I want to ask you to think about the soul’s place in our world.  Perhaps you would be more comfortable if I would use the word spirit.  Even Moore in 305 pages refused to define soul.  In defining soul Merriam-Webster online said, “the immaterial essence…of an individual life.”  Moore extends soul to be present in places and things.  For me that has happened most easily, and sacredly, with my animal friends.

For you skeptics or atheists I would say there is an essence or spirit in us and around us that offers energy and life lessons.  These forces, as I have experienced them, have both light and darkness.  Many people label energy, people and events as good and evil, of God or the Devil.  As you wish.  The problem is that when you are busy labeling the source, you may miss the message.  Socially this matters because in the labeling, we distract each other from the root of the suffering that then goes unaddressed.  The most powerful tool of propaganda and oppression is DISTRACTION.

I choose to believe we are more than eating, working and procreating carbon life forms.  But how we define our humanity is made real by how we exercise our spirit as individuals and as a society.  Even as we search for meaning we lash out externally instead of exploring internally.  Moore said it best on page 296.

“We want to steal fire from the gods for the sake of humanity.”

So I thank Rielle Hunter for telling me an interesting story on my vacation.  And I thank Thomas Moore for reminding me to listen to the subtle and too quiet songs of my soul.  I don’t usually have patience for poetry but I want to leave you with these final thoughts, from my soul to yours.  -J.B.

I want to die after winter
on a grey, windy day.
The spring winds will know
to carry my ashes,
to the place where the animals rest.

There is a pond
where the goldfish swim,
having given their lives for games at the fair.
The frogs share the pond,
forgetting their hall pass from biology class.

Rabbits from tractors and possums from roadsides,
will meet unwanted domestics who were too long at the animal shelter.

There is a place
where murdered parent orangutans
will be reunited with their stolen baby,
and toothless circus tigers,
will regain dignity.

Pigeons from recreational shoots and three-legged muskrats from traps,
will know rhinos that bled to death for their horns.

There is a vast meadow
where veal calves find their mothers
and learn to graze,
while mice from adhesive traps
run free to fresh grain.

This is the place I will go
to be whole.

I will listen to animal spirits.
I will hear and understand
what I only imagined before.
I will not be lonely for humans
my humanity, forgiven.

And I will be with the animal friends who passed through my life, but left before.
And they will remember me fondly.

The near dead young bunny I found on the road,
will welcome me home.
She will let me hold her without trembling,
and take me to the place
where kittens are kittens forever.

©J.B.Good July 1993

Religion and Theatre of the Absurd

If you think religion and religious people are not influenced by popular culture, then you just aren’t paying attention.  More often, the religious folk are in search of headlines and news clips, not truth or enlightenment.  This happens in small towns and mega-churches.  For the record, I have blogged about mega-churches before (“The Religion of Me Part Two: The Mega-church,” 09/29/2010).  They are not churches, they are theatrical events with a religious theme.  If you disagree with me, then I ask you to consider a Texas story.

Yes, I understand Texans like to do things in a big way.  My best friend from college lives there and turned me on to this story, so apologies to the Lone Star state, but sometimes y’all are just crazy.  At Fellowship Church in Grapevine, “Rev.” Ed Long thought the Easter story of Jesus rising from the dead was not dramatic enough.  He authorized the church to hire a real lion, lion handler, and four-day-old lamb to symbolize Jesus as both a lion and a lamb (April 2012).  One story reported the show cost the church $50,000.  I guess that’s not a lot of money to Pastor Ed because he makes more than $1 million per year.  (Usually I would offer links to stories, but my best source was the Dallas Morning News and you can’t get the story for free.  The Humane Society of Flower Mound has a good summary.)

I was unable to find anything about the pastor’s credentials or education online, but I was able to find plenty of press.  He and his wife made news (February 2012) by doing a 24-hour bed-a-thon on the roof of the church to promote sex in marriage.  More accurately, Rev. Ed was promoting his latest book, from which he doesn’t have to share sales revenue from with his church.

The absurd is not limited to big-time money-grubbing showmen.  It also infects in smaller arenas.  I posted a story on my Web site (http://allthingsreligiousonline.com/) about an Assembly of God Church in Central Pennsylvania that kidnapped youth group teens at gunpoint to show them what life is like for missionaries.  Neither the teens nor their parents knew this was going to happen and the designated kidnapper was an off-duty police officer with a real gun.  It wasn’t loaded, but the kids didn’t know that.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/27/pennsylvania-church-kidnaps-teens-holds-them-at-gunpoint-to-teach-a-lesson_n_1382605.html?ref=religion

Stories like these are why atheists think religious people are nuts.  It’s a difficult point to defend.  The practice of faith is not a concrete endeavor.  Still, there are lots more people quietly honoring their own spiritual interpretations without circus stunts and contrived violence – or real violence for that matter.

If the church folks in Central PA wanted to demonstrate real courage, they would fire their minister.  Rural Pennsylvania is known as fertile ground for hate groups like the Klan.  I am certain that the Assembly of God church could find actual mission work spreading compassion, if they chose, like that ‘love your neighbor’ stuff that is in their Bible.

The best thing that they could do in Grapevine, Texas would be to convert their ‘mega-church’ into a homeless shelter and soup kitchen.  Then they wouldn’t need their $1 million-per-year Showman Preacher and his private jet.  Even if they took all that money and started a business, they would be creating jobs, which would be of more service to the community than devoting extraordinary resources to religious theatre.

Jesus had a lot to say about peace, poverty and humility.  But you wouldn’t know that if you went to church in Grapevine, Texas or Middletown, Pennsylvania.  It’s not just ironic that these two churches are doing such a poor job of representing their own religion – it’s tragic.  These stories demonstrate that you can’t immunize religious practice from human ego any more than you can protect organized religion from politics, or politics from organized religion.

There is a desperate need for reasonable people to have a stronger voice.  This is true in religion and in democracy.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how to make that happen.  The only response I can think of for us non-wealthy regular folks, is to respond to news stories.  I want to believe that if regular people, regularly, demanded better news, we would get it.  If we stopped being consumers of sensationalized non-news, maybe there would be less of it.  That means writing letters and e-mails to news editors.  It also means turning off the TV, or changing the channel.  It might mean getting more news from National Public Radio.

I admit that watching a story about “tanning bed woman” from New Jersey (where else?) who is being referred to as beef jerky on Facebook is a hoot.  We might need to watch a water-skiing squirrel to balance our day.  But if we don’t work in some real news stories of greater length and depth than sound bites, then we can’t expect much more than sound bites and beef jerky, the latter offering more to chew on.  –J.B.

Smackdown: Man v. Nature

This is football season (insert frowny-face icon here).  I live near Philadelphia where fans have a reputation – especially football fans.  Because of all the disorderly and illegal behavior at football games, the Philadelphia Eagles and the City of Philadelphia had to create a mini-court at the stadium to be able to process the hoards of law-breakers.  (Take a look at what a Google search on the “Philadelphia Eagles and fan violence” generates.)  I remember when the Eagles lost a playoff game there was a television news clip of a woman with tears streaming down her face who said, “this was the worst day of my life.”  Really?  Lucky her – if that’s as bad as it has ever been.

There are two sports that are worse than football: professional wrestling and demolition derbies.  Yes, trophies are given for smashing up other cars.  I’m at a loss to propose which of those ‘sports’ is more absurd.  At least the pretend violence and staged melodrama of WWF doesn’t burn fossil fuel.  But the WWF stage does remind me of how some religious people view nature: God using nature to smackdown bad people, and people trying to smackdown nature for personal gain.

Every time there is a natural disaster, some religious simpleton claims that it was God’s will or Divine punishment for sin as God uses the force of nature to toy with silly humans gone astray – perhaps reflecting on a literal view of the Noah’s Ark story.  My friend Kathleen is a talented environmental science teacher and reported that one of her students said (I’m paraphrasing here) that they know how humans came into existence, “God created them.”  Kathleen responded, “You can believe anything you want in your church, but this is a science class and we are learning about science here.”  Good thing Kathleen isn’t in Texas, she could probably get fired for saying that.

When combining the view of a punishing god with the supremacy of human beings over nature the result is a world view that provides resources only for the godly and allows for the reckless exploitation of everyone and everything else.  Joseph Campbell told a story about how Zen philosopher Daisetsu Teitaro (D.T.) Suzuki described the Western world view (The Power of the Myth, Program Two: “The Message of the Myth”):  “God against man.  Man against God.  Man against nature.  Nature against man.  Nature against God.  God against nature.  Very funny religion.”

One source of this view, I would suggest, is the creation story from historic Judaism and Christianity.  The first chapter (Genesis 1:26) describes “dominion” over creation by human beings.  According to Strong (The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., 1995) the word dominion in the St. James Version of the Bible is based on the Hebrew word râdâh, which is translated as “rule” or “subjugate”.  More recent translations of the Bible use the word “power” (Good News) or “rule” (NIV), which I do not find any more enlightened than “dominion”.  I had hoped a little research would reflect the St. Jame’s version’s use of “dominion” to be a poor translation, but that was not the case.

I have not gone to rabbinical school nor am I a Christian Biblical scholar.  I’m a regular person with an interest in religion and a drive to consider context, which is my explanation for “dominion”.  That creation story was passed on in the context of a patriarchal culture, which by definition subjugates everyone to the (male) patriarch.  In doing (secondary) research for this column I have been reading Karen Armstrong’s The Bible: A Biography, and reviewing her earlier work A History of God.  What I continue to learn as I study religion, especially Christianity, is about the human influence on theology and sacred text.  In talking about New Testament parables, an Episcopal priest (from whom I always learn something) said that Jesus’ stories often teach us more about people than God (Rev. C. Reed Brinkman, 9/25/2011).

Power over nature, to most thinking people, is an arrogant illusion.  Go ahead, try and stop a tornado.  And if the only way you can exercise your god-given dominion on the earth is by exploiting the environment and abusing animals, then you are not even a very smart patriarch.  In the long run you are hurting yourself and your descendants.

The selfish exploitation of animals and natural resources may nicely complement Western capitalism but does not reflect the underlying spirit of either Judaism or Christianity, and is certainly not part of most Eastern religions and practices.  The Dominion World View is the unfortunate result of isolating an antiquated minor Biblical reference to justify selfish behavior.  Drowning puppies that didn’t sell, over-fertilizing fields which corrupts the water table, irrigating crops that aren’t intended to grow in arid regions and thereby lessening water resources for everyone else – all justified because God gave you dominion.  That should be an offensive view to both the godly and godless.

Because you have the resources to smash cars into each other doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  It just makes you a stupid, wasteful bully.  Unfortunately, power and resources don’t go only to the deserving.  In fact humanity has a sad history of resources being ravaged by the greedy at the expense of the powerless.  The wise and compassionate stewardship of shared resources not only sustains our survival but make us human beings.  And if you’re religion doesn’t guide you to be a better human being, then trade-up for a better religion, or get to know your own religion a little better.  -J.B.

Death Becomes Us

For about three years I volunteered at a cancer center doing hospice and bereavement work.  Most people think that sounds depressing, but to the contrary, it was inspiring.  I was present during a holy time, no matter what I was doing.  Sometimes I just sat with a patient while watching TV.  (I think she did this so she could do something that felt normal and had nothing to do with cancer.)  One thing I noticed was that it was hard to be shallow in the face of imminent death.  Naturally, there were some who succeeded, but there were more people who stepped up to support the dying person and struggled to process their own pain.

I miss Jack Kevorkian.  Where is he?  He was a hero.  Those who condemned him have not looked a lingering, painful death square in the eye.  There is dignity for an individual who recognizes it is time to move on and has the opportunity to say good-bye.  Only out of respect and love can those around the dying person start to accept the pain of imminent loss, and also let go.

Loss is defined by the one who experiences it.  I have lost humans I love, but every day I miss my animal family members who have died, and often with much greater intensity.  If you are a person who does not understand human-animal bonds, you may take offense at my willingness to compare losing animal family members to losing humans.  You have my pity for what you are missing.

I had my cat, Milo, euthanized two days ago.  He was 14 years old, so certainly a senior citizen; yet his cancer, for me, was sudden and was aggressive.  Having to decide to take measures that would end Milo’s life was as painful for me as it was inevitable.  Though I have had to do this before, it does not ever get easier.  As I was agonizing over what was to come, I took time to consider how I would want to be treated.  Let the record show, I never want heroic, extreme measures to save my physical life at the expense of living it.  Though he just didn’t look as sick as he was, Milo couldn’t eat or drink water.  I am now certain the blow to his dignity from being reduced to complete incapacity, would never have been worth the few additional days I would have been able to have with him.

Milo taught me how to love someone I didn’t really like.  At best, he was a curmudgeon, and I’m not entirely sure he actually liked me.  He purred only grudgingly and was never a lap cat.  He is the only cat I had that I could not convince to stop clawing things up, which was quite unfortunate since my spouse has a lovely old house with antique woodwork that Milo favored.  This was the source of serious domestic disputes between the three of us.  Still, I will grieve for Milo for some time to come.  I will adopt other animal family members, but not right away and not as replacements.

Where is God in all of this?  If you have read my column before, then you will not be surprised that I can find a religious perspective on almost any aspect of the human experience.  I do distinguish between religion, God, and spirituality.  Most often when I refer to religion, it is related to organized religion and theological thought.  When I refer to the spiritual, it is usually a reference to experiences and feelings that are outside the temporal or physical.  The god-concept is always personal, in my view.  It might be impossible to talk or write about God while truly understanding someone else’s perception.  We can only really know what God does or doesn’t mean for each of us, ourselves.  For today, as a favor to me, I ask you to stand outside of your religious familiarity, set aside your god-concept, and just consider connections.  Consider connections to humans and to animals, to the living and the dead.

I learned a lot about meditation from my friend, Denny, who introduced me to Thich Nhat Hanh, among others.  We were able to attend a talk and group meditation with him in the early nineties that I have never forgotten.  My meditation is frequently a result of what I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh.  However, sometimes, in meditation I connect to people and animals who have died.  I recognize this can all be in my imagination, and consider that irrelevant.  I have experienced insights I don’t believe I would have otherwise.  I am ok with those who think I’m just nuts.  I am already accustomed to the relatives who think I’m hell-bound.  Those judgments don’t block me from experiencing the holy in my own way, and benefitting from it.

I had a Jewish friend that used to say, “Dead is dead.”  (It is possible to be a Jewish atheist, but that’s a column for another day.)  My response to that thought is that I do not want to live this life believing there is nothing else, even if it’s true.  Faith is believing that for which we have no physical evidence.  I have faith that there is more than “dead is dead.”  This is affirmed for me when I connect to other species, including Milo.  Experiencing unconditional love, though I can’t say I got that from Milo, I did from those animal family members who have passed before him.  To see love and devotion in the eyes of another species with whom I can’t verbally communicate is the best link to a loving God I have ever experienced.  This is a holy connection to me.  Just as death takes us to the brink of eternity, love gives us a reason to keep connecting.

When Milo was on the vet’s table, moments from certain death, I wrapped my arms around him, not even sure he wanted that.  I wanted to shield him from the lights which seemed so harsh and find a way to say a final good-bye.  The old curmudgeon, ready to die, started purring.  By my definition, this was not only a holy connection, but also a miracle.  I took it as his approval and good-bye.  So, Milo, I will miss you.  This house is so big and so empty.  But I will connect with you in my meditations and dreams.  You taught me to love the hard to love and I am better for it.  Scratch away, Milo.

Faith and the Lost Dog

This column is going to be more personal than what I usually write, and I do not promise a happy ending.  Consider yourself warned.  Don’t worry, I won’t do it often.    It is also a little longer than usual.  I have edited as best I could and I just can’t say what I need to say in fewer words.  And personal column or not, your comments in response are always welcome.

Religion, doctrine, theology, these are all big picture concepts.  What we believe, what we have faith in – that is where the rubber meets the road.  Faith is individual and personal, and not an area where any of us have the right to dictate to each other.  Further, if you are deferring your own personal discernment to others, whether they are friends, spouses, or clergy (especially clergy), then you are shirking responsibility for your own spirituality.  (I don’t mean atheists or agnostics, for they – by definition – are taking a position for themselves.)

My faith is exercised by believing in an eventual good outcome in times of pain and noticing the times of joy and contentment with gratitude.  Just Monday morning I was sitting in my office writing, with my dog Buddy crashed out on the futon looking so content I took a picture.  I remember feeling grateful to have the peace and safe space to read, and write, and be with the unquestioning devotion of Buddy.  Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss,” and I can say that this was a blissful morning.  I don’t have a full-time job and I never seem to have money, but in that moment, life was perfect for me.

I have to ask, is joyful contentment an invitation for Evil?  It seems so.  On Tuesday evening Buddy ran away.  Buddy has epilepsy and I give him a lot medication every day.  He has run twice before, but I sincerely believed we had corrected his lapses in judgment and willingness to cooperate with me.  That being said, there is nothing he loves more than running and running with reckless abandon.  I couldn’t bring myself to keep him constantly tethered to me on a leash.  Our yard is big and sheltered and I had every confidence that I could teach him it was best to stay home.  I was so very wrong.  It was as if Evil whispered in his ear and even as he was looking back at me, he just kept going further away from me until he vanished into suburban hedges.  The last time I saw him was 6:20 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

And that is why I found myself last evening sitting in the backyard of my veterinarian’s office (close to where he was last spotted) from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, writing by flashlight in between meditating and dozing off.  I did this the night before (except for the writing part) and have spent many other hours starting at 5:30 a.m. driving, walking, and sitting search for my missing dog.  Again and again I ask how this is possible when Buddy and I are so connected.  As I write this, it is Buddy’s fifth day in 90-plus degree heat with no food, water, or medication.  Maybe I’ve been watching too many “Charmed” re-runs, but isn’t there some protection for the innocent?  Well, if Evil is an entity with a dark plan for pain, this was the most successful shot at my faith that could have been fired.

In the interests of disclosure, I practice Christianity, though many Christians would not want to claim me.  I’m not really sure about the deity of Jesus and I certainly don’t believe Christianity is the only ultimate truth.  I admit to cursing like a stevedore and loving tequila.  Though I am now with my favorite spouse, I have too many divorces behind me.  (I think you get the picture.)

I do not believe in God the Chess Master, smirking while we all scramble to figure out his mysterious “will” for our lives.  I do believe in karmic justice and every time I get screwed I hope that I live long enough to see some of it.  I also do not believe in a Santa Claus God to whom we submit requests for relief from pain or just bonuses for being such great folks – like a winning lottery ticket.  I do believe in miracles, but most often the miracle is that another human was motivated to do something kind for no personal gain.  That counts, by golly.

If Buddy does not come home safely, or worst of all, if I never actually know what happened to him, then I have to say, Evil won.  That is quite enough to make me question the power of love in the universe.

Remember Chief Seattle told us we are all part of the web of life?  The reverence of that connection is what my relationship with Buddy means to me.  I had an everyday connection to all that is good in the world.  I had a clear understanding of unconditional love.  I knew simple joy.  So if it is the goal of Evil to disrupt and destroy: mission accomplished.  If I never see Buddy again, I expect to go on with my life.  His abrupt and premature departure does not diminish what we had.  It does shake my faith to the core.  I don’t really believe in a personal God, but I also don’t believe in Nothing.  And somewhere in the middle, I was hoping for help in a time of pain for things that are out of my control.  Sort of sums up the human condition, doesn’t it?  Well, we’ll see what happens.

P.S. Don’t tell me if you find a typo.  I haven’t slept much since Tuesday.

Epilogue: As of 7/19/2010  he is not home and no one has seen him since the 15th.