My dear friends, I usually write you from a place of tail-wagging joy. Though sometimes I have written you from sadness, or from anger. But today I’m maybe the saddest and angriest I’ve ever been.
One of my very best friends ever passed away a couple of weeks ago. I hate loss, and, like all pups, get very attached to those I love, so a friend’s death is always going to hurt my heart. But what makes me so angry is that this loss was completely unnecessary – my friend should have lived for many more years. In fact, I’d argue my friend was murdered. But not by one individual – he was murdered by an energy, a concept. My friend was murdered by Stupid.
I’ll explain that in a moment, but first let me tell you about my friend.
Mutt was a friendly cheerful guy who always had a song in his head and an awful joke to tell. His real name wasn’t Mutt, but that’s what his granddaughter called him when she was a baby, and of course I loved the name, since it made us sound related! He was strong, energetic (played tennis three times a week), and a great friend to all who knew him, while a devoted caretaker to friends and family.
A few years ago, he and his wife moved into an apartment which, for the past ten months, has done better than anywhere I know of at keeping their residents safe from the coronavirus. The people who ran it enforced very strict rules, not letting any visitors in, testing the people who worked there, and quarantining anyone who went out for any reason. With this, they managed to go nine months without any resident becoming infected with Covid-19. But then one person, somehow, caught it. And then, a week or so later, Mutt caught it too.
When asked how, he said, in a cheerful tone, “Oh, probably just by walking down the hall.” At first he just had a slight cough. Then he had a couple of falls – strange because he normally wasn’t clumsy. After a bad one, he was sent to be checked out at a hospital, in case he’d broken anything. No, his bones were fine, but because they tested everyone who came in, they tested him and he found out he had it. A week later, he was in a hospital room on oxygen. Days later, he was in an Intensive Care Unit on lots more oxygen. And a couple of weeks after that, his lungs gave out and he went to be welcomed above by his parents, his sister, other family and friends, and I can’t imagine how many dogs.
Don’t get me wrong – Mutt had a terrific life. He enjoyed great health, was successful enough in his work to devote many years to volunteering for causes he cared about, and relished the love of many. His lifelong passions for nature and music fed his soul every day, and he even left this world listening to a favorite opera.
So why am I so angry?
Because of Stupid.
If Mutt had developed a cancer, or suffered a heart attack, I’d just be writing about here about what he showed us about a beautiful meaningful existence. And if he’d caught this awful virus when it first took over the planet, I’d have wailed about the tragedy of illness.
But something else happened.
By last May, scientists all around the world knew what we needed to slow this viral spread. And told us so, in very clear terms. They knew we would eventually develop vaccines to free humanity from its clutches. But that, until then, all people everywhere needed to do just a few things to keep its spread down. You’ve heard these rules all year: to wash your hands frequently, to wear a mask and stay distanced from others when you’re out of your home, and to avoid crowds. And especially to remember that this disease can be contagious even when one has no symptoms of it – that anyone, no matter how good you’re feeling at that moment – can be a carrier and transmitter of it… and thereby potentially a killer of someone else.
Of someone innocent. Of someone maybe strong and healthy. Of someone perhaps with no dangerous pre-existing condition. But of someone you’ll have to live the rest of your days knowing you killed.
And far too many people chose to be Stupid. To ignore those rules. To take the chance. And why? Well, apparently, because they think wearing a mask is just too much work.
Now you know those cones that veterinarians put on us pups after we’ve gotten stitches? They’re annoying. Even more so for me because I have such a long nose so I have to wear a really big one. I totally hate them. But Handsome has always made sure I have one when I need it, no matter how much it annoys me.
So if I could put up with that, why is it such a big deal for a human to strap a small piece of fabric over their face, especially when they can choose to wear one that has a pretty or fun pattern on it (Handsome loves wearing ones with monsters on them, for example!)? And if I can put up with staying on a leash when I’m outside our home, why is it so difficult for some humans to keep a safe distance from others?
The answer is it’s not. Anyone can easily wear a mask and stay distanced (and those who say masks hinder their breathing just need to talk with anyone who saw Mutt in his last days about what real breathing trouble looks like. Or, if you truly have a serious respiratory issue, then you should be even more cautious of this virus, and find ways to stay completely away from others all the time till it’s gone!).
But that’s just about being lazy and selfish. It doesn’t account for Stupid.
All year, all over the world, we’ve heard stories of people arguing that they knew better than the scientists. Who say that masks impinge their right to personal freedom. Who even go around yelling at those who follow the rules, screaming that they’re wrong to wear masks and keep distanced. Even some rotten politicians have scorned the safety measures, inspiring their peoples to Stupidity.
Now I realize that some countries have enforced strict rules on safety, which have largely kept the virus out. They have shown the truth – that when people obeyed the simple rules the scientists recommended, the virus reduced to a degree that all were safe. Which is great, but my point is about people who’ve had the freedom to choose what to do – and have chosen Stupid.
You see, if people had chosen safety over Stupid even when their governments didn’t force them to, the same excellent results could have been true everywhere.
But no. These Stupid people have spread the virus all year. These Stupid people have filled hospitals with struggling, gasping, and dying patients. These Stupid people have kept schools from being able to take children back in, restaurants from being able to provide food and service, churches and mosques and synagogues from being able to give their parishioners the warmth and comfort of group worship, and entertainers the ability to stir audiences to joy.
And, by keeping the virus so prevalent, these Stupid people killed my friend Mutt.
But in the midst of my grief and anger about him, I then think of how far the power of Stupid stretches.
Look at our international squabbles. How many are because of Stupid? The Koran, Torah, Bhagavad-Gita, and Bible all tell us to love and take care of each other, but Stupid tells people that their loving God wants them to randomly kill and oppress those who worship differently.
Humans have all the knowledge they need to slow down climate change, to keep our air and water clean, and to preserve what’s unruined of our planet, and even bring back some things we’ve lost. But Stupid (led by Greed) keeps telling the world that the scientists are wrong about all this, and to keep the greatest mass suicide in history continuing.
I could go on and on. And remember, I’m not the one with the great brain! I can’t do math or write a song. I’m just sitting around looking at you guys, wishing you’d USE those brains of yours in the best way you can.
But I’m not getting what I wish for. In fact, the day before Mutt passed away, I saw the most astonishing demonstration of Stupid I’ve ever seen. Maybe that anyone’s ever seen.
A politician who’s known to lie a lot lied that he had won an election. The votes were counted and recounted many times. Courts had looked at all his arguments, and dismissed them. Members of his own political party confirmed that, yes, there was no way around it; his opponent had won clearly. But he kept insisting to his supporters that he’d been the victor, they’d been cheated, and they needed to fight to keep him in his job.
And on that fated day, a number of them did. They violently broke in to the halls of their own government, threatening and attacking their representatives, resulting in five deaths. And here’s where I’m really in awe – these people were so Stupid, they did this in front of television cameras, and even took photos of themselves and posted them online. They broke the most fundamental laws of their country, and went to great efforts to make sure everyone knew about it.
In so doing, they destroyed their own lives. They’re being arrested and jailed, and will suffer legal punishments. And that man they did this for? He’s of course denied that he had anything to do with them – liars lie after all – sacrificing them to save what he can of his own skin.
These Stupid people followed Stupid arguments to the point of doing Stupid things – and countless numbers, including themselves, will suffer because of it.
I could run down a list of Stupid things I’d like you not to do, but I shouldn’t have to. Because that’s the whole point: you’re smart and know better.
You see, that’s what I mean by Stupid. I’m not asking you to suddenly create world peace, just to use your own knowledge to avoid doing Stupid things that inflame needless conflict. I’m not asking you to invent the way to save the planet, just to do what you already know will help it. And I’m not asking you to cure the next pandemic disease. Just to follow what knowledgeable people have told you is the best way to handle this current one.
I’m just asking you to use the brains you have.
Because the world needs you to.
In Handsome’s book about what I taught him, he lists one of my major lessons as “Ignorance Is Not A Virtue.” But if you wish to sit at home and be ignorant and not do anything about it, I suppose that won’t hurt anyone. The danger is when a person chooses ignorance, and then acts on it.
Someone somewhere chose to behave in a way that, directly or indirectly, gave Mutt the disease that killed him. Did they do that by going maskless, not washing, partying in crowds? I don’t know. I just know they did it by being Stupid. By honoring Stupid. By choosing to let Stupid run their lives.
Don’t be that way. Don’t be Stupid. Use your full brain. Be your full self. And if you catch yourself being momentarily Stupid (hey everyone does at times) then just change to acting Smarter.
You just get this one life in this body, with this brain. Not using it is worse than a mistake. It’s really kind of a sin when you think of it.
And I’m tired of being sad and angry. So even if it’s just for me – please – embrace your Smart, and tell Stupid to go straight to… to where I know my dear Mutt will never be sent!