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6 The Future Is Now …how to handle the new unreality

…how to handle the new unreality

I realized something this week.  The future is here.

            Of course, the present day is ALWAYS what the future used to be – today is always what was tomorrow yesterday.  And while some things about today are just what we expected (the sun came up today, you are mostly what your parents thought you’d be by now, and people are talking on telephones with visuals as has been predicted for at least a hundred years), some things are not.  Some things are really different from what you guys thought 2020 would be like!

            For example, my human friend Handsome told me that, when he was a child, everyone expected that by now people would be traveling through space all the time.  You’d take flying saucers to work, or vacation on the moon.  No one imagined back then that this decade would be one of just more traffic of cars and airplanes.

            Similarly, futurists imagined everyone would be eating more efficient food by now, not creating awful global problems with overcrowded yards and processing plants for giant populations of livestock.

            And while many imagined people carrying around communication devices they could talk through, I don’t think anyone over fifty years ago remotely imagined that so many people would have portable supercomputers in their pocket, through which they could not only communicate but look up knowledge, play games, and be entertained.

            But there’s one other aspect that has really been on my mind.  You see, Handsome also recently told me about three of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, each describing a frightening future for the world:  Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  Each I hear is terrific, and would make wonderful reading for you during this lockdown (and while all have been made into good movies, none of them is said to quite match their books’ horrific brilliance). 

            Each of these writers looked around at the changes the 20th Century brought, and thought, “Uh oh, I see where this is going.”  They envisioned giant, overarching governments that controlled people’s minds from birth, managing their populations efficiently by stifling free expression and thought (For example, “Fahrenheit 451” is the temperature at which paper ignites, which is important to know in a world where all books are being burned!).

            And much of what they envisioned has come true.  Our world does include many societies that censor publications, that lie to their people, that even imprison, exile, or worse people who speak out against their systems.

            So why aren’t these books accurate?  Why, 36 years after the real 1984, is the story so wrong in so many ways?

            Because there’s something else none of these authors (or those of other great dystopian novels from a few decades later, like Player Piano or The Handmaid’s Tale) envisioned.  Something that’s kept their nightmare visions from becoming true, but which has created a different problem than they saw, equally great and equally dangerous:

            Social Media.

            All three of these geniuses thought that all humanity would be controlled by a single-minded group, except for a few rebellious souls who valiantly struggled against it.  But the opposite has happened.

            In societies where governments have tried to lock thought down, rebels have used tools like Twitter and Facebook to share prohibited information and ideas with everyone.  And others have shared movies and documents over the internet that their governments haven’t been able to stop.  For those of us who like to howl freely, this has all looked pretty exciting.

            But at the same time, while it’s been impossible to suppress the truth getting out there, other forces have used social media to spread rumors, disinformation, and straight-out lies to millions of people, mixing it in with the truth to where it’s hard to tell them apart. 

            I don’t know what’s been going on where you live, but here it’s been crazy – and I’m just old enough to have seen the change occur.  For example, every four years, we have a big election for the presidency.  Two elections ago, the main issues were about taxes, healthcare, and defense.  But the last election had all kinds of craziness – posts saying one candidate ran a child sex ring in a pizza parlor, or that another had been videoed with women going pee on him!  Now maybe one, or both, of these could be true.  But we were a long long way from the day when such stories didn’t get released until newspapers and television stations had checked to make sure they were factual, so the people who passed on posts saying these things were real had no idea whether they were right – and they just all went straight into everyone’s social media feeds!

            And since then, we’ve learned that this isn’t just the work of a few lunatics or scandal-mongering haters.  Research shows that big organizations, and even governments, have been working to spread such misinformation all over the world.  Why?  Because chaos gives them the chance to achieve power!

            After all, if I’m in a dog park and someone puts a pizza down, I’m going to have to fend off a bunch of pooches to get more than a bite of it.  But if I can get all of those dogs into a big fight on the other side of the grounds, I can get ALL of that yummy pie just for me! 

            But we’re not talking about a pizza or a dogfight.  We’re talking about the most powerful forces in the world, and the future for all of us – especially for you, who are just beginning your lives’ journeys.

            Four months ago, scientists everywhere around the world gave out almost exactly the same recommendations about this awful virus: Stay distanced from others as much as possible, wash or sanitize constantly, and wear masks to slow the disease’s spread.  And what happened?  Everywhere you looked, disagreement erupted about it, with memes and tweets calling masks a conspiracy, the virus a hoax.  Crowds threatened politicians, even brandishing guns, insisting on their God-given rights to go out with bare faces.

            Why?  Why would anyone do something so stupid?  We dogs will pull on leashes we don’t care for, but we don’t bite our humans and insist on running into traffic!

            It’s because they were told to.  Because those people heard and read TONS of misinformation – about the dangers of masks, about how wearing them would take away their rights, about how the reports of people getting sick and dying were lies. 

            Let’s be clear – the people who originally put this nonsense out are murderers.  Places where people insisted on breaking the rules to frolic together maskless are seeing gigantic rises in sickness and in deaths. 

            If I started a fight in a dogpark so I could get a pizza to myself, a pup could get hurt, or even killed, and that would be my fault.  But getting lies sent around the world to create chaos is way way worse.  And it’s happening, all over the world.

            But here’s the craziest part of it, which I keep seeing.  Those books I talked about before?  People everywhere keep saying that they believe that they came true, but that the brainwashing force is only controlling people they disagree with!  All day I hear people complain “The President lies all the time, and no one catches him at it!” Or “The opposition Deep State controls all the media and everyone’s minds!”  As though only they are smart and attuned enough to realize what the rest of the world can’t see.

            When the truth is that there is no such force.  Sure, there are giant governments and corporations, and there are real conspiracies.  But the overwhelming danger of our time is that facts are disagreed on constantly.  Facts that mean survival to us all.  Facts about science, about medicine, about our leaders.

We dogs can’t do much more than we do now; we need you humans to work together on this virus, on world peace, on climate change – while villains have you debating facts instead of fixing the problems!

            So what to do?

            Well, as with most big issues, I find that the first and most important step anyone can take is to look at themselves.  When you see something posted online, or hear something on the radio or television or computer, that might not be true, do you research it?  Or do you shrug and ignore it?  Or do you pass it on to others?!  If you just do the latter, then you are part of the problem, my friend!

            In my last newsletter, I wrote about how all of us need to realize that We Belong to each other.  But that doesn’t mean you have to like everything that I like.  So if I say I love listening to Billie Eilish, and you think she sounds like three cats fighting over a dead rat, that’s okay.  But if someone tells you that Ms. Eilish kidnaps children and eats their fingers, please, PLEASE, don’t pass that on without making very sure you’re right.  (Which is likely to be difficult!)

            What would be even better is, if you see your friends posting things like this, do some research, and post it as a comment.  “Hey I looked this up and it’s not actually true.  Here’s what I found.” 

            If you can do that, you’re not just showing everyone you’re kind of smart; you’re doing your part as a warrior for truth, and fighting back against the forces hoping to destroy goodness in the world!  You’re an Avenger!

            Does that sound a bit dramatic?  Well, imagine if it were 1940, and the truth were coming out about what was happening in the Nazi camps.  And just as it came out, so did thousands of memes and posts telling everyone around the world that that wasn’t true.  How many more innocent people would have been killed because those posts kept governments from stopping that evil?

            As I write this, nearly 600,000 people have been recorded worldwide to have died from the Coronavirus.  We can be pretty sure that some governments have lied to keep their numbers down, so the truth may be closer to a million.  A MILLION DEATHS.  And how many of those could have been avoided if the truth were simply recognized as the truth?

            And isn’t it interesting that three of the nations whose last elections are known to have been manipulated by foreign false information on social media – Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States – are among the countries with the highest death rates, all with presidents who’ve scoffed at the virus and its danger.

            Social Media isn’t going away, and as I said before, it’s accomplished some incredibly wonderful things.  But it’s also enabled an evil that, I’m saying, is the Future we were warned about, but incorrectly. 

            You humans are the most brilliant creatures to have ever lived on this planet, and you’ve found ways to beat nearly every problem that’s ever come to you.  But you’re also the only creatures that know how to lie, and to see through lies.  So the problem you’re facing now is yourselves, and each other – your own superior minds.

            Can you find ways to handle this, to beat it, to create a brave new world where truth is recognized and valued?

            Or will you keep running around in circles of doubt, allowing chaos to be sown and watching the planet warm up to Fahrenheit 451? 

            It’s up to each and every person on the planet.  So please, do your best.  We’re counting on you. 

            Because if you can make this right, what’s ahead is a future, a newer next future, brighter and more wonderful than any future any of us has ever known.

4 Your Commencement: graduating into a new world

One of the sadder side-effects of this pandemic (far less than the tolls of death and illness, and economic pain, but still real) is what it’s done to the final year of school for so many students.  Athletes unable to shine in the sports they’ve mastered, performers not getting the chance to act and sing in the roles they’ve worked so hard on, romances not getting to show off at their proms… and everyone missing out on the big deal – to celebrate graduation.

Now of course, they’ll still get their diplomas.  No one’s taking that away.  It’s not like one of those dreams I’ve seen Handsome wake from in a trembling sweat, where he has to retake classes in his high school!  It’s just that ceremonies and rituals have a great meaning for you humans, and a whole generation is missing out on this one.

But are they really?  Aren’t they experiencing a different graduation, far more profound than the goofy pomposity where people wear flat hats?  They have the whole current world watching as they graduate into a whole new world, a changed reality.

And instead of listening to (probably) boring speeches by their teachers or somebody they’ve never heard of who graduated from their school before they were born, they’re watching new art forms and technologies bloom, made for them.

But wait, I’m not just talking about the 18-year-olds, the Class of 2020.  I’m barking at the entire human race out there.  You ALL are graduating!  You have finished learning whatever you could in the Pre-Coronavirus world, and are being released into a new one – one you don’t fully understand, with new responsibilities, new hopes, and new fears.  It’s what high-school and university graduates have always experienced, but now it’s everyone.

Just like all high schoolers ever, all of humanity has felt victimized these last months, like the world expects everything of them and isn’t giving them the support they need.  And I’m not going to tell anyone they’ve been wrong to feel this.  But the change is on. 

And just as university graduates always have, you’re being told you’re expected to be responsible leaders now, while deep down you know you’re not prepared for that. 

So you current students (or for those who’re older, looking back on when you were), when you were in school, did you ever cheat on a Biology exam without learning the material?  Did you squeak through a History class without really understanding it?  Did you drop that Math course halfway before it was done? 

Too bad.  You’re out of school.  You’re heading into the world with exactly the knowledge you have.  No more…

…But also… No less!  You are more prepared than you know, and have learned thousands of lessons along your awkward journey, just like everyone else.

So Congratulations, and Happy Graduation!

(yikes!)

But when I say that you’re graduating, what does that really mean?  If you could attend a ceremony now, what would it really be about, in your life?

This week, I got an amazing letter from tuktuk, one of my Pack members.  It said more about the meaning of graduation than any speech I’ve ever heard.  And it’s just a description of a… well I’ll let her tell you…

I had a dream. At my school, when we graduate, we have a formal farewell, where teachers talk about the students.  In my dream, we were having that ceremony in the playground. I was standing with a friend D, and my other friends were also there.

And suddenly I saw the younger version of a friend, and D started calling him out, and he waved back.  Then we realized that all of our younger versions were playing in the round. So, I went to find my younger version. I was having a hard time finding her. Then, the bell rang and all the kids were lined up and there I found myself.

I called her out and talked to her. I asked her to not to repeat the mistakes I did when I was young, and to be happy. And she asked me to do the same, and not to look back, and to focus on my future.

Then everyone were gathering in the ground, and I saw my mother from a distance and wanted to show her my younger version. I went to her and showed her mini-me, and then I asked her to click a picture of me with her.

Then I woke up. The dream was strange and made me happy. I want to know the meaning behind my dream.

Well, as you can guess, I told her that I thought that dream held more meaning than this doggy brain can possibly grasp.  But I just LOVE the idea that the most important guest at a graduation isn’t your friends or your family, but you – the you of your past, and the you of your future. 

What would you tell that younger you if you could today?  And what would they tell you?  What would you tell your future you?  And what might they say to you?

The advice is going to be different for everyone.  Did you spend high school studying all the time and avoiding a social life?  Well if so, wouldn’t you tell that version of you to put the books away some night and go make a fool of yourself at a party?  Or did you spend school playing video games and sneaking out to vape with friends?  Maybe you’d tell that you, “Stop wasting your time!  Do something useful!” 

And what would you tell the you that’s moving forward now?  I think tuktuk’s advice is great, to focus on the future and not the mistakes of the past (though of course they’ll keep coming back, as they always do!). 

For example, did you accidentally go out last week without a mask?  Did you hug a friend when you weren’t supposed to?  Well, you could focus on “I’m such an air-head!  I could have caused someone’s death!  I’m so horrible!”  Or you could say, “Hmm… I need to learn from that.  Maybe I’ll get an extra mask and keep it in my pocket in case I forget again.”  And “I need to stay more focused, and not hug people though I want to so badly!”  That’s a much healthier way to deal with those screwups. 

Because, my friends, every one of us is our present, our past, and our future, right now.  I am so in awe of the end of tuktuk’s dream – getting a picture of herself with her younger self, taken by her mother.  What a great definition of your eternal self! 

I recommended to her, and I do to all of you, to put some time aside and follow through on that idea.  However you’d do it.  Draw a picture of you and your younger self.  Or use your brilliance on computers to create a photograph of you two together.  Or maybe write a play where you two meet and talk.  Whatever you create will be your truth, right now.  And maybe add your future self in there as well.

The world is new every day, my friends.  And each of you get to be a part of creating what it will be.  This virus will go down, or maybe even go away.  What matters is what the post-pandemic world will be.  And that’s up to you.

Talk to your past, your future, your parents and friends, and most importantly to your present selves.  Whether you’re 9 or 99, the most exciting moment ever, full of more potential than ever before, is right now.

So throw that goofy hat in the air, give a joyous yell, and leap into it! It’s YOURS!

2 Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules

Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules

Among the differences between us dogs and you humans, at least once you reach a certain age, is the way you guys are so squeamish!  Things that seem normal to us, or really terrific, nauseate you.  You never sniff each other’s butts hello, you never roll around on dead animals you find, and you insist on cleaning yourselves with soap and water, instead of using your tongues the way we do!

So you might say we pups live in the world of the gross.  The smells we seek out when you take us for walks are just the ones you go to great lengths to avoid.  And we’re fascinated by watching you work so hard to get rid of them.  Imagine how curious you’d find it if someone took good care of their garden but removed all the prettiest flowers and threw them into the trash.  Well that’s what it’s like for us when you cover up all the most interesting smells and treats!

Now in the past few weeks, I’ve been watching you guys struggle with a completely changed world, a new reality.  Where all the rules are unlike anything that was true two months ago:  DON’T go to school, DON’T shake hands when you meet someone, DON’T go visit your grandparents, just STAY on that couch and watch your iPad and phone!  HUH?!

Lots of you are extremely confused, especially about how best to stay safe: Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask even though they won’t keep you safe, sanitize, moisturize…  of course you’re all going cuckoo! 

But I have a way, through my gross little brain, to help you out.  It’s all about us dogs (isn’t it always!).  Here goes:

First, if you’ve ever had a dog you take on walks, I hope you’re considerate enough of your neighbors to also bring along a bag or two, to clean up when we poop.  (Yes, I said POOP!  I told you, I’m pushing your nausea envelope today!)  So when we plop out something you guys find stinky and distasteful, you reach down and put it in the bag.  Right?

And you do it perfectly, right?  Only the bag touches our nasty turds, right?  No bit of your finger could possibly accidentally brush against it?  And nothing sticking to the bag could get  onto your hand when you tie the top into a knot, right?  You’re ABSOLUTELY SURE? 

Well, just to test your sureness, how about if a friend of yours offers you a handful of chocolate-covered peanuts.  But you need to hold them in your hand, before you put them in your mouth.


Do you?  I’ll bet you don’t!

In fact, I’ll bet you go, “That’s so nice of you.  Let me wash my hands to make sure there isn’t any dog-doo on them, and then I’ll gladly take those yummy treats and devour them!”  Or maybe it’s “Could you just put them into my mouth?  I’m worried about what’s on my hands.”  Or you even think, “Well I know nothing touched my left hand, so I can eat from that… I think!”

But as long as you don’t put your hands in your mouth, or touch your nose or eyes, or touch anyone else, you probably don’t worry about what might be on you, right?  You might even be on an hour-or-two-long hike with your pooch, and very happy to wait to wash up afterwards.  But you don’t put your poopy hands on your face!  And that’s all that matters!

Now imagine you walk into your home after that walk, and there’s a knock on the door, and without thinking you turn the knob and open it.  You chat with the person there, shut the door, and think, “… hmm… I shouldn’t have touched the knob, there might be some of that doggie’s poo on there.”  So you wash your hands and  the knob, right?  But what if you forgot to at the time, and it’s the next day, and you realize, “Wow I should have washed that doorknob yesterday, when I might have gotten something onto it.”  Do you feel you need to wash it now?  Probably not.  It’s been so long, anything nasty would have dried out or evaporated.

And this is exactly what the experts are saying to do about the coronavirus!  Keep your hands away from your face, wash or sanitize often, and be aware that it can last on other surfaces but just for a time.

In other words, when it comes to your hands, there’s really no mystery about Coronavirus – just TREAT IT LIKE DOG POOP!  Yes it’s potentially much more dangerous if you get it into your system, but the way to treat it is JUST THE SAME.

Okay, now, time for number two!  (Yes, that’s a little joke there for those who get it.  Clever pup, aren’t I!)   And this one’s about Breathing!

Now I think my breath smells just great, but I’m not a new puppy anymore and my mouth has had lots of things in it over the years, and so I have… well… dog breath.  And even it’s not as pungent as some other dogs I’ve known, like those with rotting teeth!  So what would you do if your breath smelled as bad as ours?  How would you keep your friends?!

Well, one thing you could do is to stay a little distance away from everyone.  After all, bad breath is just airborne molecules, that dissipate as it gets further from the nasty mouth.  Some say six feet (or two meters) and some say farther is better.  But either way, just stay far enough away that others can’t smell you.  But to be even safer, why not put a covering over your mouth, to keep all that stink inside, away from others?

Well that, my dear friends, is social distancing, and face masks!  One of the worst things about Covid-19 is that a person can be infected with it but not feel it for a few days.  So when it comes to dealing with others, act as if you know you have it!  And since it, like bad breath, is borne in droplets in air, the way to do that is to stay six feet or more away from others, and wear a mask to keep the nasty stuff in.  (Yes, there are fancier, more technological masks, that actually do help keep the person wearing them safe.  But you don’t need that if you’re following the other rules; leave those for the brave selfless health workers who are getting right up next to people with the disease for hours and days and weeks on end.  They need them; you don’t.)

Now there are those other rules to follow, of course.  Stay home if you can, wash instantly if anyone coughs or sneezes on you, keep healthy, take vitamins and zinc and… oh you don’t need me telling you these things!

But if you can remember the rules of Poop and Bad Breath, you ought to be safe.  Safe enough to get through this awful period, and move on to the sort of world we had and want to have again, a world where all your other problems, like about crushes and dating and anger and betrayal and embarrassment… those GREAT problems, become all we talk about again!

6 The Man on the Roof – the importance of experts

The Man on the Roof – the importance of experts

            Okay, before I get to anything else, let me be very clear on this.  I don’t use, and no dog ever has used, toilet paper!  That’s all on you guys!

            There’s a terrific story – I don’t know where it came from originally.  It tells of a religious man who is warned that a great flood is coming.  But because of his deep faith, he trusts that he’s safe. 

            It starts to rain, and a neighbor pulls up in their car, and offers to drive him with their family, to where it’s dry. 

            “No thank you, I trust in my God, and He will save me,” he tells them.

            They drive off, wishing him the best.  And it keeps raining.

            It rains so hard and so long that the street floods.  Another neighbor comes by, floating down the street in a boat, and offers to let him on.

            “No thank you, I trust in my God, and He will save me,” he tells them.

            And they wish him well and paddle away. 

And it rains yet more.  And the water rises so high that only his roof sticks above water, so he sits on it waiting.

A police helicopter flies over, and from a loudspeaker, orders him to grab the ladder so they can fly him to safety. 

            “No thank you, I trust in my God, and He will save me,” he yells to them.  And eventually they fly off to save other people.

            And it keeps raining, and eventually he is drowned and dies.

            His soul goes up to Heaven, where he, as he had always hoped, meets face-to-face with God. He exclaims his shock and disappointment, “I had faith in you, and you let me die!”

            God shrugs his shoulders and snaps at him, “What more could I do?  I sent you a car, I sent you a boat, I sent you a helicopter, and you wouldn’t accept any of them!”

            Now today, in our modern technological world, we’ve been sent something else.  Experts.  We have a lot of experts.

            There’s so much knowledge out there, no person could ever know even a small portion of it.  But you have each other, and between the seven billion of you, you guys know an awful lot!  We other animals are constantly impressed.

            But then, we also get shocked when we see you ignoring all that expertise and choosing easier or dumber answers instead.

            We hear of people who insist that our planet is flat, though everyone from physicists to airplane pilots offers proof that it’s not.

            We hear of people who swear vaccines cause Autism, though that has been disproven many times.

            And in just this past month, we’ve heard a global pandemic referred to as no big deal, as a “hoax,” as particular to a particular race of people, or as a military plot, and people being told to buy up all the toilet paper and water they can – all by voices who share one thing in common: None of them are experts, and none were using the information experts told them!

We don’t know, and maybe never will, exactly when the Chinese government first realized there was a new, highly contagious, virus in the city of Wuhan.  But once the word got out from there, we know that there were experts all over the world who had studied diseases, viruses, medical supplies, government reactions and actions, and all sorts of other essential aspects of a situation like this.

And we know that a lot of those experts spoke up.

And we know that a lot of people in governments, in businesses, and in media, found what they said unwanterd, and so ignored it.  Or even lied about it.

And because of those corrupt actions, a lot of people will get sick.  And a lot of people will die.

            But wait, are so-called “experts” always right?  We’ve seen throughout history that of course that’s not the case.  So how do you choose who to listen to, and who to believe?

            I have a solution. 

Now normally I’m a big optimist, but you know we dogs are also guardians, so we have a certain pessimism as well. 

My idea is that if you ignore the experts, you’re a fool.  But if you put all your trust into one expert, they might turn out to be incorrect, or a phony.

But if you listen to, and act on, what all the different experts say, your odds of getting the right answer improve a lot. 

So a person might get sick and be told that a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, vitamins and hydration, or a medical drug would help.  Which should they do? Well, if it’s just a little sniffle, you can ignore it.  Or if it’s a cold you get often, you can just do what usually works.  But if it’s something bad, why not do them ALL, at least as much as you can afford?  In the end, when you get better, you won’t know which of them worked and which didn’t, or if it was a mixture of two or more… but you’ll be well, right? 

            So imagine if, when the news about this virus came to light, every government in the world had immediately invested in testing, started research to develop vaccines and cures, arranged to follow people entering and exiting their borders, to see if any were infected, to limit transmission.  Would there have been needless expenditure?  Sure.  Would one or only a few countries gain an enormous economic boost when they created and patented the right medicines?  Yep.  

And would this have staved off a worldwide humanitarian and economic disaster?  Absolutely.

            Now it’s too late to fix what’s gone wrong.  But on the biggest level (governments, diplomacy) and the smallest (our individual lives), we can learn from this experience.  I don’t know how bad it’s going to get, but no one’s saying the human race won’t survive (and the scientists are now saying we dogs aren’t susceptible to it!  Whew!).  So the world can benefit by our learning.

            But for now, just do me a couple of favors.  Wherever you live, wash your hands with soap more than you normally do, control your coughing and sneezing to keep it from going at people, and DON’T HOARD WATER AND TOILET PAPER!  There’s absolutely no reason to, and you’re creating worse problems than existed before!  (Truly – you’d be in way more danger living in an area where people can’t get toilet paper than you are from Coronavirus!)  Plus it’s just mean.  And at times like this, we need to be as kind as we can.

            Trust me on this.  In this one single area (how we treat others) I am, yes, an Expert!

Choosing the Chase: the power of hope

Choosing the Chase: the power of hope

            Handsome told me about a really interesting photo he saw recently.  Two signs are hanging on a fence, not quite even.  One of them says “You Matter.”  And the other says “Don’t Give Up.”  But because they’re next together, you could read them as saying “You Don’t Matter.  Give Up.”  It’s all in how your mind takes it in.  And I’d argue, what your mind chooses to take in.

            Now the point of the photo is to be funny, but I think there’s something really important in it.  We see evidence all the time that can be used to argue one point or another.  For example, I see a squirrel a few meters away from a tree; is that good news for me (I can chase him and catch him), or for him (he’s close enough to get up the tree before I get there)? 

            Or maybe a boy you like at school asks you what you got on a question from last night’s math homework.  Does that mean he was looking for a reason to talk to you, or that he’s only interested in you because you’re good at math?  Same evidence, different reading.

            Or… We’ve all seen a sixteen-year-old girl speaking out about how humans have been ignoring the damage they’re doing to the planet, while governments and industries dismiss or deny her words.  Does this mean the human race is moving forward into a new era of ecological responsibility?  Or that ‘The System’ is too powerful for even the strongest voices to change anything?

            Both.  Or Either.

            So let me go back to that squirrel (as I’m highly inclined to do).  Now I could decide that he’s too close to the tree, and not chase him, and I’d be fine.  I wouldn’t have the fun of chasing him, or the thrill of catching him, but I’d be no worse off than I was before.  Or I could chase him and fail to catch him, and feel some disappointment.  Or I could chase him and catch him, yippee!

            There’s not a right choice, or a wrong choice.  But, as some serious philosophers who know a lot more than I do have said, the choice I make defines me, at least to a certain degree.  Either I’m the kind of dog who takes the chance to chase that squirrel, or I’m not.  And in the long run, that definition will matter a lot more than whether or not I catch him.  It’ll be my essence.

            So when that cute boy asks you for that help, who are you?  Are you the girl who tells him “no,” because you’re sure he’ll only hurt your feelings by ignoring you afterward?  Or are you the girl who helps him but then runs away out of nervous shyness?  Or are you the girl who says “I can give you the answer, but that’ll only help you for the moment.  Want to meet up after school at the library, and I’ll explain it to you so you can pass the test as well?”  Oooh, I know which one I’d want to be!

            Now again, he might say no.  He might be busy, or he might be a horrible jerk who says “No, if people saw us together it’d ruin my reputation,” and you’ll cry all night. 

            But again, who are you?  How you choose to look at his question will define that.

            In my country, we have a leader who most voters didn’t want; he got elected by a weird rule from 230 years ago that really makes no sense.  Since then, he’s never gained popularity, and a lot of people who hadn’t known what to think of him now see him as a lying criminal.  The next election is later this year, and the opposition party is engaged in a big battle for who they’ll nominate to go up against him, but in most polls, every one of them comes out ahead of him.

            So why is it that, every day, I hear people bemoaning the “fact” that he’s going to get re-elected?  He’s unpopular, he’s lost far more supporters than he’s gained over time, and he’s gotten caught at numerous illicit activities.  So why aren’t they celebrating?  Yes he might win, through fair or unfair means, but the odds are in their favor.  So why?

            It’s those signs.  They’ve gotten so used to being disappointed about him, they’re seeing “You Don’t Matter.  Give Up.” Instead of the other.  They’re seeing the squirrel being close to the tree, not just out of distance of it.  They’re seeing the polluters win over the outspoken girl.  And they’re preparing themselves for the boy to ignore them after getting that right answer.

            Of course, some goals are unattainable (I can’t catch flying birds) and some are easy (I never have trouble getting the dinner Handsome leaves out for me).  All I’m talking about is the in-betweens.  The Hards.  But again, you get to choose what you do when you see those.  And that means you get to choose exactly who you are.

            A beautiful old song sings, “The difficult I’ll do right now.  The impossible will take a little while.”  That might be taking things a bit far, but I can tell you, until I get so old my legs can’t lift me up, I will always chase that squirrel.  Not because I’ll catch him.  Just because I don’t want to be that dog who doesn’t.

            Be who you choose. 

            After all, who else would you want to be?!

2 The Space Between – finding the sacred in every day

            I was lying down on the bed, as I always like to do in the middle of the day, with my eyes closed, when I heard footsteps come near me.  And before I opened my eyelids, I realized something: I didn’t know what to feel!  If it was Handsome or a friend of his coming by, that was really good news – I might get petted or even fed a treat.  But if it was a stranger, then I needed to go on the alert – to growl or snarl, to defend our home, or even to run away.  And in either case, my reaction wasn’t so much about the person as about their proximity.  How close they were to me.

            After all, I walk through the world with strangers all the time, whenever Handsome takes me on a walk or to anywhere.  And they don’t mean anything much to me, just maybe occasionally someone to sniff.  But some will come into my awareness, enter my space, connect to my energy with theirs, and suddenly they’re my new best friend, or a serious foe.

            This all made me think about the nature of the space between us.  At this moment right now, there is a space between you and me.  Maybe it’s three feet, maybe it’s twelve thousand miles, but you and I have a spatial relationship (Of course we have another relationship by you reading this, but I’m only talking about physical distance here).  And most likely it’s a space we’re not noticing, that really doesn’t matter at all to us.

            But when someone gets to a certain nearness to us, our sense of that space changes.  Again, maybe that’s a negative – maybe you’re walking down a dark street and someone starts walking too close to you for your comfort, and you’re frightened. 

            But often, very often, the space is something else.  Not negative at all.  Let’s say you’re shopping in a grocery store, and there’s a person a few feet away from you, looking at the salad dressing while you’re looking at olives.  No big deal at all.  But then they turn to ask you about olive oil.  And suddenly everything has changed.  The space between you has a question to it – are they really just asking about olive oil?  Are they attracted to you and trying to start a conversation?  Are they nice?  Do you want to talk to them?  Maybe you like the way they look and hope they’ll stick around?  Or maybe you’re just happy to help a stranger out?  Or maybe you don’t know anything about olive oil and are a little embarrassed?

            My point is that whenever two conscious beings are near each other, there’s a mystery.  Maybe very little (like if you’re next to your sister whom you’ve known all your life, and who frankly bores you, but who could  punch you in the cheek, or not!), or maybe a lot – like before I opened my eyelids that afternoon.  And that, unless one of you is really frightened, the less you know about what to expect, the more magical that space is.  In fact, I’d even call it Sacred.

            Have you ever been to a play?  That moment the curtain opens, you feel an excitement – maybe something will entertain you, make you laugh or cry, change your view on something.  Or when the lights go down in a movie theater and the screen lights up.  The stage and the screen are, to my mind, fully sacred spaces (Of course I’m basing this on what I’ve heard – no one’s ever let me into a movie theater).  Or ask a painter what the most sacred space in the world is, and I can almost guarantee, they’ll tell you “a blank canvas!”

            Or think of when you’ve had a dance at school.  Maybe it’s in a gym.  You’ve had your Physical Education classes there every day for years, but that night it’s different.  The room is full of unknown, of mystery.  Will that person you’ve had an eye on for weeks want to dance with you?  Will they talk with you?  Will they want to walk outside with you?  Will they sneer at you and tell you to go away?  The air is electric with excitement, with anticipation, with fear.  And the walls, the floor, the chairs, everything is new and mysterious.  Now if you have a lousy night, no one wants to dance with you, and you feel lonely and humiliated, then there’s nothing you’re going to see as special there.  But what if there’s even a moment of a chance…  Isn’t the place suddenly a bit more supernatural?!

            What I’m after here is for you, me, all of us, to open ourselves up more, to feel the magic that exists every time we meet anyone.  Not just the materially hopeful side (this person might give me a treat!  Or that one might give you a job!), but that you never know what that person, or dog, is really like.  That you might get something from them that will change your life – a new perspective, a new friend, even a new joke.  And the more we’re aware of that, the more we can feel the sacredness of that space, the beauty of it, the shock of possibility.

            I guess what I’m really saying is that mystery, unless it’s clouded by fear, is always sacred.  The unknown is sacred.  Animals are sacred. And because their whole lives are unknowable, babies are the most sacred thing of all.

            Try it.  Walk up to someone, whether you know them or not, and feel how the energy changes when you’re a meter away, half a meter away, a quarter.  Yes there can be fear, but there’s also anticipation.  And you can use that any way you like.  To look away politely, or to smile warmly, or to have some fun with it.  (Like have you ever stood in an elevator, where everyone politely looks around and avoids each other, and made a silly face and a goofy sound?  THAT is honoring that sacred space in a great way!  I love jumping on people there, where they can’t get away, but Handsome usually keeps me from doing it in case they’re afraid of me.  You don’t have that problem!)

            The potential for love and humor and help is everywhere.  And you can make it your life.  The world can be your temple if you let it.

            Just do what I did on that bed.  Feel it, and open your eyes!

1 Wagging Your Tail – the best cheap gift you can give

Picture two different situations.  In the first, you walk into a room where you find a large dog.  You’re both startled, but the pooch stands up, tail wagging, and looks at you with wide eyes and an open mouth, its pink tongue slightly hanging out.  In the second you walk into the same room, and encounter the same dog, but the mutt stays on the ground, staring up at you, unblinking, tail still, mouth closed, eyes unexpressive.  Which situation would you rather be in?  And what would you do differently in one room or the other?

I’m going to guess that you’ll feel a lot more comfortable in the first room.  You might even walk up to the dog, or kneel down and call the pup over to you for a head-pat.  The second dog hasn’t done anything mean or threatening, but you’re just left unsure, and will probably give that pooch a lot of space.  No hugs, no pats, no ear-scratches, no tummy rubs.  And who could blame you?  After all, we have a lot of teeth!

I bring this up because of something I’m noticing about the people around me.  So many are sad, scared, lonely, or frightened in this hectic world, and the one thing that can most easily ease their nervousness comes in too short a supply: Smiles.

Smiles work in the human brain just like those doggy behaviors I described.  Babies learn when their eyes first focus that a smiling face means all sorts of good things – safety, warmth, food, and of course that most important one, diaper changes!  (Sorry, little bit of doggy humor there!  No, that most important thing for a baby, of course, is Love)

As children grow, smiles become, if anything, more important.  Remember going to school and being greeted by a sweet warm smile from your teacher?  And how that felt?  And remember being greeted by another teacher’s scowl, or a blank face looking you over to judge you?  And how that felt?  And if you ever had to go to the hospital, how much safer and more confident you felt if the doctor or nurse gave you a friendly beaming, instead of just sternly focusing on your wound or illness?

And then, yeah, you knew I’d get to this, there’s that point when you start wanting someone, maybe of the opposite sex, to like you.  Or let me rephrase that – when you care more about them liking you than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD!  And a smile from that special person can make your whole day, and not getting it leaves you just crushed.

Now of course there are mean smiles, cruel smiles, hateful smiles.  We’ve all seen them.  A sneer at you when you fail at something.  A grin showing the glee someone feels over feeling better than you.  Or, maybe worst of all, a fake “say cheese” pretending kindness while hiding bad intent.

And because of these, it makes sense to sometimes distrust a smile.  Which is really sad.

Also, there’s the problem that giving smiles signals an openness, an availability.  After all, what if that tail-wagging dog I described didn’t want to be petted?  Its friendly “smile” pulled it into a situation it didn’t want at all, right?  So I’m certainly not saying you should smile all the time, at everyone.

(In fact, this brings up a good point. Some dogs are actually frightened by people giving them big toothy smiles – they look like snarling fangs to them. Just as some people who’ve been attacked by angry dogs are scared when I run up and jump on them. Best to, with new dogs, keep your lips together in your enchanted grin. But with people, you can show all the teeth you like!)

All I want is for you to realize the incredible power you have, right there in the corners of your mouth.  After all, with just the slightest use of those muscles, you can change lives.

Haven’t you had a time when you were really nervous, maybe before giving a report at school or playing a tough game in a sport, and someone’s smile gave you the confidence you needed to give it your best?

Or when you walked into a group of strangers, hoping to feel welcomed, and someone’s snarl or disinterested blank expression left you devastated, and unable to join the conversation?

And haven’t you come to someone at a time you felt full of remorse and guilt, praying they’d accept you.  And when you got their warm smile, your whole world opened up, knowing you had escaped a cold future of disdain?

You know that old song that goes “I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘How do you do,’ They’re really saying ‘I love you’?”  Well I’d argue that a handshake and a casual greeting are fine, but it’s really the smile that accompanies them that says those three beautiful words.  (Funny, since the guy who sang it arguably had the brightest smile in the history of your species!)

Yes, smiling is a way to say to a total stranger, “I don’t know you, but I give you love, to the degree I can.”  Just like a tail-wag and a sniff.

Now these days, where I live, there’s so much tension around.  The weather’s crazy, politics is just upended, and then there’s the issue of the holidays.  Everyone’s in a rush to get to parties, do their shopping, or make a little more money to get through this time.  And while all that should be happy, I just see angry drivers, impatient arguments, and general resentment all over. 

And what can change that?  Well nothing can completely fix it, but I do find that a friendly smile does more than just about anything else. 

Try it.  When walking down that cold rainy sidewalk, smile at the person walking toward you.  When stepping aside to let more people in that crowded elevator, give them all a grin.  And when you’re stuck in a gridlocked intersection, shine your best smile at the other drivers. 

I think you’ll find that, in many cases, they laugh.  Not at you, but with you.  You see, your smile says to them “I know this situation is ridiculous, my friend, so bad it’s funny.”  And that makes them see the humor in it too.

And while you both might be out spending a month’s salary on some special gift for some special someone, it might be that smile, and that laugh, that truly prove to be the best gifts you give all year.  At least the most needed.  At a very reasonable price!

Now again, sure, if you’re in a situation that doesn’t feel completely safe, and you think it might be best if you don’t smile, then that’s fine – there’s no need to.  But I know what I’d hope for then.  While you keep yourself more protected, and keep your face down, someone else there – someone more comfortable than you, more at ease – sees this, and gives you a big grin, telling you you’re safe and even liked.

And that, seeing that, you feel safe enough to give a nice small smile back.  Or, for that matter, a giant grin! 

After all, when we dogs wag our tails at you, we’re hoping for a reaction too.  Maybe even a treat. 

And smiling back is about as welcome as a slice of pizza!

The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure

The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure

            Of all the concepts humans have created, I think Democracy must be the most human.  No other species works this way.  Bees are born Workers, Drones, or Queens, and we dogs work out our leadership by fighting, sometimes to the death.  You see, all the rest of us species take leadership as something ordained by strength, not by the willingness of the group.  And because we all understand that, the group is actually willing to follow that leader!

            But you folks have come up with this amazing idea, that if the majority of your group wants something, the rest of the group ought to accept that as the decision.  It does wonders for Peace, which is one of my favorite causes.  After all, as much as they may dislike each other, we can assume that, next month, Boris Johnson and his supporters won’t be fighting Jeremy Corbin and his to bloody messes in the streets!  And Democracy probably does, more often than not, result in the best results for each society that adopts it.

            And yet, always, it has proven imperfect.  Not because people make the wrong choices, but because they’ve never let it work as it should.

            In ancient Greece, where the idea first took a major hold, only adult male citizens were allowed to vote – not women, not kids or teens, not non-citizens, and not slaves (who totaled over half the people there!).  Later incarnations, like in France and England, tried to merge Democracy with their Monarchic traditions.  And the United States, which likes to brag about how much it spreads Democracy around the world, spent most of its first 200 years not letting women or non-white men vote. 

            But the past doesn’t really matter in all this.  After all, Handsome wouldn’t let me have the house to myself today if I still had the problems I did as a little puppy – pooping and peeing and chewing everything up all over the place.  And similarly, just because something was done in a wrong way a couple of centuries ago doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done right today.

            But today, Democracy has problems the ancient Greeks, and revolutionary French and Americans, never dreamed of.  Today people around the world are told they can vote, but if they actually show up to do so, are threatened or beaten.  Polling places are placed near the people governments want to vote, and way too far away from those they don’t.  And now we’ve got this crazy cyberattack nonsense, where people from other countries will create social media to get people to vote against their own interests, or even just to add chaos to a country to weaken it.  And then, when a government is voted in by those methods, of course they’ll do all they can to keep them from being changed, knowing they might then lose re-election. 

            So what’s the human race to do?  Should Democracy be tossed aside, as something that served people well for a long time but has outlasted its usefulness, like tobacco and the horse-and-carriage?  (Or, what I’d like to see, coal mining and terrorism?)  Or is there hope for it, a way for it to improve and get a little closer to the ideal it began as?

            It’s a tough question.  When what was once the world’s greatest empire is on the verge of voting itself into near-irrelevance and poverty, and the dominant nation of the last century is a year away from likely re-electing a criminal gangster the world laughs at, both due largely due to foreign online interference, it’s hard to argue that their systems are better than, say, a stable monarchy.  And other countries, like Turkey and The Philippines, are electing leaders that act like dictators or monarchs, grabbing more and more power for themselves, making us onlookers wonder what good Democracy ever offered in the first place.

            And the world itself isn’t looking so great right now.  I doubt there’s ever been a time before when wildfires were raging in both Australia and California (who have opposite seasons), while Venice is flooding and Dallas is freezing and Paris has been breaking heat records.  And all because of something scientists have seen coming for twenty years or more, but voters keep electing charlatans and liars who deny it, and thereby don’t do anything to help stop or slow it.  Islands are disappearing, plants are dying off, and animals are going extinct every day.  It’s nothing less than nightmarish.

            But I’m going to argue for Democracy anyway.  Because it offers one benefit all the other methods of governing don’t: the possibility of change.

            Oh sure, kingdoms and dictatorships have been overthrown through revolutions, but what other form of government allows the people to peacefully say “Hmm, we’ve made a mistake, so let’s fix it now.”  And that doesn’t just mean changing who’s in charge.  It can mean changing a law to allow more people to vote, or their votes to count in different ways.  It can mean electing people who will fight against phony influence in elections.  It can mean voting to find new ways to deal with problems we can’t even conceive of yet.

            You see, the powerful will always do what they can to keep their power.  This doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes sense.  And, at the least, what Democracy does is forces them to give up just enough of that power to enough people, if they want to keep voted in.  At least that’s how it’s often worked over time.

            For those who want a “strongman” in charge, I can tell you that a dog pack is a pretty rough environment.  And for those who want an inherited monarchy, I can tell you worker bees and drones have a great work-ethic but not much imagination, and that if they had nearly as much as dogs or humans, those hives would see upturns all the time.

            So while the greatest Democracies in the world go through this really bad period, I – incapable of voting or being voted for anything – recommend you humans double-down on this one-person-one-vote idea.  That crazy notion that no one of you deserves more of a say than any other.  That eventually the best of you will rise to the top, if no one keeps you from it.

            And then do everything you can to make it so.  

The rest of us are counting on you.

1 Some Notes on Treason – what loyalty and betrayal mean

Some Notes on Treason – what loyalty and betrayal mean

            A very dark word is being spoken in my country a lot these days: “Treason.”  It means a few different things, and none of them is good. 

            The word has been around since the thirteenth century, referring to betraying a trust.  But it goes back to Latin – this is nothing new.

            And of course, we’ve all heard stories of betrayal going back as far as stories go – Judas Iscariot, or the men Odysseus had to fight off to get his home and wife back (but note – always note – the one being in that home who was steadfastly loyal to him, and the only one who recognized him after all his time away, was his dog!).

            But what we hear about it now mostly regards our nations, our governments.  People in our governments doing acts against their own countries, their own people.  For whatever reason.

            Now look, I have to be honest – As a dog, I would be perfectly happy to see all national boundaries fall.  Countries are human creations, and seem to create more trouble than good: wars, prejudices, even travel difficulties.  But as long as they do exist, it really is a sign of bad character when someone betrays their own people (unless it’s for a truly-felt cause.  I’ll never look down on those Germans who rebelled against the Nazis, for example, or Americans who sneaked slaves away from their persecutors!). 

            And we’ve been seeing a lot of this lately.  Even leaders working against their own countries.  I wonder why anyone stands for it.

  (We have a situation here in the U.S. right now where our President got caught breaking the law, doing things against our country’s interests, but not only is he not admitting treason –  he’s accusing the people investigating him of it!)

And this is my big concern.  Not that sometimes people break laws or do bad things.  That’s always happened.  But I worry when I see people not caring  about who their own people are – their family, their nation, even their romantic mates.  And don’t even get me STARTED on those who betray or abandon their dogs!!

So what’s different today?  Why is this happening now?  I wonder if… maybe because you humans have become less attached to each other, due to social media?  Hey, even my writings to you folks are non-national in their nature; I don’t care whether you’re in Nigeria or Pakistan – you’re all just wonderful humans to me!  But while I believe that’s true, and the way the world should keep moving, that doesn’t mean I believe in betraying your own countrypeople, or your boyfriends or girlfriends either.

So as much as I avoid egotism, I’ve got to put this out here: No Dog Has Ever Committed Treason!  We don’t even think that way!  If a dog in a pack starts grabbing more power than they should have, the pack deals with it right away.  It’s how our leadership changes.  It’s not treason, it’s just our way.

Imagine a family dog turning on the family.  It just doesn’t happen.  Does that mean we’re better than you, or just have less imagination?  I’ll leave that question up to you.

But just for now, I’d love for you to take a second to think – who are your ‘packs’ (besides this one I mean!)?  Your relatives?  Your school?  Your city?  Your place of worship? 

Or how about some that get more morally difficult – would you say those of your religion?  Your neighborhood?  How about your race? 

And just for argument’s sake, think of your current romantic relationship, or one you’d like to be in.  What would you consider betrayal from them?  Getting involved with someone else, probably.  But what about lying to you?  Lying about you?  Keeping something from you?  What about just losing some of their feelings for you for a time? 

Where do you draw the line?

I don’t have easy answers for you.  But I do know it’s important to know who you value, who you consider “your people.”  And what you consider to be Treason.

Because until you know these, you won’t really know who you are. 

And it’s only when you know who you are that you can truly act morally. 

Or immorally.  Whichever you happen to choose.

2 The Great Art of Happying — an easy step to a better life

The Great Art of Happying — an easy step to a better life

            You’re probably aware, I don’t know nearly as much English as I write – I just have this amazing computer program that translates my doggy thoughts into words you can read.  But I do have a pretty good ability to understand a few words – “Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel,” “GetAwayFromThatPlateKnuckleheadThat’sNotYourCheeseSandwich!” – and so on.  But sometimes I can do something kind of wonderful too: I can realize what someone’s saying and that they’re saying it incorrectly.  You know, like when a little child says “My dog’s a gooder dog than Shirelle” (which I don’t particularly like) or “Shirelle is the Bestest Dog in the World!” (which I love!)

            Maybe grammar teachers don’t like hearing that sort of creative word usage, but I do.  There’s something magic in it – like where someone means something so strongly, they need to make up new words to get it across.

So Handsome and I were talking with our friend Suraj.  He was excitedly talking about his upcoming marriage.  He comes from a culture where couples aren’t allowed to have any romantic contact before their wedding, so he’s not only thrilled about spending the rest of his life with this wonderful woman – he’s going nuts anticipating their first kiss! 

(I really have to bow down to their noble self-restraint in this.  I can’t wait more than a few seconds after meeting someone to put a big lick across their face, or at least on their hands if they’re scared of me, and that’s if they’re strangers!  The idea of not covering one of my best friends in smooches is pure impossibility!)

And then he said something that really caught my ear.  “The way I see it, people are really mistaken about marriage,” he explained.  “They think you have to be of the same class, or the same race, or even the same religion.  But you don’t.  What matters is that you know how to Happy each other.  And if you can Happy the other person, and the other person can Happy you, and you both like Happying each other, then it’s going to work forever.  It just has to.”

I glanced up at Handsome to see if he was going to correct Suraj’s wording, but instantly knew he wasn’t – the enchanted smile on his face was the same I’d have made if my lips worked that way.  Yes, Suraj was right – righter than he would have been with the right words.  And not just about marriage.

We dogs have fewer opportunities for pleasure than you humans do.  We don’t enjoy books, movies, fashions, spectator sports, driving, arguing politics, video games, or even color.  We get our joys from smells, eating, playing, barking at strangers, hunting, and eating.  Oh, and did I mention eating?

And of course both us species get great joy from being with those we love, and being held, scratched, petted, kissed, and all that, by them. 

But we also both get pleasures, and perhaps our greatest pleasures, by Happying others.  Especially those we love.  What’s better, getting hugged by Handsome when he gets home, or jumping all over him and sniffing and licking and nibbling on him?  (If you don’t know the answer, then you don’t know the frustration of trying to hold on to an excited dog – even if it’s a little mini-Maltese, you’re going to lose the battle!)  And what’s better, hearing a funny joke from your grandmother, or telling her a joke and seeing her break up in laughter? 

Handsome wrote about this in his book about me, talking about a time when he was very depressed and took me to a beach, where I started chasing birds I couldn’t hope to catch: There comes that point, where the connection between individuals becomes so intense that one literally has a physical reaction to what the other experiences.  So while half the time I was ruminating about my lost life, the other half I was feeling the same release Shirelle was.  Or maybe better than hers.  That’s the best kind of love, where the adored is as happy as possible, but I’m happier at her happiness than she is, which is also far deeper than my happiness for myself can ever be.”

Yeah, blah blah blah, I know he gets wordy, but you get the idea – your joy at someone else’s joy is bigger than their joy.   In fact, it’s so big, it’s biggerer than even that!

So here’s my suggestion, for all of us. Think of your plans for tomorrow.  Hopefully you have some plans for things you just simply like – playing a favorite game, eating something good, meeting up with someone whose face you like.  And probably you plan some things you should do but don’t necessarily enjoy – homework, brushing your teeth, going to school or your job, paying bills.  And I hope you get to sleep (one of the biggest pleasures I forgot to list before)! 

But what about the rest of the hours you have?  Is there a way to Happy someone?  Wouldn’t it feel great to send someone an email to say you appreciate them?  To smile at a stranger who’s not as lucky as you?  To go visit that laughing grandmother and give her a hug?  To invite a lonely friend over for dinner?  Or, my favorite, to save just a little bit of your lunch and give it to a favorite pooch?

I’m not saying to skip out on your own pleasure.  But I promise you, Handsome gets more pleasure by giving me that little bit of pizza than he’d get from eating it (Though you can always remind him of this!  Please!  Anytime!  Because sometimes he’s dopey and forgets!). 

You’ve loved Happying others since the first time you realized that the smile you made when you burped made your parents and caregivers gush with joy.  All I’m suggesting is that you make it a bit more conscious.

When you go to pick up your girlfriend to take her to that boring chickflick she’s insisting on, bring her a flower you found in a park.  When you write your boyfriend to see how his studying is going for that big exam, add “You’re so cute I can’t stand it!” to your text.   And when someone you love is going through a tough time and needs space to figure their life out, respect it, but send them a kiss goodnight, with a wish they’re finding what they need.