Masses Of Mammals…

Rituals; The Building Blocks Of My Days

I am nothing without my rituals; the ritual of movement, the ritual of prayer, and the ritual of cooking among them.  To live a day in my shoes, is to extend one ritual right into another, connecting them end-to-end to form a completed day.  The most meaningful ritual of my day though, and I mean this literally, is the ritual each morning of gathering my four dogs and assigning household leadership to one of them for the day – that they look after the house and one-another while I am at work.

The Crew

Pumpkin, is a Shih Tzu-Pug mix.  She is 13 years old.  She has only one eye, and is blind in that eye.  Her hearing is failing, and her sense of smell has diminished.  Despite a very sweet disposition, Pumpkin is the Helen Keller of dogs.

Stroodle is a Dachshund-Chihuahua mix.  He has all 4 legs, but only 3 of them work.  Stroodle is both, Pinky and The Brain, rolled into one.  Stroodle gives codependency a good name.

Pumpkin and Stroodle. Or, as my daughter calls them; Cyclopse and Tripod...

Sparky weighs nearly 150 lbs.  His silhouette is that of a German Shepherd, but his fur is snow white, and is a gentleman through and through.

Sparky: Mr. Dignity...

Toddy, an Australian Shepherd, codependent like Stroodle, is a tomboy.  She likes to get dirty and play with the boys, but deep down she’s all girl.

Toddy: Her is pretty...

The four pups have access to the garage during the day, as well as the run of the entire back yard.  There is water available to them in the garage and on the patio, and food in the garage if needed.  They have not excessively exploited my open-feeding policy, but I do think Sparky cheats some.

The Meeting

Showered, caffeinated, and ready to get on my bike and ride to work, each morning I gather the dogs in the garage for a meeting.  I will select one dog, look he or she in the eye with one of my hands touching his or her cheek, and I will inform them that they “got the nod” – that it is their day to be in charge while I am at work.  I explain that it’s up to them to look after their brothers and sisters, to protect the household and the property, and to use their cunning fisrt, and to use force only if needed.  “Brain first, bite second”, I say.

I then select another of them, to be the lieutenant for the day – to be available to the one in charge if needed.  Like any lieutenant, I explain that his or her job is no less important than being in charge.  The other two get the day off as a reward for their prior service.  It’s a four day rotation, each cycle beginning with Sparky since he is the oldest.  Next is Toddy, Pumpkin, then Stroodle.  Unless I spend extended time away from the house on the weekends, the pups get weekends off.

Before I leave for the day, I kiss each one of them on the cheek, pet them, let them know how much I appreciate them, thank them for being so good to me, and remind them which one I left in charge for that day.

As Rituals Go

Life can be fast, harsh, chaotic, and even numbing.  Oh I know, there’s the good stuff too, and I guess that’s my point.  That on a given day, no matter what comes my way – the good, the bad, or the ugly of it all, if I have lived my morning ritual with my pups, I’m already grounded and much better prepared to handle what mayhem might be around any corner.  This connection with my dogs reminds me to (attempt to) live each day with the same degree of dignity and reverence which my dogs execute so naturally.  They may be scruffy, shed too much, and have halitosis, but their souls are as elegant as the universe, and probably as old.

This ritual may seem silly, crazy even, but in the personal religion I have been building for myself, my morning ritual with the family mammals is no less holy to me than a candle being lit at an alter, a wafer placed on the tongue followed by a shot glass of grape juice, or a mezuzah touched while entering or exiting a door.  This ritual helps me keep it real.

The Evidence

I sometimes think the only truth I will ever know is looking into the eyes of a dog.  God may love me, but I live in constant doubt that he even knows my address or my name.  With my dogs, with any dogs, love is ever-present, evident with every glance, and my heart fills with peace from every wet kiss across my cheek and every stare upward from the floor below me – even from Pumpkin’s one blind eye.  Be well.  rc


Please check back next week for some thoughts on the utilty of modern word processing, and podcasts. 

Oh, and there is this from King Kapisi.  Enjoy…

I Would Rather Suck A Pig’s Ass…

This is Part I of my 3-part series on life without electronic information, electronic entertainment, and electronic media.  I will be posting Parts II and III in the coming weeks.  Please check back in 2 weeks for Part II; The Joy Of Word Processing, Blogging, and Books on i-Tunes.


The Vice Boomerang

You might have been a smoker.  Perhaps you drank too much.  Maybe it was a tendency to eat too much junk food.  Upon the realization that these things might have done your moments good, but done poorly for your health and your body, you decided to quit them – and you had success in quitting. 

But then that moment came – life got hard, push met shove and a pack of cigarettes was needed, a pint of whiskey was sought, or a carton of ice cream could make the difference between a good moment and a good cry.  A puff, a sip, a spoonful, and all would be good with the world again, so you broke down and let in the poison.

But your body had changed in the absence of these poisons.  For however long it had been, your body was likely doing much better.  And you would be quick to find that reintegrating that substance would not give you the moment you sought.  Rather, it made you ill – stole a moment rather than heightened one, and caused you regret.  A clean system weakens more easily, and the poison is quickly felt.

Information And Technology As Vices

So I gave them up for a while; information media, information technologies, and social media.  For 30 days I refrained from email, Facebook, blogging, texting (well, almost), even word processing, and best of all, TV news.  Despite their utility, they had all become vices to me, and though they could be useful, they could also be poisons in my life – especially TV news.

It had been weighing on me for a long time – years actually, that some of these vices had done little to raise my life up, and had drained a great deal of time from things better suited to growing my mind, my soul, and keeping my life intact.  Reading, working, cleaning, gardening, and much more had given way the lure of useless information.  Even my precious exercise time had begun to take a back seat to my early morning blogging, Facebooking, and TV news time. 

What Now, What Next

Without these technologies, my life was enhanced – in the most literal interpretation of that word.  More on that in 2 weeks.

Throughout the 30 days without these liabilities in my life, I frequently contemplated whether or not I would go back to any of these technologies, and if I did, which ones I would return to, and which ones, if any, might be let go for keeps.  In this contemplation, I made no decisions, and promised myself not to make any such decisions until my 30 days had expired.  And even then, I promised myself to let it go wherever my core beliefs would take me.

A Clean System Weakens More Easily

And what did I do on the morning when my 30 days had expired…?  I turned on the coffee maker, let the dogs out, and clicked on CNN…

…that first moment of TV news was like a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey, and a pile of junk food all at once – I was immediately sickened.  My system was just not ready for it.  Still, I watched for a few minutes and realized that, though I had truly changed some in 30 days, American culture was still in the toilet – at least as far as its most watched news source was concerned.

Now this is not a reflection on CNN at all.  It could have been FOX, Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNBC, local news, whatever.  The point is, that my mind had been clean of this poison for 30 days, and it only took my first serving to confirm that I will never watch television news again, never – I would rather suck a pig’s ass, and I mean that literally.

In that first moment, as the poison of TV news entered my body, it occurred to me that TV news little more than entertainment, amusement, even a sick sort of vice; witnessing the misery of the human condition for the pleasure of knowing, that’s not me, but its utility is inconsequential for meWhat happens in Kandahar, Alabama, or who is going to Rikers Island has little bearing on my day.  I will argue that there is nothing, NOTHING redeeming about TV news – from any source, that enhances ones moment, day, or life.  The knowing of most of these things is useless for most people — I genuinely believe that.

Still, like cigarettes, alcohol, and junk food, we buy into TV news because it makes us…

…feel good?

Be well.  rc


Please check back in 2 weeks for Part II; The Joy Of Word Processing, Blogging, and books on i-Tunes. Thank you. 

Oh, and there is this from Chris Bailey and The Saints.  Enjoy…