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Wed, 25 May 2005

Romans 8:20

Somewhere between stew and soup. Chunks of meat glistening in a broth almost as thick as gravy. A hearty, steamy, almost chunky vapor lifted from the bowl, creating a savory aroma that demanded attention and awakened the most languid of appetites. A soup-stew like this would bring out the canine in you, turn appetite into hunger. Which is dramatic enough when you are a man, but how much more when you already are a dog.

Four dogs sat upright around the table, very proper as they all had been well trained. Mac, a large, quiet, all white mixed breed that most resembled a snow white German Shepard, carefully yet smoothly took up his spoon and slowly dipped himself some of the soup from the bowl in front of him. Tezzo, part Dalmatian, part Terrier, had white with inky black markings on his face and back. Tezzo followed his leader. He did not question, he did not think much about it. He had more trouble with the spoon than did Mac, but only in that his effort was more obvious.

Yin and Yang were two pure bread Shih-Tzus, guests of Mac and Tezzo. They lived next door. Yin was the larger one with his mostly black coat, with some white, and an engaging craziness in his eyes. Yang, mostly tan and white with a little silver grey on his ears, and who carried his craziness more in his smile than in his eyes. They both wore their hair short, but kind of wild, Yang especially striking with his blaze of white above his eyes. Yang supported and approved of the leadership of Mac, out of adoration, while Yin accepted Mac as leader from more pragmatic concerns, Mac was bigger. Yin would not have minded running things if he could. Things would be a lot more fun his way, that’s for sure. The hard part was to hold the spoon steady as you brought it up to your mouth. It was hard to learn, and even once learned it was hard to do. The main difficulty was to contain your hunger. As you brought the food closer, that beguiling aroma would break down your discipline, your will. “Just grab me, you know you want to,” it seemed to say. You had to shut out the voice, ignore the hunger, and stick to the training. The aroma made your tongue wet, it made the sides of your mouth ache - it confused your mind and threatened to break through discipline and overwhelm self control. The secret was to focus on the task, not on the aroma, bring that spoon up to the mouth, take the small reward it offered, and continue.

Mac, the leader, was a true believer. He had absorbed the training well of course, but more, he really wanted to do it right. If you looked very closely, you could see he was the tiniest bit awkward with the spoon. He did not make it look effortless. Mac firmly believed that it was noble to strive. That discipline, training, and not giving in to the animal nature, gave life meaning, even nobility. Yes we are dogs, nothing more than animals, but look what we could become. Look what we might become. What better way to honor the gods, than to emulate them. The gods that provided all our wants, loved us unselfishly, and provided all our needs for the most part unasked. In response it was a small thing to strive to be godlike, to strive to live up to their training, their behavior. Our behavior is evidence of our devotion. We dogs will inevitably fall short, but our failings are forgiven by the gods. It is in the striving that we become somehow holy, even sanctified.

The others dogs at the table followed Mac, striving as well to emulate their owners table manners. But theirs was not a belief in the rightness of the behavior itself. On the contrary, to one degree or another they all had doubts. But they followed Mac and at best trusted that he had good reasons for wanting them to behave this way.

Tezzo was the least thoughtful about it. He knew and accepted his place, higher than Yin and Yang, second only to Mac. He did not think things were ridiculous, or not ridiculous for that matter, he just did as he was told, and followed his leader. He did not consider what he would do if he were leader - he wasn’t, and that was that. If he was the least thoughtful, the thought he had was that Mac had never lead him wrong.

Yin loved fun. If left to himself he would abandon all pretense and decorum and would enthusiastically pursue enjoyment. His way was the way of frolic, at the expense of all else. He would especially abandon cleanliness. Yin thought all these rules and properness were silly. “We are dogs,” he would think. “The world doesn’t expect more of us, it really doesn’t. And the world hardly will appreciate us if we succeed in this patently unnatural behavior. All this sitting upright, with chairs and bowls and spoons? Spoons especially were ridiculous, and well, just plain stupid. A teeny tiny shallow little bowl on the end of a long and useless handle, and it barely holding enough for one slurp. You had to keep filling it.”

But Yin did not like to fight, and especially not Mac, and so he decided to follow his leader, at least for now. He picked up his spoon, and dipped himself a lovely piece of meat.

Yang, the most high strung of the group, thought the world of Mac, thought he was the most noble dog in the world, and would follow him in anything. Yang was in awe of Mac’s size and strength, his discipline, his confidence. These were things Yang did not feel he had. Yang had no ambition to lead, as long as Mac was in charge everything was fine. Sometimes, Yang tried to walk like Mac, and act as if he had the confidence Mac seemed to have, and even pretended he was Mac, until Yin, watching from a distance, would tackle Yang with a flying leap from across the room.

That soup was beguiling. They all felt the urge to dive right in, to abandon all and recklessly indulge. Even Mac felt the temptation eat like a dog. But while they all struggled against their own natures, and their hunger, and the aroma of that soup, Mac accepted the soup in its role as temptation. Without temptation it would be easy to behave correctly, there would be no effort to it. Without effort, the accomplishment was meaningless. It certainly would not be accounted as devotion if it wasn’t difficult. Yang drew his strength from Mac’s approbation. He fought the temptation to give up, and worked hard to use the spoon, though he was the most awkward. He hoped Mac could see that he was trying, and the thought of Mac approving of his efforts spurned him on to greater effort. Yin, as the least believing, thought the effort pointless. Yin was reasonably competent with the spoon, but it made no sense. This soup just demanded to be devoured, and fighting it was crazy. And you had to wonder who would be impressed, if control over spoon and appetite could be mastered. Who? Mac? That stuffy, deluded zealot? Who, Tezzo? Tezzo was an idiot. You don’t purchase your self esteem from an idiot.

Well, thought Yin, the effort wasn’t totally pointless. Getting into a fight with Mac was not much fun. Mac was much larger, much stronger. And he also seemed to be the favorite of the gods. Yin could hardly expect to either win or get any sympathy from man or beast. Yang was nervous. It was his nature to be high strung, but it also seemed that all eyes were on him. Especially Mac’s. The spoon just refused to be controlled. He almost had it, but the spoon kind of twisted, spilled its contents back into the bowl, and Yang, tortured by embarrassment, quickly look around to see who noticed. To Mac’s eye he quickly nodded, as if to say “I meant that. The soup is ummm... too hot, and needs to be stirred.” Mac nodded a kind of mixed warning and encouragement.

Dogs were indeed different from other creatures. They were chosen. It was obvious to Mac - no dogs were raised by dog parents - they were adopted at a young age and raised directly by the gods. Without the gods’ adoption, dogs would not exist. Sure there would be wolves, coyotes, and what not, but they were mere animals, raised by animals. They could never, on their own, transcend their degraded nature. How can animal parents raise anything but animals?

Mac’s reverie is interrupted by a sound. Splash clink.

Yang looks around to see if anyone noticed he dropped the spoon into the bowl. Tezzo gives him a dirty look like, “how dare you, you little shit. Be careful.” Yang is devastated, and attempts to make things right by reaching in the bowl to get the spoon.

Now everyone is watching. Yang is so nervous he is shaking. He can’t hold the wet slippery spoon, and in the process of fishing it out he splashes some soup up onto his nose. Overwhelmed with fear and now overcome with flavor, he forgets his training and puts his already wet muzzle right into the soup and laps it up directly. He can’t contain himself, it is so good, and he is so beyond redemption that it just doesn’t matter.

Tezzo starts to barking and yelling, telling the whole world that all is lost, while Mac looks over with sympathy. Yin, seeing this as an opportunity for fun, up ends his bowl directly, spilling the soup onto the table itself. He then starts eating the chunks of meat from the table, convulsively swallowing them down in an effort to eat as much as he can before someone puts an end to this fun.

Tezzo is horrified, and picks up the pace of his woeful barking, while look out of the corner of his eye to Mac, as if to show Mac that whatever has happened he didn’t do it and does not approve.

Yang’s humiliation has overwhelmed him to fits of uncontrollable barking and moaning. Yin takes further advantage and jumps up on the table itself, and finishes the spilled soup at his feet, and then starts on Tezzos bowl. What ever urge Tezzo had to obey his leader is entirely undermined by a less refined and far older desire to defend his food. He jumps on the table and pushes Yin away from his bowl, upending his bowl in the process. Yin jumps away, but towards Macs bowl, which he quickly knocks over, dumping the soup half on the table and half on Mac, who by this time is paralyzed in conflicting desires, and can do nothing more than sit and stare.

Mac, could see that all of his training, all of his desire to please the Gods, was at least in this case only going to result in his getting less to eat. Hunger, one of the oldest of urges takes him over, and he joins the fray.

Chaos reigns, multiplying in its path the opportunities for grace and forgiveness.

Posted May 25, 2005 at 15:27 UTC, 1919 words,  [/shilohPermalink

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