Philosophy and I have a love hate relationship. In one respect I love the idea of studying thinking in the abstract. The investigation of the human mind is perhaps the most important as it is the basis for all human endeavour. I am frustrated though with the complexity of philosophy and feel this is why many people dislike it.
Philosophy is built on constructs that we have invented. We investigate the complexities that we have laid on top of reality. The constructs we build become more intricate the more we know. This a benefit to anyone studying the subject, you can never know all. The more you know the more questions you have.
For me there are two philosophy’s; the one that has all the complexity; which so many great minds have obsessed over. It is important as it illuminates our fellow-man and their choices. Then there is the philosophy that leads us to happiness. I don’t mean religion, although at times it tries to be philosophical. I mean the kind of philosophy that looks at the most simple aspects of life. For me that philosophy is to be like the dog.
What this does is strip away the existential questions that we impose because the dog doesn’t understand them. There is no question of why am I here, because the dog is just here. I don’t mean to do away with traditional philosophy because I love and appreciate it. What I think is that we need to work through the first step, the basics. Walking before we run. Sit before we beg.
Here are the top three things that I have learnt from watching and loving my dog:
1. Enjoy a Belly Rub
Philosophers have a predisposition to obsess over enjoyment. They range from those who think it is a sin to those who think you should search out nothing else. Both put forward an assumption that enjoyment is an extra part of life.
This is a condition that we as the human race have attached. It makes evolutionary sense to not indulge completely but I feel they speak about a joy that is much more complex than necessary.
Peeling away the human element you see the dogs happiness is derived from the simple pleasures. Lily loves her toys but her favourite thing is a belly rub. You can see that it relaxes her and makes her incredibly happy.
In this respect she is a minimalist, not chasing the next thing but content with the simple act of a belly rub. It is not as if she couldn’t look for something better. Even the amount of toys she has says more about our human need to constantly be looking for the next item to make ourselves happy.
My lesson from her is to find that thing that makes me happy. That doesn’t require an upgrade yearly or will lose its shine quickly. Searching for enjoyment and happiness doesn’t need to be as complicated as reaching nirvana. For all the ideas we have are just that, ideas. They are not reality but a way for our highly evolved brain to make sense of the world.
To find my belly rub is to find happiness. I must be the minimalist like the dog and find the simple joy. It will take me out of the world we live, the hyper consumerism but that’s what we need. To get back to nature and the simple joys of life.
2. To Bark at the Neighbours is my Life’s Purpose
Lily doesn’t have the problem of searching for her life’s purpose. It is simple, her purpose in life is to protect the family. Whilst this can be incredibly annoying at times, it is comforting.
She would jump in front of a bullet for anyone in the family because her purpose is clear. The complex nature of our search is due to arrogance. That someone out there has put us here for a purpose.
If you gave up the idea that you were special, different from any other animal what would be your purpose. Mine would be to protect those I love. As an atheist I don’t believe in a divine purpose. I don’t think there is a reason we are here so I should love and protect those I care about most, as my purpose.
When Lily is barking at an innocent person on a stroll, she knows why she was put here with clarity and happiness. It is love and devotion that sits behind the bark. All she knows is she has a purpose.
That is a truth for me as well. For all the complexities of having a job and a house, what matters is protecting my family. Loosing the need to find meaning and being focussed on a singular goal makes everything else easier. You will be happy if you have a mansion or a tiny apartment because you do it for a higher purpose. A singular vision cuts through complexity.
3. Love Unconditionally
Lily loves my wife and I unconditionally, you can see it in her eyes. It doesn’t matter that I am loosing my hair because she loves me. She isn’t concerned with being angry and is quick to forgive and forget.
Even when I yell she responds with love. The vast majority of issues that we face are artificial. Getting to the core means forgetting the stupid things they said. We are only angry that they forgot the milk because we prescribe an importance in that moment. It is not greater than the relationship.
If I forget to pick something up for Lily she is more than happy to jump in the car and go with me. She is happy to make do because what is important to her is that I am with her. She hasn’t developed the capacity to be angry for things that don’t matter.
She would never have an argument because she is frustrated at me. She loves me and I don’t think she could get frustrated with me. It is enough that I am there for her, all else disappears into the background.
Love is a complex philosophical subject because of the abstract nature. To a dog it’s simple, they either love you or don’t. The complexity doesn’t exist because when a dog loves you nothing else matters.
Lily has brought me closest to this idea of unconditional love. Everyday she inspires me to get that much closer. To love like a dog is to love completely and that would make the world that much better.
Being like the dog means taking a minimalist approach to life. It is about finding the core of what you love and working to that. Understanding that another chew toy will not make a belly rub any better. That your purpose in life, is the most important thing to you, to protect those you love. Lastly it is about loving unconditionally and wiping away all the extras because you are always happy to jump in the car with your best friend.
Being like the dog strips bare perception and gets you closer to reality. Gets you closer to true happiness that doesn’t fade as soon as there’s another upgrade. Its simple and simple is better.
Hug your dog or pet. We also have a rabbit named Le Butts who is chill as.
Know that they believe you are their world and love you unconditionally. That is a powerful gift that you should share with those you love.