"Dogs Playing Poker," by C.M. Coolidge
Well, here we are, in 2018. How will we live it? Can we live our lives in the moment? In 23 BC, Horace suggested that we “seize the day” (carpe diem). His reflection was about enjoying the present.
During my 20’s, dogs changed my life. There wasn’t one dog in particular. A succession of them gave me back my soul. It was springtime in 1991 and the freight train of life had run me over the previous year. My day-to-day functioning had been at a record low. I had even been homeless for a brief time.
A loving hobby, however, magically became a profession and my four-legged friends repaired some serious wounds and suddenly I had advocates everywhere. I was learning the ropes of private, in-home instruction of both owner and dog. I made mistakes, of course, but the dogs centered me. A canine lives in the moment. If you don’t believe me, check out these guys in the painting by C.M. Coolidge. They have mastered the art of the cool breeze.
I learned to savor the moment when the dogs began sharing sacred space with me. In truth, I had learned this art at twenty-three as a young, scared cancer patient. This was during the mid-1980s; America was in no state of declared war, and most of us were enjoying prosperity and none of my friends could relate to my life-and-death struggle. I wasn’t really given space to practice the art of seizing the day.
It was the dogs that truly gave me that opportunity. This led me to recognize subsequent callings and to embrace them for the gifts they were. I could not have done this without learning the art of just hanging out and being.
When I first moved to the Seattle area, I was in an otherwise respected chaplaincy position at an acclaimed research facility and was excited about the possibilities, having come 2700 miles from a previous chaplain position where I had enjoyed success. I soon learned, however, that I had been misled and was trapped (until I paused, “kicked some grass over that stuff,” and walked away) with three condescending, disdainful characters who saw it as their avocation to patronize and find fault with the new people. Not only could they not savor the moment, they worked hard at preventing others from doing the same. A colleague, who entered the department the same week I did, reported the same experience and, I’m happy to say, is doing well elsewhere. His own ability to live in the moment has flourished.
Please, for God’s sake, be like the dogs, and learn to savor the moment. Trust also that you are being called to permit others to do the same because, frankly, we owe it to them.
How will you savor the moment in the New Year?