Last night I took a late walk with the Dog. Where I live it’s still possible to do that in safety.
Though there’s a world heritage-listed littoral rainforest between me and the ocean, the seas must have been rough because I could hear a roar like an approaching tsunami from an ocean that generally offers a comforting background susurration to lull me to sleep.
The night sky was clear and it was cold. Dog trotted happily but slowly beside me as he’s old, and has a bad back leg.
Earlier in the evening I’d avoided my usual news fix. For the last couple days I’ve felt overdosed, satiated to the point of disgust by the self-regarding so-called cultural warriors who’s reaction to the Norwegian massacre has been to point ideological fingers and crow at one another as the terrorist Breivik’s influences were revealed in his manifesto as including various Australians.
This, combined with the mind-numbing repetitive exchange of insults between politicians that passes for serious debate on vital issues that have been stripped of any pretense to moral or ethical consideration, has left me feeling sickened and in urgent need of the healing properties of dogs, trees, stars, moon, beaches and the sea.
The Dog was taken in hand by one of our household very early in his life, and trained to refrain from chasing all living creatures, with the exception of cats. This household member, whom I will not name for all kinds of reasons, is outraged that cats in our little settlement are allowed by some irresponsible owners to run free at night, un-belled and murderous.
The problem is they kill the birds. We’ve gone to great lengths to plant native trees that feed birds, and mornings and evenings at our place are wonderfully cacophonous. It’s the first thing I miss when I’m away from home, the unrestrained brawls between the raucous parrots who manage to slander one another even as they hang upside down stuffing their beaks. Bit like politicians, really but far more beautiful and entertaining than that unimaginative rabble.
So Dog will merely twitch and stiffen if he encounters native animals, but when he comes across a cat, it’s on. Miraculously, he forgets his arthritic leg and takes off like a teenager after the same felines every night. He never gets anywhere near them of course, and that is not his intention. It’s the chase.
Dog knows he’s no match for a cat. Indeed, when he was young he was severely mauled by a ginger tom called Gilbert, who tore his nose to shreds and would have had his eyes out if the cat’s owner hadn’t scooped him up, yowling and flailing, and locked him in the laundry for the rest of the afternoon. Surprisingly, Dog didn’t suffer any obvious post traumatic stress after this beating, instead it apparently inspired him.
A brief listen to the news this morning is sufficient to tell me that nothing has improved overnight. The braying hysteria of Sarah Palin made my stomach lurch, so I turned it off and ate my toast and drank my tea in silence, except for the battle of the birds. Later I will take the Dog to Terry the Vet as he’s got a bizarre swelling on his ear that might be a tick. The Dog loves Terry and Terry loves him. He consistently refuses to charge me for anything like the services he provides. I asked him why he won’t let me pay him what he deserves?
“Because he’s a ripper dog,” Terry told me. “Ripper.”
I don’t know about anybody else, but for me unrelieved exposure to the political scene brings about kind of spiritual starvation, and I have to stop, withdraw, and reconnect with all my other dimensions. The political discourse is so pitifully reduced – where is the inspirational rhetoric, the moral vision, the desire to bring something good into the world rather than to just win an election?
The political discourse does not nourish us, indeed it frequently shames us, with its one-dimensional narrative that takes no account of complexity, and the human heart. One has to get away from time to time, or else become dulled and shriveled, forgetful of any other story. Like the ideologues who see in the Norwegian massacre primarily how it personally affects them and their ideology. They couldn’t even wait until all the bodies have been found, before making it all about them.
Ah well. There’s a moral in that for all of us. Go look at the stars, even if you’re lying in the gutter.