I still like to go for a run. I ran three miles two days ago along a familiar route. I like to play a game of imagining that I will encounter guidance along the way. Not guidance as to where to run, but rather how to live.
I started from my home. I carefully crossed a busy street because of the dip and curves on both sides of the intersection. How to live? Look both ways before you cross over if you are keen on staying alive.
As I ran I passed a great tangle of brush and vines disturbing some birds. Be like the birds. Seek tangles that can dissuade the approach of powerful forces and negative influences.
In the distance stood a dog barking in my direction. I recognized it as the carefully groomed poodle that typically does its barking from the confines of it’s owner’s property. Why had it ventured into the road? As I drew closer, it ran away, leaving me to wonder about the approach of a bigger dog, being walked by a woman, who was clearly struggling to control the muscular beast.
I avoided looking at the dog as I masked my fear with a cheery “hello” to it’s keeper.
“Must be the orange you are wearing is what has her so upset,” said the woman.
“I hope she doesn’t think I’m a juicy orange to eat! Nice doggie,” I replied.
I thought for a moment about whether or not dogs can see color, whether they like oranges, what breed of dog was I now safely past? I thought maybe I would Google some of these questions later. I thought about dog breeding. My grandfather breed Airedales. He had been a judge at the Westminster Dog show. I thought Airedales smelled funny as a kid. I thought about why people breed dogs. Some desire to control Natural selection I thought. I thought about early encounters between people and wolves. I imagined that wolves to weak or lazy to chase after food, accepted handouts. People usually eat any animal they can get close to. I imagined that people quickly found animals with more meat on their bones than wolves to domesticate for eating. They learned that if they threw a few bones a wolf’s way, they would become dogs that could hunt for humans. Dogs could also defend against and attack other people. They wouldn’t need to run too far to do it either.
I imagined these dogs to be guidance to repent for the times I was happy to benefit from something I thought was an improvement on Nature and relied on something else to do what I was better off doing for myself. I was guided to be aware of how I would be repenting for the rest of my life.
As I rounded a familiar bend in the road. More exotic dog breeds greeting me with barks from front yards. I could hear the poodle. I didn’t look to see where the barks were coming from. I imagined that my lack of vigilance could be a sign to the barkers that I was either of no threat to them or their owners, or too bad ass to be messed with. I imagined being guided as to the practicality of not staring at force, while controlling fear, to save energy for the unlikely event of the need to be bad ass or at least pretend to be.
I reminded myself that where I have never owned a dog, I had great respect for dog owners. I remembered a men’s group session I once lead as a social worker, working with men who were struggling with substance abuse disorders. The group topic was difficulty grieving the death of family members and friends. Several men shared how they had not been physically present or emotionally present at the funerals for their fathers, due to their substance use. We talked about how many men have difficulty feeling grief and seek escape in alcohol and other drugs. Not a tear was shed in this discussion, until a man who had been quiet spoke up. He said that he did not mean to be disrespectful of the men who had shared so far by giving voice to his difficult coping with emotion related to his dog running away. Not a single man complained about this shift from dead fathers to a run-a-way dog. In fact stories about the loss of pets erupted and tears flowed.
One man shared that he had trouble bearing the guilt of teaching his dog to drink beer and his belief that his dog was now as addicted to the liquid as he was. I suggested to the group that the loss of the loyal affection of a pet, even if only temporary could be quite troubling.
The mood was lightened by comparing dogs who could not talk, as a source of love to people who could easily, ruin things when they opening their mouths. As I ran, I did a quick review of loved ones who I would be wise to be more mindful of as to how I expressed myself.
I came to the turn around spot on my three mile course and turned around. On the way back the dogs had disappeared, but there was a new more troubling sound. A sound that I had her heard on television, but had never encountered first hand. It was a high pitched buzzing noise. My first thought was hornets! But then quickly no, that wasn’t it. A malfunctioning fan perhaps in some unseen window. No, the source of this sound clearly kept changing. Drone! I was being visited by my first drone, but where was it and why. I’ll probably never know. Somewhere somebody was looking at a screen and laughing at me. I was guided to remember that each technology designed to help people play or feel more secure or more powerful, will also make the world a scarer place to live.
I passed by the site of a new cell phone tower. I wondered if once active, would I be able to get reliable cell phone service? I knew such service could come in handy someday, if I fell down and couldn’t get up. The guidance that came to mind was one of to keep watching wearing I was stepping.
Then I passed the same garbage can I had seen on the way out. It was filled with Venetian blinds. I wasn’t in the need of window shades so I didn’t make a mental note to return for some “dumpster diving” or rather neighborly recycling. I thought that I had reached my limit as to how much guidance this short run could provide me. But I couldn’t help but contemplate the possible meaning of this roadside trash.
This short shuffling jog of a 65 year old man, was far short of the length the younger version of this man used to think of as inspiring. Yet the inspiration flowed to the point of being too much. So was this pile of refuse telling me to keep throwing away the “blinders.” How often do I regulate the glare of God’s revelation of beauty, mystery and inspiration, by adjusting the blinds of not good enough, or long lasting enough, or rare enough?
I let that question go and saw that the sky was ablaze in sunset.
Photo Credit: Getty Images