To me, the beauty of puppies, small children, and fools is their innocence. They are still much too young to assess risk, and/or too innocent to understand the consequences of their actions.
The other day as I sauntered into Louella’s kitchen, I heard Paul Simon’s recent rendition of “One Trick Pony” playing on her never-silent radio. If you ever find some extra time in your busy schedule, look up Paul Simon’s actual lyrics or listen to the music; it says a lot. We animals, I guess, are ‘one trick ponies.’ We accept our simple roles in life, we keep them that way, and we perform them well. Because of our place in the food chain, we are driven more by instinct than intellect, and many of our survival skills come already ‘built in.’
You, on the other hand, with your superior intelligence, opposable thumbs and freedom of choice, will craft your daily activities, and even your complete lives, around survival through the avoidance of negative consequences; otherwise long-term survival might be problematic. Wow! Heavy concept, huh?
I guess it’s the price you pay for your enlightenment, your cultural mores, and, especially, your religious mandates. We animals are able to live our whole lives enjoying the freedom that our Maker gave us, while much of what you do seems to be structured around possible consequences. I guess, in our case, “ignorance is bliss.” Road-kill is a stunning example of animals’ disregard for immediate consequences; they simply try to cross a busy road without any thought to consequences . . . Oops!
Your teenagers offer a fertile study of the human disregard for consequences. Many of the teenagers that I have seen believe that they will never die; and when you were a teenager, I’ll bet you took risks that would now amaze you. Today, just add motorcycles, hotrods, or drugs into the mix, and you have an enhanced prescription for very negative consequences. If you are familiar with my friend Micah Davenport (I Am Micah Davenport), his own best friend’s teenage DUI fatality stands front and center on this subject.
As humans, especially in our culture, you just can’t escape the reality of negative consequences. Even your most mundane activities are subconsciously orchestrated to build and maintain a safety net around your continued life and lifestyle.
For instance, when Isabel gets up in the morning, the first thing she does is put on her crazy “bunny” slippers for safety and traction on our polished wood floors. The consequences of her falling or stubbing a toe would be painful. She has warm oat bran with skim milk for breakfast most mornings to avoid weight-gain and cholesterol; our decadent and hearty lumberjack’s breakfast would have different long-term consequences for Isabel. Later, when Isabel leaves the Inn to go shopping, she is always sure to stop her car and look both ways before venturing onto (state route) SR 60 at the foot of our driveway. The consequences of being T-boned by an oncoming vehicle would be messy. Isabel drives to her destination at near-legal speeds, because the consequences of a high speed accident or a speeding ticket would be rather unpleasant, at best. Isabel parks her car some distance from other cars when she reaches the store due to the consequences of dents, dings, and scratches on her Rolls Silver Spur could be rather expensive . . . and the list goes on . . .
The consequences that you face if you decide not to ‘play the game’ may take years to catch up with you, they are not always urgent and immediate, but, over time, they might prove fatal; just choose your poison. For example, consider overeating, chain-smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, drugs, and lack of adequate physical exercise.
In a less complicated, less affluent culture, perhaps in a Pacific rim nation, a woman like Isabel might don a simple pair of flip flops or sandals, and bicycle or walk to a local marketplace where she might shop for meats, fruits, and vegetables indigenous to her region. As opposed seeking cover in a luxury automobile and slathering on a high SPF suntan lotion, a simple wide brimmed conical straw (sedge) hat would suffice to protect her from the sun. She could select from naturally organic vegetables and lean, high-protein locally-raised meats and never have to worry about the presence of chemicals, preservatives, and animal growth hormones in her food. Hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes wouldn’t be a part of her vocabulary. She wouldn’t be visiting her dentist, internist or radiologist every year, and she wouldn’t receive those dumb Christmas cards from her dermatologist, gynecologist or oncologist. Through a combination of great exercise, sensible diet, and a more simple lifestyle, women like Isabel would live longer, with much shorter, vastly different — lists of ‘consequences.’
I think that Henry David Thoreau had already had his fill of ‘consequences’ and the crush of civil responsibility when he retreated to Walden Pond, lived for more than two years at a self-subsistence level, and penned his famous “Walden” back in the 1850s. Although Thoreau’s macro examination of the Human existence of his day is now thought to be somewhat inconclusive, he definitely proved that there is a high price to pay for your ‘humanity.’ Of course, you know that we dogs can’t read, but bear with me . . . If you’ve come this far with me, you’re certainly already on-board with this insanity.
Don’t think for a moment that we dogs don’t share at least some of your most feared consequences. I figure that the three major consequences facing an animal like me are: death, disgrace, and disenfranchisement (death, being abused/shamed, or being homeless/abandoned). For us dogs, these consequences are about as bad as it gets, and it would take some pretty extreme (out of pattern) behavior to get us into these situations.
If I were to start listing the consequences that you might face in your daily lives, I would probably succumb to “writers’ cramp,” or a case of carpal tunnel syndrome before I could finish. Did you know that your human species is the only species on earth that understands, anticipates – and plans for – the eventuality of their own death? No other animal on earth is burdened with this highly evolved ‘gift.’
So, is your positive behavior based purely on the avoidance of negative consequences? When you stop at we stop sign in the wee hours of the morning, drive the speed limit, put a quarter in the newspaper (honor) box, return a lost wallet, or write a short note to the owner of a car that you just backed into, are you doing so because you are worried about consequences? Or, do you acquiesce to a strong, healthy conscience that has always defined the difference between right and wrong? Only you know the answer to that question.
These days, Isabel and Micah question whether many of our leaders (and other celebrities that you might hold dear) consider themselves to be bound by your laws, common sense, or logic. Our prisons are already overflowing with bad guys and criminals who have now come to grasp the true meaning of ‘consequences.’ But, the way things seem to be going, maybe someday we will have to reserve some extra space in the slammer for our lawmakers and public figures as well. Ah, the consequences!