Friday, December 14, 2007

Ancient Greeks

I love this picture; it seems like the perfect representation of our lives as caninaturalists.

There is a wonderful painting by Raphael (the Renaissance artist, not the ninja turtle) called “The School of Athens.” In it, Socrates and Aristotle stand side by side, each depicting his ontological view of the world. The wizened Socrates, barefoot and tressed in long white locks, points upwards—towards the heavens, or more specifically, the transcendent forms. The much younger Aristotle stands next to him, his auburn hair full and his feet clad in thoroughly modern sandals. He holds a hand outstretched, palm flat, as if to embrace the earth.

I certainly don't claim to be a great mind, but I do see something similar happening in this picture of me and Ari.

While I mug for the camera and the attention of the photographer, the expert canine naturalist looks upwards: not in search of the Socratic forms, but rather, concentrating on what is happening around us. She doesn’t care that her picture is about to be taken, or that I’m trying to get her to smile at Greg. Instead, she’s watching the snow trickle down from the branches as a red squirrel races from bough to bough. That, she seems to be saying, is what life outside is all about. Not posing, but experiencing.

I think this lesson is one of the most important we can learn from philosopher dogs. They remind us that there’s a time to be self-reflexive and contemplative and even performative. But they also tell us that, much of the time, we’re better off throwing that aside in lieu of the immediate and the external.

Who needs a photograph, when you can have the memory of a chickadee ruffing its feathers on a limb? Why posture, when you can pursue every last red squirrel through all this glorious, wonderful snow?



Bonnie said...

Ha! I recognize that behavior, too.
Actually I believe that your caninaturalist knows something about Korean Buddhism. According to Wikipedia, when Buddhism came to Korea, "as it was not seen to conflict with the rites of nature worship, it was allowed to blend in with Shamanism." Hmm.

Trojan_Llama said...

Beautiful photo nonetheless - much nicer than chasing a squirrel!

Majchy said...

Nice photo!

Greetings from Slovenia for you two! :)