Unlike a glory-and-greatness I had believed was golden and out there waiting for my discovery and conquest, and for which I searched so far, long, and painfully, the rural goodness back on the Lands of my youth is simple, priceless, and rich – spiritual currency, all around and in my arms and open heart. Yes, the opportunity to co-author a bit of psychological reality has arrived via my new dog, Oats the Border Terrier.
Looking back at the past half a life, I guess I’m glad I was attracted by curiosity and adventure (or was it the repulsion of mundane mediocrity?) Whichever it was, for many years the idea of acceptance was totally unacceptable, and I rebelled against conformity with a gusto. So I did many things in support of expanding frontiers – what walls and borders were put in place by the colonial culture I was born and raised into – and in defiance of a strange and contorted status quo that seems nearly criminal. Criminal how? Well, isn’t it theft-like to demote young, conscious, and creative spiritual beings of their imagination and morality, plug ’em in and drive ’em along via the fear of lack, or punishments for breaking ‘the rules’?! (Rules set up by who, exactly?) Or, to lure us along with the outcome-and-reward-based systems of modern home, school, and work environments? Yet these societal forms run uncontested and accepted by most snoozy denizens of today’s industrial planet earth, fattened and drugged by excesses that are considered rewards for sufferances, er ‘contributions’: “Kiddo, just do as you’re told, do it well, and you get a pat on the head, an ‘A’, or a paycheque… shhhhh… be a good boy.”
But lest I rant, rather I shall inquire and see where that leads. So: What is conformity? And what is rebellion?
Although is often it may not appear so, the little naked ape is not a greedy, self-centred, competitive or violent being by Nature alone. We’ve mostly been encouraged to behave that way. Whilst a debate about ‘nature vs. nurture’ continues, the answer is that both operate. Yes, Homo sapiens sapiens is born fully capable of Care and, willful care is a feature of the species that is particularly unique amongst earth’s lifeforms, given the chance and conditions and education. The same is true of a knowledge of morality – knowing right from wrong. Following then, via what would be ‘true education’ (as opposed to the institutional colonial conditioning we call learning), we would learn to discern and choose right thoughts, right feelings, and right behaviours, over wrong ones… that is, we’d willfully choose morally right ways of being – objective rights not subjective rights – in accordance with the Higher Will of the Creative forces of the universe.
Though made to seem overly complex, hence confusing (think of human laws and regulations!!!), morality is as simple as most Truths are, and it’s through Morality that true freedom is found. When we choose rightly, we are free. Simple. Obvious to the human soul, taking what does not belong is wrong, as is killing, rape, murder, and the whole host of other cardinal sins. We know this, and have known it for a long time – lest we forget. And excluding psychopathy (which I heard once occurs naturally in the human population at a rate of 1 in 40 people!) all people know what is right and want to enact it. And this knowledge of Right vs. Wrong is perhaps our greatest gift, and guidance.
In permaculture we first observe, then we design, then we construct. When an innocent and avid observer of the world (perhaps, I admit, too openly sometimes) I have suffered greatly and been hurtled into bouts of terrible confusion at the too-many and overwhelming contradictions of modern life. Nukes?! Deforestation?! SUVs?! Porn?! Right, ok… but didn’t God create us in ‘His’ image? Reeeeally? Oh no? Then wait, aren’t we the only intelligent life form in the otherwise chaotic and unintelligent mechanical universe? Fuck, gimme a break… something is amiss, I’m sure of it, even in my sometimes-confused state.
But I said I wouldn’t rant; that I’d inquire into the nature of conformity and rebellion. So do that Ryan, at least a bit, please. Ok:
I just got puppy. He’s 8-weeks old. He’s a good boy. And, after a solid day of running around with me out on the Land, and learning play and poop and obedience and dog around with me and his aunty Candy and cousin Ruby, and the random people and kids we met out n’ about, he’s sleeping in the chair here beside me, apparently dreaming in his little puppy subconscious, as his tiny arms n’ legs are a twitching around. So cute!
But why bring Oatie into this? Conformity? Rebellion?
Having just landed on this new family farmland project, where I shall rebirth Livingland, I can finally get into relationship with a dog, something I’ve considered for years, but never been ‘stable enough’ to do. And wanting to relate with a dog that would be of some practical farm-and-family value here, I first observed for several months: Permaculture. So, there is a mounting rat issue on Hornby Island, and most people call the exterminator to er(rat)icate these ‘vermin’ (though honestly, by a human definition of vermin, we’d mostly be shooting our own species in the foot because we aren’t much different in many ways!). So, rats? = poison = I don’t think so, no way! Killing that way is totally immoral, period. Poisoning Life is wrong. Period. So what then?
So I observed the rats, and the island, and my family. And I researched possibilities. In permaculture the various parts of a project are called elements, and we design such that the needs of one element are provided for by the products of another. (More on permaculture elements later). The food gardens and animal barns here need to be rat-free, and ta-da, a small terrier (from terra, for ‘earth’ dog) produces this effect, and also needs vermin to be happy (as it then has useful work to do and be entertained with, and happy). Enter Oats, the Border Terrier.
But what I have found particularly interesting so far, is the psychology of a dog. Though many suggested I get a ‘rescue dog’ because as goes the argument: ‘There are already too many dogs in the world’, I chose to get a young puppy. Oatie is just 8-weeks old, which means to me: no trauma – and no conformity (to what he has become) or rebellion (against what he has become). If I am as good as my intention and word, I will give this little dog a chance to be a good boy, by cultivating a psyche that is healthy and content – I shall not abuse this little being, by neglect or battery. Because, there are already too many (neglected and beaten) dogs in the world, and little Oatie will not join the ranks of them!
As far as I have learned, the period of early psychological growth and attunement is critical to cultivating the ‘good dog’ of highest canine possibility, which means a dog that lives in knowledge and choice and harmony of the (obviously human-dominated) world he finds himself in – no biting people, fighting other dogs, eating chickens, barking incessantly, pisspooping on the floor, etc. So, from 8-12 weeks of age, this little guy will establish in his psyche most of the socially acceptable (or not!) patterns that will carry him (or not!) through his life, with ease and enjoyment. Here, many and diverse positive social experiences are crucial for life-long integrative wellbeing.
I believe the same is true of humans, only that the formative period lasts longer in people, from say 0-7 years old. Whether or not Oatie (and human children) get this golden opportunity to live well and trauma-less, they may survive, but locked up behind doors or fences or jail cells or work cubicles, or more freely harmonious and authentically self-expressed, that is the question. Survive-or-thrive? Conform-and-rebel, or… ____? Live well!!
Conformity and rebellion are expressed in relation to what a living being has experienced and knows. These dynamics reside mostly in subconscious levels of psychological function, and have both natural and nurtured tendencies. Dogs will be dogs, yes, and people will be people, yes. Each have species-specific attributes and socially-conditioned aspects. But one thing is sure, by all accounts it is much harder to retrain an anxious dog not to bark and bite, etc., after he’s already become a jittery bark-biter, and much harder to retrain an anxious or depressed, etc., human not to think and believe so negatively after he’s already learned to think and believe this way. It would be better all-around to___… You tell me, or… let’s learn together. Fact is, there are already too many bark-biting, etc., dogs and anxious-depressed, etc., people in the world. We can, and we will, do much better that this!