I look back on each day and figure out what lesson I learned from it. Then, I share each day’s lesson with you. Here is today’s…
I have been thinking about Time lately, and one thing I realized is we humans are the only creatures who have any long-term sense of it. Our pets, for example, live in a world that runs on the most rudimentary mathematical equation: cause and effect. When I do This, That happens. They live without any context for living.
In some ways, this means they enjoy more satisfaction with life–pets do not have the stress of making ends meet, maintaining relationships, or worrying about their environment. They do not even have the context of sanitation to be mindful of their hygiene. In other ways, it means they have no appreciation for the nuances or consequences of living and therefore, have less satisfaction with life–they have no fascination for rainbows, no appreciation of the work put in to feed them, no gratitude for their toys or the people in their lives.
Can you imagine what it must be like for the dog whose exasperated master rubs the dog’s nose in the dog’s urine when the dog pees on the floor? To the dog, the math was simple: he had to pee, that was the best spot he could find. The dog has none of the context around the master’s stressful day at work, the cherry-wood stain on the floor, the fact that they have to keep living there, or the amount of time and effort needed to clean the mess.
People argue that the dog knows he is in trouble, but does he? From the dog’s perspective, probably the best explanation he can conjure is, “Sometimes when I pee in my cell, the people who locked me in prison go ballistic. I have no idea what they expected me to do instead. I’m hoping they don’t notice this time because the last time they completely lost their sh*t and forced my face into it. And then 20 minutes later, they treat me well. This is one messed up situation.”
Of course, it is not even that sophisticated. The dog has no concept of prisons, cells, bad, good, punishment, or reward. The world is simply a very confusing morass of double standards, random beatings, and meaningless love. What we consider to be loyalty, the dog might think is simply the safest bet. “Despite these people being complete nutters, I can’t imagine how much worse it could be without them.” Then again, no wonder they often try to escape and make it on their own.
The context of our lives is what makes life meaningful, which means it can also rob meaning from parts of life. We make some parts more meaningful than other parts. Sometimes the dog is important. Sometimes the dog is an excuse to vent negative emotions. To the dog, though, it is all the same. You are a crazy person.
To bring this back to Time, the dog has no context from which to remember peeing on the floor is bad. The dog just knows you are random and crazy and sometimes treat the dog well, sometimes poorly.
For us, it is the context of the past that gives meaning to the present and future.