WITH A WAGGING TAIL
On the little road south of Pisté more Black Vultures than usual circled above the Municipal Garbage Dump. They also congregated on the paved road where an animal had been run over the previous night. Just bones and tufts of hair were left now.
Somebody had left a little brown pup there. He stood among the vultures looking at the carrion as I biked down the road, and when he saw me he started walking toward me. He was in pretty bad shape. His ribs stuck out, patches of fur were missing, and his nose was dry and cracking. But, behind him, his tail stood straight up, wagging, and he was smiling, too.
Maybe as a defense against the moment, in that soft morning's benevolent sunshine, I went spiritual. I mean, my mind leapt into that realm of abstraction where this thing that is my own presence and awareness, instead of identifying with the things of this world, claim membership with the evolving Universe where everything, including the pup and me, is part of reality's generous blossoming of life and more life, and ever more exquisitely refined sensibilities, and more and more soaring, intensely passionate feelings and empathies.
Thinking like that, you might predict that my "feelings and empathies" would oblige me to scoop up the pup and begin taking care of him. Instead, here's what happened:
I thought: We humans are programmed to have nurturing feelings before a babyish smile or a pup's wagging tail. Centuries of selective breeding by humans have created dog-pups programmed to smile and wag their tails when human attention is needed. If this pup is successful in enticing me with his smile and wagging tail to feed and care for him, he'll survive and pass on genes to future dog generations so that, on the average, the evolving dog species will become a little more smiley and tail-waggy.
And, that PROCESS of distilling ever more cheering dog-smiles and ever-more endearing tail wags from the misery and ugliness of raw, disordered space and time with carrion along its highways surely is beautiful, for it's clearly what the Creator "wants," beause it's the way things "are." And, it seems to be true that this and other outrages to our senses generally or always turn out to be features of the dance between the Universe's dark, negative Yin with radiant, positive Yang. Just that at this precise moment in the dance Yang's back is to us, while partner Yin stares over the shoulder straight into our faces.
Thinking like this didn't offer guidance about what to do with the pup, but it did put things in a context beyond just man-meets-dog. And from that perspective it seemed that non-action, non-participation, at the least might not be an unforgivable stance.
Also, there was the matter that I'm not into procuring dog food which has flesh in it of other animals I'd rather not pay to have killed and converted into dog food. And if I'd take the pup to someone else in town, it'd just end up mangy and starving like the rest. In my way of thinking, ecological laws and "living with dignity" trump the primal impulse to produce ever more numerous living things.
Down the road, the pup left among the vultures, sunlight and wind, on and on, the road was long, lonely, and beautiful.