We have a great story about spending time with your dog, but first we have to brush up on our Latin.
Numquam se plus agere quam nihil cum ageret, numquam minus solum esse quam cum solus esset. Cato wrote that 2,000 years ago. It means "Never is a man more active than when he does nothing, never is he less alone than when he is by himself."
You remember Cato. Cato was the old Roman statesman who was most famous for saying Carthago delenda est which means "Carthage must be destroyed." This saying was a successful bit of propaganda that Cato endlessly repeated until it caught on and became the chant of a mob and sure enough, the Romans destroyed Carthage.
Carthage is gone, or to be precise, it is now only a small village on the railroad line in Tunisia. But Rome is eternal and still with us -- thanks to Cato.
But the saying at the top here starts with NUMQUAM meaning never and you're never more active than when you are doing nothing -- what the heck does that mean? It's a bit of a puzzle, a puzzle that Hannah Arendt tackled in her volume of philosophy published in 1971 and titled "Thinking." Arendt is best remembered for her writing of "Eichmann in Jerusalem," but I found her thinking volume on the philosophy shelf at the library and I am checking it out.
Just keep this mind -- if you are sitting around the house all day in your pajamas and just thinking about stuff, you are making a valuable contribution to our culture and prosperity.
The Next Story Is About A Dog
Good, there is no more Latin in this week’s issue of Frog Hospital. The next story is by Bill Skubi, a friend of mine who lives in Coupeville, Washington. The story was originally published in the Puget Sound Mail in 1989 if you remember that obscure, quirky newspaper that I once published. The Puget Sound Mail promised “News of Lasting Value” and we kept that promise because this story about a man and his dog is not aged or dated.
Spending Time With Your Dog
By Bill Skubi
The frantic pace of modern life was catching up with me. I was taking a good hard look at the strange kind of person I had let myself become. This began a few weeks ago when Jan told me there was something wrong with Jackson’s ear. I was hearing what she said, but to my utter horror I realized that I didn’t care. Jackson is a lumbering old Yellow Lab. He has been my dog almost eleven years, slightly longer than I have been married to Jan. Just the week before I had caught myself actually trying to give him away to a friend who had moved his family into the country.
The excuse I gave myself was that Jackson was no longer happy living with us, since Jan insisted he be tied. The truth was that he was not happy because I had become too pre-occupied to spend any time with him. He was just this big, sad, obligatory maintenance retriever at the end of his tether. And so was I. That reminded me that it was I who had consciously fled the academic world fifteen years ago. At that point I realized that twenty years of schooling had trained me to read and write obscure sentences about “contingencies and non-linear variables.” At that rate I knew I would probably never live long enough to figure out what I wanted to say, and if I did figure that out, nobody would want to read it.
The writer in me wanted to git back home, do some plain talkin’, leave the footnotes, spend some evenings rocking on the front porch with a big ol’ hound-dog curled up at my feet. And I did it too, but the years brought marriage, a mortgage, and a child, along with career changes, and I let a whole new set of pressures come between me and my humanity. Or to put it another way, part of me woke up and was shocked to be sharing a body with someone who would offer to give away his dog. I really didn’t like the person I had become. I know I am basically an incurably selfish person. I attend church and take my marriage vows seriously knowing they are twin anchors on a spirit I know can be dangerously free, but I had forgotten that Jackson, too, was utterly dedicated to protecting me, and I owed him the same.
So I went to see what was ailing Jack’s ear. It was pretty sore all right, he was awful dirty and so was his house. I gave him a bath, and he was so proud to ride in my new truck and he didn’t even care he was going to the veterinarian. The vet had to keep him awhile to remove foxtail grass seeds from his ears. I went home, cleaned out his house and built him a new run in a place where he would have a good view of things. He was still a little wobbly on his hind legs from the medication when I brought him home. I showed him around his new digs and told him we would have to spend more time together. Then I noticed he was shaking uncontrollably. At first I could not tell whether he was sick or reacting to the medication. Then I got down to where I could stroke him and discovered he was shaking from pure joy.
Philosophers and theologians will forever debate the highest possible achievement of man on Earth, and I would submit to them that being the object of such perfect love might be right up there.
Anyway, I bought a blanket at the thrift store for Jack to lie on in the truck. I can still be too busy to take him along, but we do have an understanding. And my young son asks a question that I remember asking, “Do dogs go to heaven when they die?” His mother isn’t sure how to answer. As for me, there have been times in my life when I have doubted whether or not heaven really exists, but I have never doubted that dogs would be there if it did.
Politics: Can You Learn?
Trump is learning. He's getting better, not better-better just better at what he has been doing. That's the sign of a winner. Stephen Curry is not just the world's best basketball player, he's getting better. That's a good example. A bad example is an antibiotic resisting microbe in your local hospital. This microbe is evolving rapidly -- it is learning. How you fought it last week will not work today.
So the question goes to Hillary. Yes, she is smart. Everybody knows that, but is she learning?
Stay loose on your feet. Be ready for surprises. It doesn't matter how good you are. It only matters if you can learn.
Spring Subscription Drive. In a response to overwhelming demand, I have decided to keep Frog Hospital going for another year. I believe I have goods worthy of your reception. I do not write when the mood strikes me, I only write when I have something to say that you might find interesting.
This is quite a political year, so we will have lots of that. And be ready for surprises. Can you learn? It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how experienced you are, it only matters if you can learn. Frog Hospital will be making many regrettable errors in the coming year -- because we are learning as we go.
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