RIP, My Dear. Sadness, Please Get Gone.

Eye of Mine 1

On day 3 of Bess’s absence I wake up with and go to sleep with a dogged downness that I want to surmount as soon as possible. Wine numbs but doesn’t fix it. I hate grieving because of how my brain keeps reverting perversely to sights and sounds I long to unsee and unhear — the spectacle, relatively brief, but that’s cold comfort — of my innocent young pet’s anguish; the horrifying moment when she rolled on her side, had a spasm, which is the moment, I surmise, when she effectively expired, the remaining breaths she drew just being the body doing what it does until it shuts down. Why does the mind do that? Is it some internal mechanism that dictates that, in order to get over it, you have to keep reliving the worst part of your disaster? I just want to spew scatological invective over having to feel these feelings and suffer this insult to my mediocre contentment, this senseless deprivation of my companion, my stupid precious dog.

I’m relatively resilient. I have things to do and promises to keep, and the water works have to dry up for these projects to go forward. How much salty liquid do we store, for pity’s sake? I don’t intend to mention this event again, and beg indulgence for dwelling on it here, hoping that going through rather than around will help put it to rest. My loss is a drop in the ocean compared to the horrible things that happen in the world every second of every day, but it takes a while to heal the sting and get to that perspective.

(c) 2018 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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10 Responses to RIP, My Dear. Sadness, Please Get Gone.

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    Sorry to hear about your dog. I was thinking the other day of how animals, especially dogs, live in the very present, and how that may be part of why their presence is so appealing to us humans — they bring us into the present.

    Sure, much more horrible things happen every minute of every day, but that shouldn’t make us callous to the plight of our cherished animals. There is still the essential termination of existence which all living things face. Can we value the lives of people without valuing the life of a pet?

    Once in a biology class we were given fertile eggs and were instructed to lop off the top, after which we could observe the initial biological system functioning. I found this incredibly disturbing. Here we watched life be extinguished in the raw. It as supposed to be insignificant, but it was also universal.

    The bond between humans and canines goes back thousands of years. Your love of your pet is a good thing that makes life meaningful and rich. It’s what it means to be human, and to be a dog.

    • JMN says:

      Your comments here are extraordinarily intuitive and moving, Eric. I’m typing through tears. What keeps knocking me for a loop is having witnessed the obvious suffering Bess endured during her last hour. I would give anything to have spared her that even when losing her. She was a very expressive animal and we sort of read each other in an uncanny way. I hope it doesn’t sound inflated, but it gives me a vivid taste of what PTSD must entail for persons who harbor images of trauma and carnage that persist in cropping up after the fact. Since 2016 I’ve had to watch two young, apparently healthy dogs crater suddenly and croak for no apparent reason before my very eyes. Cookie died very quickly, thank goodness. Bess didn’t. With my lifestyle, I get too close to a pet to want to do this again. Thank you so much for weighing in on my loss with such sensitivity, compassion and insight. The sympathy of fellow bloggers has been very helpful.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        Glad my thoughts were supportive. On that question about why we linger on the horrific aspects, I think it’s because the mind is attempting to grapple with the cosmic injustice which is anathema to our nature — why should there be suffering in the world. As you know, it’s what compelled the Buddha to seek enlightenment. it is unacceptable to a mind that wants to exists in a safe and fair universe that pain, suffering, horror, and so on exist.

        I suppose you could try to steer away from that and try to remember the pleasant times, which I think tends to happen over time.

      • JMN says:

        Well said. I find myself building a mental buffer zone around the painful images. It does happen with time. In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Spain for 3 months with my daughter and her brood, away from the house that Bess haunts! I hope it’s true that our basic human nature is repelled by injustice and suffering. Sometimes it’s hard to hold on to this tenet in light of the brutality afoot in the world. I know only the scantest details about the Buddha’s life. Maybe this is a good moment in mine to do a little reading on the subject. It’s distracting and distressing how different religious communities find ways to rip each others’ throats out ever and anon, historically and currently. Would the world be a better place if all sects would suspend belief for fifteen minutes and just seek a moment of clarity and serenity and charity?

      • Eric Wayne says:

        “Would the world be a better place if all sects would suspend belief for fifteen minutes and just seek a moment of clarity and serenity and charity?”

        Talk about textbook Buddhism without even trying! The whole point of Easters Mysticism is just that kind of clarity and serenity. As for belief, Buddha said NOT to believe him, but rather he offers his method of achieving enlightenment, after which one supposedly will discover for oneself.

        I’m attracted to Eastern thought and practices, but all the fake/corrupt gurus destroy my hope that enlightenment is real. There are, however, very basic, obvious, and practical advantages to meditation and escaping the tyranny of the restless mind. If one can practice letting go of thought altogether – disrupting the endless sea of uninterrupted sentences the inner DJ spouts – one can gain better control of ones mind in general, and be less vulnerable to the whims of the mind/ego, and so on…

        I strongly think there is a natural, human, mental reaction against, and rejection of the looming fact of cruel injustice, pain, suffering, and death. That people willingly bring these things about in others besides themselves does not contradict that. It just shows an inability on their part to recognize themselves in others. One can belief oneself to be invincible while torturing someone else to death, while that should cause massive cognitive dissonance in someone whose more self aware.

        I suppose some people might accept and deliver cruelty, knowing they will also be victim to it, but that’s a rare individual, probably the result of dire circumstances, and quite possibly insane. A normal person does not find undeserved suffering for themselves a viable prospect.

        Traveling, in my limited experience, is great for taking the mind off of fixating on problems. One has to be in the present a lot, make itineraries, see new things, and so on. One’s mind has to attend to those things, and NEWNESS, which is imminently distracting and involving. That’s assuming the traveling doesn’t bring it’s own significant problems.

        Back to Eastern practices going back thousands of years. I rather think we can combine them with a Western objective outlook and have the strengths of both.

      • JMN says:

        Gosh, this comment is so rigorously on point and illuminating that I’ve saved it off to a notes file for more consideration. It’s gratifying to experience how using one’s words searchingly can lead one, on occasion, to a spot of groundedness like the one you perceive — something to grab hold of or stand on momentarily in a flood of confusion! I pictured a worldwide moment of bliss when even for the blink of an eye all “faith-based” creeds would be set aside. I have something of the aversion for the “faith-based” label that you have for the “toxic” word. Oh to be faith-FREE for an instant! Many wars would be suspended, Twitter would fall silent, and starving, tortured masses could draw a gasping breath before persecution resumed.

        From your description there’s much for a wandering skeptic to latch on to in Buddhist thought and practice. In college I saw some movie depicting American prisoners of war escaping captivity by sneaking up and killing their guards. Later, I worriedly confided to Dr. Duce, my philosophy tutor, that I identified with the poor unsuspecting bastards who got their throats slit. I could imagine how unpleasant that must be! I don’t remember how he fielded this concern, but I also mentioned that I couldn’t think of anything I was willing to die for. He said knowingly, “Aha! What you’re saying, then, is you have nothing to live for.” Even then (age 18) I remember thinking, “Wait! What?” His leap seemed to take a wrong direction. I still think so. I’m not sure what this anecdote adds to the discussion, but I appreciate your indulgence in allowing it. (You haven’t much choice, actually!) I suppose it’s emblematic of my revulsion for violence under its many guises. It’s less a virtue than an affliction “in this world in which we live in” (one of my favorite Beatles phrases). Your remarks are highly quotable. This one seems apposite here: “A normal person does not find undeserved suffering for themselves a viable prospect.”

        Great observations about travel. Hopping jets and navigating airports scares me a little now. I don’t have the resilience (and invincibility!) I had when globe-hopping in younger days, but what awaits at the other end is well worth it.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        I think I saw that same movie, and maybe it was “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, or something like that. I don’t agree with your philosophy teacher either. One doesn’t just get to play with words and assume switching “die” and “live” is necessarily meaningful: if there’s nothing worth dying for, there’s nothing worth living for. It’s a self-contradictory proposition. If something is worth dying for, than it is NOT worth living for, otherwise you wouldn’t choose to die instead. He might have asked you instead if there’s anything worth killing for. At least you’d have something to ponder in the form of a question, rather than having to stomach a condescending assertion. He ended the discussion rather than open it.

        There’s so much to think about related to all those things. There may be a situation of self-sacrifice in which dying is the best option, if it means saving other lives, etc. But dying in the name of religion, revolution, war, or whatever, in which one is mostly just a pawn in someone else’s game of Chess, shouldn’t be acceptable to most intelligent people. It’s all going to boil down to very specific circumstances. Generally speaking, I think you were saying that you rejected the notion of dying for an idea or cause.

        Onto the “faith based creeds”. I don’t know that we can really get away from “faith”, because even people who will only accept as true that which science has proven to be true are, unless they are scientists themselves, taking the findings of science on faith. We believe the math must be correct otherwise it wouldn’t work, but can’t fathom the equations ourselves. People put their faith in medicine, economic ideas, free-market capitalism, socialism, and all sort of other things. Is it better to put one’s faith in “God” or in free-market capitalism? I think people who deny the science of global warming are putting their faith in some sort of tribal allegiance. It’s superstitious to deny science on a purely scientific matter, and insist you are right.

        There’s a lot of faith in the art world. People spend millions on Damien Hirst’s spot paintings, painted by his assistants, in the belief that they will go up in value. People believe now that everything wrong with the world is due to white men, many because they have faith in their teachers, peers, and various figures who maintain such a stance.

        You might look into Buddhism or related practices. I wouldn’t go into it 100% like Alex Grey, who thinks his LSD visions precisely coincide with Buddhist texts, but I do think Buddhist ideas and practices would do more for a lot of people than drugs and therapy to fight depression and anxiety. To the degree that we create out own mental suffering it is useful in that it strives to free us from the tyranny of our minds, being prey to thoughts, and so on. The mind, they say, will never be satisfied, and is always casting itself into the future or past, worrying, lamenting, anticipating, and so on. But if we could just be in the present (assuming we are physically OK, I’d add), than we would feel OK, and much more than OK. I am better with the theory that the practice!

        This is getting long, but, I don’t seek a peaceful emptiness, but am drawn to ecstatic states and visions. Nevertheless I think the former even makes the latter more possible.

        Here is a book by my favorite guru. Try as I might, I can find very little to disagree with in what he says. Nor have I found anyone who explains Eastern thought more clearly:

      • JMN says:

        Thanks for the reference to your favorite guru. My time in Spain should offer some opportune time to read him. I’ve saved this whole comment to notes for further response. I’ve sampled Sam Durant’s work and Rage Against the Machine since last exchange.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        A few quick notes.

        I’m using “Rage Against the Machine” as an example of artists whose content is overtly political, but whose appeal is much more wide reaching. I’m not necessarily recommending them to you, though I am a fan. There most famous song is “Killing in the Name”. You might recognize it. I liked it the first time I heard it because of the energy, crunchy sound, and rebellious nature of it:

        Sam Durant is a perfect example of the opposite. His art is only interesting at all in terms of its politics, and you must agree with them for it to matter. He’s famous for signs that say things like “End White Supremacy”. To look at they are nothing. But, if you agree we need to end white supremacy (who doesn’t?), than, I guess to some people that makes it important art, and we all know important art is the best art. See the tactic. The best art is important, therefor important art is the best art, and the most important art is that which addresses the most important issues. That’s how people think and what they believe. They miss that the best art isn’t important because of the issues it addresses, but because it is inherently great.

        Next, Nisargadatta Maharaj. As far as gurus go, well, he didn’t have a Rolls Royce (Osho had over 90), didn’t live in opulence, and didn’t charge anything for people to talk to him. He lived humbly and cheaply.

        He expresses rather classic Hindu ideas without the gods, references to Arjuna on the battlefield or any of that. He occasionally drops some vocab, but that’s it. He’s probably the most accessible exponent of “the diamond path”, aka Advaita strain of Hinduism, which basically tries to explain things very directly to the intellect (while maintaining that the mind and certainly the intellect are the problem).

        People like Wayn Dyer and Eckhart Tolle have admitted to their indebtedness to him. And by me, Maharaj is more convincing, and better to go to the source.

        I was reading him well over a decade ago while also researching brain/consciousness science and theory, and going on psychedelic forays. What really stood out about Maharaj was that he nailed what consciousness is, and how it differs from awareness. Western science was saying the same thing, finally.

        Alas, as I said earlier, I don’t know if I believe anyone is truly enlightened. There are just too many frauds. And unlike artists, gurus have nothing to show to prove their mental states, or non-states. We are left with their words, and if there are deeds, they are usually magic tricks (literally).

        Nevertheless, I find that some Eastern philosophy is a good thing. It’s good to practice getting out of the mind and mental fixations. Zen is probably the most direct route, but if one wants an explanation, then Advaita is really appealing.

        Don’t think I’m not a skeptic. Just because someone is my favorite, or the only guru I can abide, doesn’t mean I’m buying into it without question.

        Have a great trip!

      • JMN says:

        More wonderful exposition from you. Acute distinctions on the political in art. Your appraisal of the “guru” scene seems clear-eyed and realistic without being dismissive. I want to look into Nisargadatta Maharaj’s work. The lack of Rolls Royces makes it all the more approachable! I take heed of what you say about Rage Against the Machine. I’m going to focus on “Killing in the Name.” The title itself speaks volumes. I’m appending here some remarks I just drafted from perusing some saved ones of yours. Bear in mind I wrote this before reading your comments here.

        ** “Back to Eastern practices going back thousands of years. I rather think we can combine them with a Western objective outlook and have the strengths of both.” [I like that frame of mind. It brings to mind a term I’ve seen little since my comparative religion course in college: syncretism. I remember it as a combining of disparate influences into a functioning new thing, put very crudely. I tend strongly toward conciliation in general, whether among people or ideas.]
        ** “…I don’t seek a peaceful emptiness, but am drawn to ecstatic states and visions. Nevertheless I think the former even makes the latter more possible.” [Yes! It radiates insight to sense affinity between “opposing” states.]
        ** “I don’t know that we can really get away from ‘faith’…” [True. Our nature is to lend credence to something. I’m shy of “supernatural” constructs, but who knows where nature begins or ends, what’s “outside” it, anyway? So I’m unfaithful to my faithlessness!]

        I’ve taken a look at Sam Durant and see what you mean about politics, I think. I confess that when I see “multimedia” or “performance” prepended to the label “artist” I often drift away mentally in spite of myself. It’s my difficulty with Ai Wei Wei, who by all appearances is a courageous man. I’m addicted to pictures, in whatever media, not installations, which speaks to my limitations as a dilettante and hobbyist. No disrespect to the vanguard. I remind myself that many great music and art innovators now received as classics were derided or ignored in their day. I cast about for what moves me readily, but try to keep an open mind on what doesn’t. I’m keen to grow into tastes I haven’t acquired yet, and I set great store in the judgments of others whose tastes I respect, in this case yours. I’m thinking here of Rage Against the Machine. I’ve listened to a spate of their songs. They start at crescendo level and sustain it. I hear lyrics snarled and chanted on top of serious goings-on in the instruments. Lots of epithets. I want more exposure. Alex Ross led me to Steve Reich like you’ve pointed me to this music. We’re in a moment when the uses of rage want examining. I’m little equipped temperamentally for the rough-and-tumble of art-scene adepts that I bump into on occasion. I read a jeremiad on Banksy, for example, that vaporized him with a barrage of contempt several times over. Doubtless there are plenty of sell-outs and grifters about, but how far does one go to out-tut-tut the tut-tutters? (I think I’ve just hatched a title for a future post. It reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s “mau-mauing the flak-catchers”!)

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