What exists? These thoughts were my first encounter with what I guess we should call spirituality, belief systems, some order of the universe, God.
I generally dislike it, preferring, if I must, to be part of a Havurah-type atmosphere. I hear a lot of other Jews are shul-averse, too. Once, somewhere in the pews of a Conservative shul in Newton, Massachusetts, when I was nearing bar mitzvah age, I tried really, really hard to pray.
I said to myself, Try as hard as you can to feel God, to get to the place everyone around you seems to be enjoying. I told myself to immerse in prayer, in melody, in Hebrew as best I could.
I closed my eyes. Conversations they start. And what of dogs? Perhaps, even, she is God, or a god.
Actually, screw perhaps. She is. Lady and I have no real business knowing each other.
As far as I know she was seized from her home in Alphabet City, twice, because her owner was apparently arrested, twice. When animal services found her she was so scared and so hungry, I later learned, that she had tried to bite through the door; at the pound in Harlem they found wood in her stool. The popular sentiment out there is that dogs choose you, implying some incredible and unexpected connection between human and dogs, something meant to be that signals to the owner, I just know.
I believe our pairing was the work of some other order. Lady, herself, makes me wonder if she is a higher being, a being with a greater purpose, a being that shows me the way. She brings me joy, she enables reflection. I rest my head on her body in the absence of a pillow. I take care of her—walks to pee, walks to poop, food, water, sleep. At times it feels onerous. At times, still, it feels downright impossible—a sacrifice.
And for what? The reciprocation is immeasurable.
Far too often its benefits, the benefits of our relationship, if you will, remain out of sight and out of mind. I sometimes transfer my stress unto her, my uneasiness about life, people, work, love, things, ideas. She absorbs it like a sponge and lets it go in her own, mysterious way. Over-analysis—of everything—takes a backseat to being, to the simple feeling of fur on hand. I am released. These stories are parables.
Like the parables in the Quran, they point to a truth inside our own hearts and souls. We come to see that the dead dog is us, the disciples are us, and yes, even Jesus is inside our own selves.
There is a part of our own being that is rotten, a part of us that would like to pass by other human beings without dealing with their ugliness, and there is that part of us, divine or divinely-illuminated, that can pause and reflect Jesus-like upon any and every situation and recognize the presence of God right then and there. It is often the case that we come to interact with one another when the other person pushes our buttons. No, let's be honest, when they take a hammer to our buttons. The other person may be a random stranger who cuts you off on the road, may be the pundit on news that reports the wrong perspective i.
How often we stand in judgment as Christ's disciples did in this parable, noting and complaining how hideous and malodorous the actions and words of this person were. At times, we might even think that it is not just their words, but also their very being that is hideous. The sages tell us these stories so that the image of Christ kneeling by the dead rotting dog instills itself in our hearts, and can be resurrected as Christ was in precisely such a moment. At the very moment that we want to equate another human being with the hideousness of their action or words, we recall the example of Jesus who was able to recognize something good and beautiful in the midst of all that ugliness.
And as Jesus said, "praise be to God," or in another version, "This creature belongs to God. This is a great challenge, because we are called to do this not when people are their most beautiful, but precisely at the moment when their ugly side is showing. And we all have this, every single one of us. As Rumi says, every single one of us is a jackass, with wings of angels tacked on. Can we pause long enough to say to our own selves: this anger will not define me, I am not this vile fear and anger that has taken a hold of my heart, and I will -- so help me God -- reach to recognize in you something that is good and beautiful.
However ugly and hideous the words of this person are at this very moment, are they any more hideous than that rotten dog was? And can I, for one instant, behave like Jesus did at that moment? Because religion is not ultimately a simple matter of otherworldliness. It is not simply a matter of faith in a system of belief, and salvation There and Then.
It is also a matter of a heart-transformation Here and Now. To walk in the footsteps of Muhammad and Christ and Buddha, one has to behave like them. Their very manners have to illuminate our hearts, and transform our beings. The measure of religion, ultimately, is the extent to which our interactions with fellow human beings and fellow creation are transformed to something is lovely and beautiful.
While all of us know far too many example of religious bigots, that very combination is a sign that the very compassionate spirit of Christ, Muhammad and Buddha has not yet penetrated and transformed the soul just yet. In the language of the Quran, you have joined the ranks of Islam, but faith and beauty iman and ihsan have yet to penetrate your heart and soul. In the words of Gandhi, "As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion over-riding morality.
This recognition may or may not transform the person across from you. This recognition may or may not bring the dead dog back to life. This recognition may or may not get the person across from you, red in the face and foaming at the mouth, to act like a divinely fashioned human being. And that, after all, is the whole goal of every religion: to take what is rotten in us, and transform it to something luminous and divine.
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Saint Francis of Assisi talked to the animals and even tamed a wolf because he believed they were creatures of God, like us. And of course dog is God spelled. hardcontbeha.tk – When we were at Love Inn (our ministry work in upstate New York) our dog was a Border Collie, Alfie. He was the best Christian in the place. He was .
Here is one of the sweetest and most profound of these tales. Even if you think you have heard every good Jesus story, you may have not heard this one. This story appears in a number of important Muslim sources, such as the. Layla and Majnun. See the full story here. Let's get to the story. Why do these Muslim sages tell and retell these stories of Jesus and the dead dog?