I have a Shepherd mix that I rescued from the local animal control facility on April Fool’s day. Her name was listed as Billie so to make the transition smoother for her my wife suggested the name of Millie. Millie is still a bit of a pup but you couldn’t tell that the day I brought her home. She was thin, reserved and very docile to humans and other dogs. Millie had been at the pound for a little over three weeks which surprised me. Policy used to be that if no one claimed them during the first two weeks they were put down. I suspect animal rights advocates have made a positive impact on that policy which I, and I’m sure Millie, are grateful for.
After bringing her home, giving her healthy amounts of food and plenty of love, the friskiness that pups are known for re-developed within a couple of short weeks. I have been taking her on my daily walks each day which amounts to about 2 miles. We pretty much take the same route each day yet I am struck by how each day she seems to act as if things are different from the last. It’s as if she sees something unusual in each item she passes that wasn’t obvious to her the day before. I’m pretty sure this applies to the very young of all animal life, even the human ones.
Millie, shortly after I brought her home
Millie has settled into some routines pretty easy; again, something she shares with humans. There is security and comfort from a ritualistic lifestyle and our conditioning to such habits is common to us all, often at different levels. Habits give us stability to our lives and yet there is a life apart from this that pleasantly surprises us. Millie’s actions on our daily walks reminds me that new sensations are also an essential part to a fulfilled life.
I tell you all of this because I watched a segment on “60 Minutes” yesterday about monks. The segment was called “Mt. Athos: A visit to the Holy Mountain” and was described as “a place outside our world. It’s not Mars or Venus but it might as well be. It’s a remote peninsula in northern Greece that millions believe to be the most sacred spot on Earth”.
These men also engage in routines and habits that give them a sense of stability and security yet they confine themselves to a remote part of the world and avoid almost all other human contact for the sole purpose of “getting closer to God”. Both Millie and the monks of Atmos I think want only to take what little they need to nourish their body while they engage in those activities, unrelated to the material world, that give them great joy and pleasure.
Each has a perception of the world that excites them and transforms them simply by being. Neither want to be the richest, most powerful or most loved nor have they built monuments to themselves or want to stand out amongst their peers. Their outlook on life is unselfish and their greatest pleasure is to bring joy to others. If only this could be bottled and sold, or better yet, freely given asking for no compensation what-so-ever.
The complex and volatile world that the monks have fled and that Millie is unaware of is the one in which the rest of mankind seems to find itself for the most part. Though religion predominates most cultures their scriptural messages that were perhaps inspired by those who have touched and been touched by another worldly presence are diminished by legalistic designs of narrower minds, where emphasis is more on self-interests rather than communal interests or personal inward happiness.
The rest of the human race lives in world where we can only see things in one-dimensional ways that are formed by contrivances of the mind we have allowed and endured for centuries. They are devoid of the many-faceted dimensions that Millie sees in everyday objects and the holy connection to the spiritual realm that the monks appear to dwell in.
Most of our thoughts and efforts revolve around money. How much we have and need, how much we can get or lose and how much others have compared to what is necessary. The value of things we were all given co-equally as the earth and our species formed has been broken down today into a system whereby others declare property as their inalienable right while denying others theirs, creating most of the social ills known to man today.
If the creator meets the needs of Mille and the monks as he or she has with the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, what was it we had that we let sink into obscurity and become replaced by a system of exchanges and rules where men “legally” steal what belongs to all of us. How has it also come to where systems of faith have replaced an inner connectedness to our source of life that requires little in material resources with one that depends almost entirely on “the things of Cesar”?
Don’t get me wrong. Material objects of our own creation that enhance our lives are not supposed to be objects of scorn but neither should they be ends in themselves. A home is no longer a place where families give meaning to their life. It is now a house where we can collect stuff to entertain us until we tire of it. Transportation is no longer a means to easily get from point A to point B but a symbol of style, sexuality and getting noticed.
We live in a world where the genie is out of the bottle and pretend that it cannot be put back in. We have accepted our way of life as permanent yet the monks of Athos and my rescued dog who live among us live as if there was no genie to worry about.
How do they achieve this where the rest of us can’t? What do they see that appears invisible to us?
One was a creature of neglect and perhaps abuse, the others were of this world much the way the rest of mankind is now. Somehow though that part of all living beings that seeks real meaning to their lives is stronger with them than those of us who quit looking once the bells, baubles and whistles of material things distracted us and became more than an essential for a better life.
Damn! I’ve depressed myself now so I think I’ll take a walk with Millie.