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DOG STORIES

  • Why "the dog"?
  • How it is with Words



  • "What a relief: a dog. Barking."


    Why "the dog"?

    We live in a time when the extraordinary excites and attracts us. We feel drawn into a life beyond us, projecting our interest and imagination into new information, enormous salaries, and the lives of celebrities. We seem to desire circumstances that belong to another, overlooking the wonders of the life around us. We want to share and participate in lives and situations which seem so much more alive than our own. The fantastic world of the television and movie screen serves as a ready escape for us.

    Experiencing the importance and meaning of the community and the home becomes increasingly challenging. Recognizing the need to nourish the soul and bring a vibrancy to ordinary and everyday life, theater can awaken and refresh our regard for the most immediate by enlivening the quieter moment and inspiring the imagination for even the mundane task, like washing the dishes or walking the dog. By bringing into the community a tangible and immediate "poetic" experience through sound, word, and movement, the community becomes invigorated with a shared sense of fellowship, if only in a living moment.

    The individual is awakened to their own "common" humanity and to an experience which is uniquely their own, not belonging to a life beyond them. "Walking the dog" is a modern theater piece about ordinary and everyday transitions. "What should I bring when we next meet?" "What age will it take to be...the one who walks the dog?" "What is required to open the moment?" "What keeps me shaving?" "What will here become, and now?" "What should we do with those bonus moments?" These are some of the questions.

    Throughout the journey which traverses a character's 28th year an audience arrives at its own terms and meanings, as every individual inevitably stands before their own threshold of change. People are seeking affirmation in their personal lives by awakening the immediate moment through poetic time, as opposed to the temper and anxiety of "media" time. Artistic movement, music, and word, as experienced in "Walking the dog" and its playful regard of the everyday, can open up a sense of significance for the ordinary life of the soul. "Walking the dog" invites us to be ordinary. It inspires us for the daily task, the daily journey, and, with the dog to remind us, shows us a way home.

    Jack London pointed out that we see something that we do not understand in looking at the dog. "At times it was like gazing into a human soul, to look into his eyes; and what I saw there frightened me and started all sorts of ideas in my own mind of reincarnation and all the rest. I tell you I sensed something big in that brute's eyes; there was a message there, but I wasn't big enough myself to catch it... I don't know what it was, but it gave me a feeling of kinship all the same. Oh, no, not sentimental kinship. It was, rather, a kinship of equality."

    Dogs have figured in human lives since the beginning of communities. Thousands of years ago the dog, curious perhaps, began to move a little closer to our hunting grounds. Or was it the adoption of a wolf cub which brought them to us? Whatever inspired this wish for mutual understanding, it became a huge event in human history - a declaration of the human being's mastery of the world and the discovery of a profound spiritual link between dogs and humans.

    Since then they have served us in countless and untold ways; perhaps more out of cooperation and empathy than subservience. We have developed a special attachment to them, and through their close association with us they have, in some ways, risen above their nature; at times transcending animal behavior and instinct to reflect and even acquire aspects of humanness. Some ascribe them souls. Some say their nature reveals qualities of our souls.

    Others believe they help carry human destiny. Often they do seem to ask us to be molded, transformed, as if they aspired to complement and assist the lives around them. They certainly encounter and tolerate the worst in us -- as well as the best -- yet always they remain our faithful companions.

    In this performance we follow our friend's reliable nose into deeper more difficult connections where little is unconditional without tremendous effort, and we find ourselves groping for what the dog never questions - direction, purpose, identity, recognition. With the question punctuating our seeking we will weave poetry, music, and eurythmy to create a tapestry evocative of the connections and relationships between ourselves and the world around us, the world beyond us, each other and, of course, the dog.

    "Man is the God of the dog whose whole soul is wrapped up in his God. All the power and faculties of his nature are devoted to his service! And these powers and faculties are ennobled by the intercourse."
    --
    - Robert Burns

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    How it is with Words
    by Paul Matthews

    Walking the dog - as it sniffs its way from pillar to tree to post, as it lifts its leg - can we ever be sure that it's not the dog that is walking us? And that's how it is with words, I reckon. Confident in what we mean to say, we choose words carefully, but even as we do so some ancient pedigree, refusing to lie down in its dictionary, tugs at the leash, sniffing in the long grass an adjective which in its vowels or subtlety of gesture means more than we allowed for. Long buried bones this dog digs up. We are dogged by metaphors and doctrines that howl to us from the strataed mouths of ten millenia back - fearful images narrowed in seemingly dry abstractions. And, digging down through the last lettery detritus, it's Cerberus himself we find - three-headed hound of Hades who must be appeased if ever our words are to mean what we mean them to mean. Throw him a word, and he'll crack it open with his teeth and spew etymologies out which threaten to bewilder us with multiple meanings when only one was intended. I'm a little afraid of this three-tongued mongrel straining there beneath the crust of language and, at the same time, I am excited to be both walked and walking on this path of unpredictable arrival.

    Paul Matthews is the author of The Ground That Love Seeks (Five Seasons Press, available through Anthroposophic Press) and Sing Me The Creation (Hawthorn Press). He teaches Creative Writing and Gymnastics at Emerson College, Forest Row, England.