First up, I am hard at work on the Renewal universe. To say that’s it’s my number one priority would be disingenuous, since my number one priority is always making sure the bills are paid. But it’s right at the top of the list and progress is being made. I plan to bury my poor editor with a pile of Renewal soon enough. She wants me to send chapters, but I like to send entire books. My goal with Renewal was to get people to imagine what would happen if the world were to change, quickly and harshly.
Second, there are a number of other writing projects stealing my time. Those of you who want to see the outcome of the Renewal story are probably not happy about it, but with apologies, it’s how my brain works. I have “Stories from the Edge” which is an exploration of another kind of apocalypse and how society melds around it. I have “The Bus” which has been dominant of late, and is a story of how we measure the value of a life.
That theme is made more important from my own life from the process of fostering old dogs. We take on dogs that are old, unadoptable in the larger sense, and usually come with numerous health problems. We are supported in this effort by Old Dog Haven, which pays the medical bills for these dogs, more than 300 of them currently. I can’t heap enough praise on ODH. If the goal is to have these dogs die in a home that cares for them, then ODH delivers in spades. We are only on our second final refuge dog, but there are folks who have presided over the final moments of many, many dogs, and have made it a joyful (or at least trusting) end of life for these dogs, and in that regard, I say that ODH is tantamount to a miracle. On a larger stage, it is truly remarkable how we can derive deep meaning from the simplest things.
The question of our relationship with dogs cannot be ignored. We essentially trained and bred them to look to us for security and guidance. In return they offer us love, trust, and protection. We’ve been doing it for at least 5000 years. There are people who can make the case that our civilization would never have developed without the willing support of our canine brethren. But today, we, all of us, have ended up with dogs, who are born with the instinct to respond to us. In return, we owe them actual time, attention, and effort, in a relationship that is all-important to them. This means, among many other sad circumstances, not to chain them in the back yard, not to leave them in a chain link pen, and not to treat them as incidental factors in a busy world, It means that we should interact with them, talk to them, train them to our expectations of proper behavior. I haven’t met a dog yet who is not willing to learn more about what we expect. Like small children, boundaries and expectations equal security to dogs. By the way, even totally deaf dogs like it when you talk to them.
Some dogs generally like simple rules. For some, the more elaborate the rules, the better. For us, it’s simple: Pay attention to our dogs’ needs and act accordingly. If you think it’s complicated, you are simply not paying attention. Dogs communicate well. Our job is to learn to interpret that communication. Your dog will be happier and so will you.
Am I writing a book on dogs? Not officially, but yes. My six dogs and their elaborate interactions can’t help but suggest ideas about the subject. In particular, we have two Australian Shepherds who are markedly different from other dogs. The Aussie way of approaching life is full of lessons for human beings. I call it the Aussie Way. It’s tongue in cheek, but it’s also relevant to how we live and the world around us.
Now, on to people. One thing that actually bothers me about various feedback over the years is to suggest that I am sexist. As a result, and perhaps predating the feedback, I spend a lot time thinking about sexism and what it means. This no different from the time I spend thinking about liberalism or conservatism and what it means, and how fluid the definitions of all of these “isms” has become. Frankly, everything about social norms and broad groups in psychology fascinate me and lead me to ideas on how to organize these thoughts.
Let me be clear. To be sexist, as a heterosexual male, means that I must automatically assume some kind of inferiority in women. This has never been the case for me. My mother was a strong woman in many respects and weak in others, but the fact remains that she had a huge impact on most of the people she encountered. As a man, I am strong in some respects and weak in others. In my marriage, I have keen sense of how my wife is strong and I am weak, and vice versa. Is she smarter than I am? Usually. Am I smarter the she is? Occasionally. From my limited male perspective, women are frequently stronger, more courageous, and more capable than men. Does this make sense in the grand sense of being human? Sure. After all, men can’t ultimately be responsible for bringing new human life to fruition. The subset of things that men do better as a rule is smaller and less subtle than what women do. As a man, I feel fortunate to even have a glimpse of how women think. Do I assume I have any idea of whether I am right? Nope, I only have hope. You can decide.
Does this mean women are perfect and blameless? Not a chance. Women do amazing things, but they don’t operate without their own blind spots. Some women are power hungry and will stab their friends in the back for a little more power and influence. Some women are attention hungry and will trip all over themselves to be the most noticeable woman in the room. Some women will shamelessly use their charms to influence the outcome of an encounter. Some women will lead poor, hapless, hormone driven males to a place they never intended to go. I say good for them. If it works… Does this make me sexist? Absolutely, if being sexist is the simple act of recognizing the relative strengths and weakness of men and women. Absolutely not, if it means that men and women are equal but different. And thank goodness for that. If we were all the same, we’d be screwed. And bored.