Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Morning Duties

My dog is very confused.

She knows, precisely, her responsibilities, and she's really very diligent about them.  If other humans walk by on the sidewalk, she is to bark fiercely to let them know that she can bark fiercely.  If a squirrel or bunny slinks into our yard, she is to bark even more fiercely for as long as possible, because squirrels and bunnies are clearly a menace to her humans.  Particularly if it's early morning.

Should a strange human come to the door, she is to snuffle and wag with evident glee, because obviously they're supposed to be there, or they would not be there.

The rest of the day she naps and conserves her energy, because one never knows when there might be a fox,  or perhaps even a deer, and that requires you to be at your best.

And then there are her Morning Duties.

The hairier human wakes, stumbles about making some peculiar smelling hot black fluid, and then attaches the apparatus she uses to lead him through the neighborhood so that the call of nature can be attended to.  It is known, with all the certainty of her knowing, that said call must always be heeded in specific predetermined locations.

Inside the human pack's den?  Never.  On the places where the humans walk?  No.

There is that grassy spot at the top of the hill, and that other one around the bend at the bottom of the street, where the feng shui is just so.  Those are the places, and that is where the thing that must be done may be performed.  This pattern is as reliable as the rising sun, her responsibilities clear.

Only suddenly, the whole world has just disappeared.  The wind howled, and the humans hunkered, and when it was done, everything was different.

All of the familiar smells and sights, all of the grass and the walking places, obliterated.  In their place, white stuff, deep and cold, washing out everything.

It has happened before, though her memory cannot hold it.  And every time it happens, she is lost.  She knows she has to follow the clear rules of the Morning Duties.  But what do those rules mean, in the madness of a totally new world?

She locks up, utterly confused.  She can do nothing, no matter how many times the humans who are her pack walk her, no matter how much they mutter and moan.  In the face of a world made new, she has no idea what she's supposed to be doing, because the old rules have lost all purchase.

It is only because, being a simple animal soul, she doesn't know the purpose of the rules.

We aren't that different, we humans.  We have our patterns, the scent trails and habit places of our lives.  We know our responsibilities and our duties.

But we struggle to grasp the purpose of them, the reason we live and breathe and move through our days.  It's so much easier not to think, to just mindlessly pursue the same pattern over and over.

When we stand in encounter with something that breaks that pattern, with the storms that shake our simple souls, we can fumble around trying to make the old pattern work.  It won't, not in this new place we inhabit.  And so we become lost and confused.

Humans have always done this, clinging to old patterns in the face of the new, unable to shift, unable to find their reason in the face of the changes that are part of our Creator's work.  As a poet-prophet once sang,
See, I am doing a new thing!    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?I am making a way in the wilderness    and streams in the wasteland.
But we don't perceive it, because we want to follow the way just exactly as we always have, and cling to the letter of the law rather than to the One Law from which it springs.  So we stumble about, and whine, and feel lost.  Sometimes, we make messes.

Fortunately, God understands that accidents happen when we're confused.  And God has all the time and patience in the world.

"C'mon, you.  Figure it out."

And eventually, we will.