Real Faith for a Real Life in a Real World.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Me and My Dog; My God and Me: Introduction

It's surprising what manner of things can inform one's faith. We acquired a dog during the tail end (no pun intended) of an episode of reactive depression triggered by the illness and death of my mother. Apart from the benefits that derive from having a great big, furry friend to cuddle (and I'm talking about the dog, not my wife who is neither great big nor furry), I discovered that my developing relationship with this intelligent animal made me think about my relationship with God in ways I previously had not.

We are, the dog and I, different species and we look at the world in different ways. For all that the British like to treat their dogs as children or anthropomorphised family members, dogs are dogs and they only ever interpret our behaviour in the light of their own understanding. Nevertheless, it is possible to develop a strong and mutually rewarding relationship with a dog. The trick is in communicating with the dog in language that he understands, and abandoning any expectation that he will learn any more than a few words of the Queen's English or accommodate human social conventions.

He is a social animal, like the human being, and that is why we are able to relate as well as we do. Even so, his society is based on the pack with a clear pecking order, and not democratic principles or freedom, fairness and equality. It has to be said that the pack is not a concept foreign to man: even our democratic society has its pecking order, oppressive regimes more so, and criminal and street gangs display pack dynamics with graphic clarity.

So, although we are different, we have points of contact, my dog and I, where our worlds collide; an interface through which we can express our wants and needs, joys and sorrows in ways that the other can understand and so respond. I have discovered many parallels between my two relationships, one with my dog, one with my God, and in this series of articles I intend to unpack them in the hope of encouraging my readers, whoever they may be. There is no heavy theology here, nor is there any intended trivialisation, merely simple observation that can inform the way we live our lives.