Sunday, June 26, 2016

Eros and Dogs

The Greek language has different names for different types of love: Philia, Caritas, Pragma, Eros, Agape.

Those who regard Love to be an all-permeating force at the very essence of being look at Agape as the all-embracing spiritual love which descends from higher realms of existence down into the world, to embrace all beings in unconditional love. Agape is the love that asks no questions and places no demands – all are loved just because. It is this descending unconditional love that awakens the hearts of spiritual beings, radiating upon the world like the warming, inspiring glow of a million suns.

Eros is the ascending aspect of Love, the irresistible, mighty drive to reach up, commune and become from a singular ‘me’ a larger, collective ‘we’. Some view Eros to be the very drive that causes atoms to commune and become molecules, molecules to cells, and cells to organisms. It is this force which compels humans to become couples, tribes and communities and it can be persuasive enough to make you lose your appetite and sleep until you have done so.

There is a narrow view of erotic love, which confines its meaning to couple relationships; but in the larger sense, Eros is the same invisible force that drives us, humans, to dance with others, share meals with others, embrace each other, and share our most intimate thoughts and feelings with each other.
Humans are a complex animal: we hunt, feed and mate, but we also build cities and countries, invent things, tell stories, and ask deep questions about meaning and values. To be fulfilled in our erotic communion with another, we need to be met at the depth of our complexity – and if we are preoccupied about what makes life worth living, or how to alleviate suffering in the world, we thrive in conversations with others who share the same passions and in shared action towards mutual goals.

At the same time, with greater complexity arise greater problems, and often a deep level of psychological development leaves us detached from more primordial aspects of our existence. We gain greater intelligence, and we lose some of our instincts. Our greater conversation partners or activism buddies often do not touch us or move with us as we’d like; or our best lovers and dance partners don’t meet our mental depth, and we are left wanting.

This is where our best friend, the Dog, is there to help out: living with our animal family members we connect with them at the primordial aspects of our being that we have otherwise largely disowned: touch and movement. Because our dogs are not human, we have no expectations from them for deep mental connection, and where a friend who fails to listen to your dreams and passions will disappoint you, a dog will not, because he’s not supposed to do anything else but eat, sleep, mate or not, and play.

Trading Hugs for Food!

Ideally, erotic relating would be the meeting of two beings who commune at all the levels of their being, from the simple, primordial, animal aspects of their self, to the highest peaks or deepest depth of thinking, feeling and acting: we touch together, move together, talk together and act together. In reality, this is rare, if at all possible, so we seek the human companions of the equally complex men and women for living, working and playing with; and we rely on our dogs for affectionate touch, caresses, hugs and kisses, and we walk with them, run with them, swim with them. Unlike children, they never grow up to shy away from your kiss (“Ew, mom!”) or from shared activities.   

The dog has lived with humans for tens of thousands of years, in a relationship that changed from a simple transaction: “You feed and shelter me, and I’ll protect your young, herd your sheep and hunt with you and for you” to: “You feed and shelter me, also provide me with exercise, play and a job that’s a good fit for my breed and personality, and I’ll cuddle with you, kiss you, and sleep with you in bed so no matter what goes on with your human relationships, I’ll make sure that you’ll never feel lonely”.

Dogs have empathy, and can feel with us. How many human tears have been dried up by dog’s tongues, how many hurts have been comforted by a caring paw and a wet, cold nose? There’s something valuable in the simplicity of being there with a friend in need without preaching to them, trying to fix them, or offering unsolicited advice and while we human learn how to offer such simplicity to each other, dogs already have it for us.

While no dog can replace a lover, a child or a friend, and no lover, child or friend can replace a dog, it is the same mighty Eros that compels them to commune with both human and beast.

Embracing Kinook upon her arrival in my life - June 2001

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