I met a guy the other day who doesn’t believe in Dog.
More specifically, he doesn’t believe they have four legs, which is the same thing. “Some are born with three,” he said, “which is deficient compared to four, but some are born with five, which makes four look pretty weedy.”
But dogs must have four legs.
If dogs sometimes have four legs, sometimes five, sometimes three, then the entire world from algae to angels would violently tear itself apart. If they have four legs in 98% of cases, and that’s how dogs have four legs, I fully expect the sun to set in the East tomorrow and the hypotenuse to be the shortest side.
That dogs have four legs is, in fact, the single most important belief I hold. If dogs have four legs, there is room for a rule. There is more to being a dog than having four legs, and it is not even what distinguishes their species, but nevertheless we have identified a category of beings and something true about them. With this foundation, this underlying faith in Dog firmly in place, we may sally forth courageously to other matters.
First: Some dogs have three or five legs. A fascinating exception that proves our rule. We may pause and meditate on the contrast of accident and essence, and the mystery of wholeness, and the strange way that adding can sometimes subtract. We can then stand up and continue on our way, unmoved, unconcerned in the slightest, full of joy! for dogs have four legs, and would even if 98% of them had five and it helped them walk better.
With a firm grasp on the fourfold nature of the canine limbs, we may climb to sublime heights or forlorn depths and find the way lit before us. We may smile when we hear that everything we know is wrong, that common understanding is riddled with contradictions. “True, there are exceptions,” we may say, “for does not the Creator Himself deal in contradiction? But the rule is still the rule and He deals in those as well.”
Dropping deep into the domain of despair, we may encounter that devil who says in a fit of what passes there for mercy, “Well, we are all mad anyway, crazy.” We think, I may well be mad, if madness is a vacation without the dog, but I cannot be mad if I desert the dog completely, for if there is no dog there is no sanity and no insanity; there is merely a mess that sometimes appears intelligible, and an unintelligible kindness is accidental and worth nothing. “98% of us are mad,” they then jeer, wielding the dreaded statistics, but it is darkness rebuffed by coruscating caninity, and anyway, madmen form no majorities since they share no reality. The alienation of those who deny dog is profound indeed.
How do so many sheep come to stray from the shepherd dog?
Some of us are driven eventually to find the secret of the dog, which is not much of a secret at all. I repeat: Dogs have four legs. This is the common sense approach, available to at least 98% of minds who dare think about it for a moment. We are driven to discover it because we want to make sense of that which is obvious. It is an eminently reasonable belief, and all those who think our day-to-day experience is reasonable will find it in the end.
But some of us are convinced that nothing is as it seems, because some dogs have three, and they are forced to conclude that dogs only have four legs if the dogs actually have four legs, if the actual meat and bones are all lined up under this thing I’m pointing at right now. They sometimes believe in G-d, these people, but not in dog, and thus not in the easiest way of getting at Him (G-d makes dog for a reason, after all). If dogs can have four legs then there can be a G-d but if dogs have four legs then there is the G-d.
Usually, people who think dogs don’t have four legs just want everyone to be nicer, because, after all, the “common sense” (so-called) approach is that a three-legged dog is somehow deficient, i.e., it is missing a damn leg. To this I respond that I, as a not-nice person, am not missing anything by being nasty. Really this bad behavior is just behavior and my bad attitude is just how people are, man. If G-d ever told people to be nice, he must have meant it personally for them, because there is no abstract “nice” that exists for all eternity, waiting for me to be it. Because the thing I name a dog might have four things I call legs, but dogs don’t have four legs.
Look, sorry for all this, but I desperately need someone to confirm that dogs etc., to tell me that my mind has met their mind. If man has a best friend, then there’s some hope for me, perhaps.
But I start to lose faith.
Maybe nothing is as it seems.
Originally posted on Hevria.