by Steve Downing
When the universe decides to send me a message, it does so by way of our dog, Basil. This makes elegant cosmic sense. As I’ve reported, Basil’s grasp of natural phenomena borders on clairvoyant. Each of his senses is more finely tuned than any of mine. He doesn’t know this (I don’t think). If I understand the process correctly, Basil simply absorbs the quotidian flow of information in his doggy-dogged manner and then reacts intuitively, unerringly.
For example, earlier today I was outside with Basil. As he took care of his daily hygiene business, I idled between the deck and the lake, thinking my thoughts. Suddenly Basil was circling me in a lazy zigzagging trot and occasionally stopping, then making a fake charge at me, head low, as though he planned to ram my knees or hips. Remember: Basil’s big. Huge, actually. I’d never seen this bullish behavior before. He went round and round a few times, back and forth, circling and fake-head-butting. Then he lost interest and wandered off toward the lake. Near the kayak, he dropped down to what I think of as the sphinx position, forelegs straight out, head up. And he just stared, unmoving, at the lake, or the horizon, or maybe a worm-hole in the next galaxy over, I had no way of knowing. He was literally motionless, for 10-15 minutes, totally out of character, impressing on me that it was I, not he, who lives the unexamined life. When he stood up and turned around, he looked directly, intently, not to say philosophically, at me and through me, his eyes locked on mine, unblinking, for a lonnnnng time.
Clearly, Basil was channeling a message from the universe. I’m still working it out: is the universe telling me I ought to become a rodeo clown?---or go back to grad school and get my doctorate in philosophy? Aside from the Hobson’s-choice nature of this question, it strikes me that there’s a larger, more critical issue here, related to the true organizing principle of the universe: is it that of the clown or the philosopher? And between you and me, is there a functional difference in a world such as ours, so beholden to the corrupt and corrupting politics of the day?