Expertish

Max is not an expert in many things. I’d put the following on his expertise list: sleeping, eating whatever is in front of him, and looking cute.

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He definitely does not have expertise in obeying me, in tracking smells, in chasing down smaller animals, or even in playing in the dog park.

Of course, maybe expertise in the dog park should not be defined by playing with other dogs. Maybe he is an expert of looking super cool and caj, like that guy at the gym who is no expert in actually building muscle or lifting weights, but is definitely an expert at looking impressive and drawing attention to himself.

So, first Max has taught me that expertise is somewhat arbitrary. In some situations, what actually qualifies as the expert expression of something may not be objective.

But Max has taught me many other things about expertise.

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He has also taught me that having a natural inclination to something does not make one an expert. Max clearly has a natural inclination to chasing rabbits. But I don’t let him, so he has no idea how to actually do that with effective results.

And he has taught me that having all the tools or resources necessary does not make one an expert. Max has an acute sense of smell, much better than mine. Though he thinks he can find vague trails where other animals have gone, he is in no way an expert sniffer. I would not trust him to actually retrieve any animal from a hunt, and he does not even come close to having the skills of a drug dog. He simply hasn’t been trained to use the tools he has, and even if he was, there’s no guarantee he’d be an expert just because he has a dog’s nose.

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But, perhaps the most significant lesson Max has taught me about expertise is that it is not nearly as valuable as being expertish.

Max has taught me that life is much more interesting, meaningful, mysterious, and exciting when one approaches it through an expertish perspective rather than thinking one has expertise. Expertise limits, it makes me think I have it all figured out and that I know all there is to know about my field. It leads to mild or intense arrogance and pride and does not leave room for continual learning and exploration.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love knowing a lot about my profession and interests. But I recognize that when I think of my understanding as expertise, I put myself against or over other people who have not spent as much time studying whatever it is. And then I have a much harder time learning the valuable lessons they can teach me from their unique perspective. For instance, over the past three years I have worked with middle and high school students. I think it is safe to say I know more than them – I have a certain level of expertise that they do not. But at my best, I think of my own knowledge as expertish and then I learn incredible things from them.

I am also aware that if I went in for major surgery, I would want an accomplished, expert surgeon. But, I think even there I would want a surgeon with expertish rather than expertise, someone who would be open to what a nurse or assistant could see that the surgeon could not.

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Max has taught me the value of embodying expertish rather than expertise. He has taught me the value of being humble and realizing there is always more I can learn, and there is especially much I can learn from people very different from me. He has taught me that in being expertish, I will position myself to encounter the mystery and wonder of this world more fully, rather than trying to make sure I have it all figured out. Max has taught me that being expertish is not a position of weakness or less adequacy, but rather a position of full potential that is powerful in its openness, flexibility, and creativity.

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Because Max is not an expert at many things, but he has a certain expertish that profoundly connects him to the mystery and wonder of this world.

So, thank you Max for teaching me the value of expertish. Thank you for teaching me the limits of thinking I have it all figured out in expertise, and showing me how to engage the mystery of the world through the openness of expertish.

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Max’s All You Need to Know Guide for Surviving Spring

Spring is in full swing, and you know what that means…
Max’s guide to surviving all this season brings!

Sun’s up, pup’s up!
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The sun’s starting to come up early, and so should we – no humans will mind the nagging it takes to get them out of bed. And it’ll only get better and earlier through the summer!

Showers bring flowers, so cower from the camera’s firepower.
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The hour is nigh for babies and dogs alike! Run for your life from the all too tempting scenic flower shots! Internet humiliation is at stake!

Hair for the chair! Hair everywhere!
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We all know humans love to decorate with dog hair – that’s why they never clean it up (at least that’s what I’ve learned from Patrick). And now is finally the time we can offer such a wealth of resources for beautifying furniture, floors, and all fabrics! Let the fur fly!

Allergies? Please – be free of these and every sneeze.
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I have developed a fool proof way of avoiding the pesky allergens all around. Just bury your head in the ground. They’ll never find you there!

Spring cleaning’s mean as can be.
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Resist at all costs. If they get you, you can roll around in some dirt later.

Exercise will maximize intake of pies.
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That beach bod isn’t going to mold itself, but more importantly –
more running=more treats.

The evening breeze will please and ease.
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Find a nice comfy spot, and enjoy the peaceful evening with a good friend (or bone).

So, spring on up and enjoy this time of the year to the Max!

 

Settling

When max came into my life about two and a half years ago it was a startling thing. One day I lived by myself and didn’t know this dog, the next day we were spending most our time living together. Now, after two and a half years, I don’t even think about how weird it is that a dog lives with me. In fact, I was pretty much used to it after a couple of months.

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I find it interesting how quickly I can settle into things. Max has taught me that there is something innate in my being that tends toward settling. If I remember anything from middle school biology it is that organisms strive for homeostasis – some balance in life. And as much as I sometimes hate to admit it, I naturally seek such balance, such settling.

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And Max has revealed to me all the things I am capable of getting used to. Some of them are good – like Max’s general presence or going on several walks every day or being more in tune with the needs of another being.

But he has also taught me that some of the things I have gotten used to are not so good – like dog hair in my cereal, a pretty rank smell in my apartment, the constant mess of dog toys, and on my worse days, ignoring the needs of another.

This tendency to settle and get used to things, both good and bad, extends to every corner of my life. It can be good to settle into a rhythm of life in harmony with another being, but also I get used to some pretty terrible things in the world.

Max has illumined this reality of settling, and in doing so, he has reminded me to consider what I am actually getting used to. What am I settling with and for? What am I content to live with?

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In what ways am I getting used to a life that is wasteful, exploitative, self-centered, or closed-minded? When am I allowing the dead hair of a past I thought I shed to get tangled up in the nourishment that is propelling my present life? To what extent am I ignoring the stench of injustice to the point of training myself to think of it as normal life? When am I just avoiding the strewn about mess of forgotten problems instead of picking them up and dealing with them? To what extent am I allowing myself to live with being ignorantly removed from the deep needs of those around me?

Max can offer some stinging teaching moments sometimes.

But he has also led me to question more positively: When have I settled into a truly meaningful conversation or enjoyed the presence of loved ones? In what ways have I exercised my freedom for adventure, creativity, and discovery and settled into the excitement of those moments? In what ways have I gotten used to bending the path of my life in order to walk along with others in need? And how can I do more of this kind of settling?

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Max has taught me that I am a person who settles, who gets used to certain ways of life. And he has taught me that both sets of questions are crucial to ask myself over and over in order to make sure I am getting used to the right kinds of things.

Ultimately, Max has taught me that I can be someone who settles into love, compassion, and justice, as long as I am settling intentionally.

So thank you Max for teaching me that it really matters in what ways I am settling. Thank you for teaching me the dangers of getting used to a life of self-centered wastefulness and for helping me to consider how to settle in more loving ways.