Sometimes Max can act in the most stereotypical dog ways. I can’t help but laugh every time he pees on a fire hydrant or bolts after a squirrel.
And of course, he even chases his tail.
It’s a little surprising when he does chase his tail, because it never makes sense. It’s a sudden outburst of irrational behavior that gets him nowhere. And it’s dangerously out of control – I know he can’t see where he is going and he gets uncomfortably close to coffee tables and bookshelves as he is whipping his whole body around and around.
When I watch him do it, I usually think several things:
Dogs are so weird.
I hope he doesn’t knock anything down or hit his head on something.
I’m glad I don’t do anything like that.
And yet, Max has me wondering – surely I don’t do anything like that, right? Surely I don’t irrationally go around and around in circles not really getting anywhere.
Unfortunately, Max may be teaching me that I am not so different, that I too may be stuck in an irrational cycle of unhealthy, unhelpful movement.
It definitely seems like my country is. We seem to be circling around hate and violence as if it were our tail that we are chasing and can’t quite seem to get. We keep chasing and chasing ourselves instead of moving forward. The evil spreads and we wonder why we didn’t see it right after collapsing from another round around ourselves.
In this tail chasing, I worry that we keep trying the same things over and over again, thinking we will finally catch the evil around us, and yet we find ourselves ever chasing it.
I worry that we arm ourselves with sharper teeth or fiercer barks to no avail. In fact, while we tell ourselves those tools are necessary for catching the evil, it seems that they only hurt those trying to help us see what is really going on.
And I worry that we begin to think that such tail chasing is either just a reality of being human or that it is a game.
And then Max makes another lap around himself and I begin to realize that I too am guilty of chasing my tail. It is not just the country – it is me.
Every time a black person is murdered and I stop short at reading all the articles about it, I have irrationally gone around and around and not gotten anywhere. I have become complicit in staying busy but not rooting out evil.
Every time I complain about decisions my elected representatives have made but fail to write or visit them, I chase what I think is just the state of things beyond my control, instead of making use of the access afforded to me.
Ever time I hear a sexist micro-aggression, and I laugh it off as a joke or ignore it for fear of confrontation, I chase my tail expecting the problem to resolve itself while I look distracted.
Max has taught me that chasing my tail gets me nowhere and is both irrational and dangerous. Chasing my tail when real hate and injustice and violence are present means that such evil will only continue to go on and I’ll probably hurt myself while ignoring it. There’s a lot more to do in speaking out and transforming the words and symbols I and my community use, but ceasing the tail chasing is at least the first step.
So thank you Max for teaching me how problematic it is to chase my tail instead of dealing with the real problems around me. Thank you for teaching me how I’ve been irrationally circling around that evil but not really dealing with it. I hope you can show me a better way forward.