Commitment

Max is a very committed dog. He shows it in so many ways from sweaty feet licks to enduring the baby making her Elmo figure run on his head.

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Just the other week, though, he surprised me. I was out in the garage looking for a tool for yard work. It was proving itself to be very well hidden right where it was supposed to be, which is sometimes the hardest place to find something. Anyway, after several minutes of digging around right next to it, I looked up and there was Max just checking in on me. Mind you, our garage is out on the front of our house where there is no gate. I believed Max to be in the back yard, completely fenced in. So, it was quite the surprise to see him outside of the backyard, in the open space of our neighborhood.

Turns out that Max had walked out of the gate I left open (not my day for tools or gates). And instead of roaming off, he just walked around to find me and make sure I was doing ok.

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Such commitment from a dog surprises me, because I grew up with a dog who would tear out of the house and run wild any chance he got. He certainly showed commitment in many other ways, but the freedom of the open, unleashed wild shed any sense of obligation to us he might have had.

However it is expressed, dogs tend to be remarkably good at commitment, and in coming around to check on me, Max taught me how much he cares about and values me. Either that, or how lazy he is, maybe a bit of both.

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I’ve been thinking about commitment lately, in part because of some of the stuff I’ve been reading plus Max’s behavior, and all this has me reconsidering the low value I have placed on commitment. I have never felt a strong sense of commitment to things like a sports team or an alma mater or a brand or even a country or political party, things I see many others committing to readily. Even the things I do commit to deeply, for instance a faith tradition, are porous enough so that I can learn from and value free inspiration alongside committed devotion.

Part of what is at stake in commitment is restriction. Commitment is restrictive because it means giving something up or not pursuing something offered. Max taught me this clearly when he gave up the joy of running wild to come find me even when he had complete freedom. But giving up freedom in that way is difficult to do.

Freedom, after all, is a virtue and something I hope more and more get to experience fully. At the same time, saying and acting as if this thing or person matters is also a virtue and something I hope more and more get to experience fully. And while it can be uncomfortable to willingly embrace restriction, Max has taught me that commitment does not stand at odds with freedom.

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Max has taught me that commitment is a way of identifying and acting upon what is worthy of my time and attention, especially in ways that take me beyond myself and expand my capacity for love and compassion. By committing to someone or something, I do limit how I interact with others, but at the same time, I open up a new, freer way to interact with others. For instance, when Max chose to find me, he was not denying himself the freedom of the open yard, but rather he was choosing to interact with that freedom with someone he cared about in a way that he valued.

In that regard, I like the word binding more than restrictive when it comes to commitment. Yes, committing to something means saying no to something else, but it doesn’t mean that something else is dead to me. It means that while I am bound to one thing or person, that will impact how I connect with everything else. That just sounds much more freeing than restrictive to me.

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Regardless, Max has taught me to reexamine all my commitments and see how they really do allow for deep freedom – my spirituality, family, and work commitments have the power to bring even more value to my life than if I didn’t have them. Those commitments can open me to even more meaningful ways of engaging with the world around me and can help me to exercise a freedom to live out what truly matters most.

So, thank you Max for staying committed to me, even when I leave the gate open. Thank you for teaching me that there is a deep and valuable freedom in commitment.

P.S. A good deal has continued to change since I first wrote this in late May. First and foremost, we actually live in a completely different house now, with a garage in the fenced-in backyard, so here’s to hoping for no more accidentally opened gates! But more importantly, I find the need to be unnecessarily explicit in saying I believe the commitment I am talking about relates directly to a commitment to honoring the life of other people. That means a commitment to wear a mask and do all I can to protect others from Covid 19. It means a commitment to invest in black lives and businesses while leveraging my privilege for the well-being of those who do not share it. It means a commitment to the lives of all those who could be saved with less firearms (especially unnecessarily high powered ones) out in the world. It means a commitment to the especially vulnerable immigrants and refugees who are not receiving the support they need. It means a commitment to LGBTQ+ people who deserve a share in the same freedom and equality and respect I receive. I find that commitment to each of these people (the real people behind each category), is a way to cultivate the full freedom of every human being and experience the full freedom of my own humanity.

Fight

Max got in a fight recently with another dog.

And before I go on, I assure you that he is perfectly ok and it was not his fault at all. It was about a month ago, and I intentionally waited before writing this to make sure he was all good. He had one little scratch that I was able to treat with antibacterial ointment that has since healed and I can’t even see it anymore. As nervous and cautious as I was in the moment and right after, I am equally thankful that he is totally fine now.

So, with that assurance, I return to the lesson…

Max got in a fight recently with another dog. Maybe more of a scuffle, but it felt super intense in the moment.

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We were walking in our neighborhood, like we do every week, and suddenly a dog we didn’t know tore around the corner, ran past us a bit, then turned around and faced off against Max.

Up to this point, nothing seemed all that strange. Occasionally, dogs in our neighborhood get out of the house or backyard and run up to Max off their leashes. I understand that completely, it happens. When I was growing up, my dachshund would fly out of the house if he got a chance and run like crazy.

For most of these times, I stop, let Max and the other dog sniff each other, and then the other dog either tries to play with Max or barks at us to get us out of their space. The owner usually comes up very apologetic and corrals the dog back. Max and I go on our way. It happens enough that it really didn’t faze me when this dog came up barking – I assumed she just broke loose and was protecting her territory. When the other dog jumped at Max I even had a moment of thinking they were playing.

Then that moment passed pretty quickly. The other dog’s barks and behavior grew fiercer, and I immediately felt different about the situation. Max did respond, but all I ever saw him do was growl and bark and move around defensively. Another couple was walking on the other side of the street and one of them saw all this happen and ran over to help me separate the dogs. As much as we tried, the other dog persisted in jumping around to Max, and Max continued to move defensively. Finally, the owner came around with someone and they were able to pull the other dog away. She explained that the dog had gotten startled and escaped, and was very apologetic, staying to make sure we were all ok.

My wife and I were certainly shaken, even as Max played it very cool afterward. He did not act hurt and although he was amped up, he eagerly finished the walk after we all checked him over extensively to make sure no real harm was done.

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So, that’s what happened, at least from one perspective with all the problems of hindsight. If anything, I remember the scene more mildly now than in the days right after. Regardless, I’ve thought a lot since then about what Max might be teaching me.

And in trying to learn from and with Max, I resist the simplistic lessons that this could symbolize the disagreements and fights that stem from not fully understanding one another, or that the world is dangerous and we need to be extra cautious. Sure, some part of those things may be true, but they don’t really fit what I have experienced with Max through and since that afternoon.

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Instead, this is what I think Max has really taught me: Nobody ever wins a fight (which, as far as my limited research tells me, comes from Road House with Patrick Swayze, but since I have never seen that movie, I must have come across it elsewhere).

Nobody ever wins a fight. And yet, I’m still so tempted to believe that Max really won this fight. I mean, he protected me while not truly returning aggression, he demonstrated some pretty incredible moves, not to mention I’m on his side and I’m writing the story so no matter what happened I would try to spin it to show he won.

I even want to write that he won the fight by proving that fighting is not the way to go. Part of me thinks that still sounds good, but something about it just doesn’t fit the whole reality.

In all this, Max has helped me realize that something in me so desperately wants a winner, even though it does no good for Max to have won. He has taught me not only that violence breeds more violence, but also that struggles for control and power (even just in framing the story) can be quick to rise when threats, uncertainties, and feelings of powerlessness bubble over.

At the same time, Max has taught me that there is something so much more important than those responses, which I might be able to reach if I try hard. Harm was done. What is needed is not a winner, but rather healing.

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Not an actual result of the fight, just one year’s howloween costume 🙂

Max has also helped me realize how hard it is to move past that kind of experience to find full healing. As I said, he almost immediately walked on like nothing happened, and if you saw him now, you couldn’t even tell he was in the fight. But he does bark very intensely when we walk by that spot and he hears the dog in her backyard. That space in the world is different for him now.

It is also very hard for me to be forgiving toward that other owner. I want to be, but I am just glad I haven’t had to talk with her again. I know so much of this was out of her hands, and she was not only apologetic but offered to cover any vet expenses if I noticed anything later. But the nervous energy that was brought out in the fight rises in me every time we walk past her house. That space in the world is different for me now too.

Such feelings are definitely not the feelings of winning. Harm was done; what is needed is a long, patient process of healing.

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The intensity of this experience makes me think I will continue to learn from it. I also recognize how lucky we are in what happened and in how we could access healing. So many others in similar and worse situations cannot access healing so well and I’m learning how to be more aware of and responsive to that true injustice. But for now, I rest in the lesson that nobody ever wins a fight and I treasure the opportunity to show Max how much I value him, hoping that helps us toward healing.

So thank you Max for teaching me that nobody ever wins a fight. Thank you for your loving protection, and thank goodness for quick and ready healing.

Max’s All You Need To Know Guide For Working From Home

As many enter a season of changed routines, including working from home, I have seen several tips for how best to use this time and make the transition to an effective home office environment. I too am making this transition, so I decided to ask the expert in my life, Max, what tips he would give for those preparing to work from home. Here is what he offered:

1. Keep your eye on the prize – no more copy machine jams! That in itself is worth enduring all the unnecessary video conference calls.

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2. Take a nap. Not a wimpy little cat-nap either, but a good ol’ dog nap.

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3. Find a hiding place so your family or roommates can’t bother you.

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4. But also know where your family or roommates’ hiding places are so that you can bother them.

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5. Dressing for the job you want now only applies for what people can see in the webcam. So strap on that tie and then anything goes down below.

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6. Keep your days fresh by changing up your routine, for instance, with a nice mid-day nap.

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7. It’s ok to make faces at your computer – it’s probably making faces at you in its own way, plus no one will see you now.

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8. Stock up on treats. I…ahem…you will need them.

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9. Netflix is out to get you. Beware and don’t get distracted.

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10. You have complete control of the “office” temperature now! No more sweaters just because Fido runs soooo hot. For that matter, no more pants either (see #5).

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On a serious note, Max and I hope all stay well and safe and help others stay well and safe!

P.S. Did I say this is the perfect opportunity to take more naps?

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P. P. S. Who needs toilet paper?

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Protest

Unlike some dogs, Max is not afraid of or mad at the vacuum cleaner. But he does have his own unique way of not liking it.

He doesn’t bark, he doesn’t run away, but he also clearly doesn’t like it. Instead, he just lays down, usually in the room I am trying to vacuum. I like to think it is his form of non-violent protest.

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While I don’t completely know what to make of his action, I have some theories. It seems clear that at the heart of his protest is a recognition that a vast majority of what the vacuum cleaner is picking up is his own fur.

Throughout the week, Max rolls around on all the floors in the house, making sure his fur gets all in the carpet. But he doesn’t really have to do much to cover the house with his fur. It seems that while just walking around, tufts of it spring out and get blown all over. (Yes, there is something to say about needing to brush him more often in that – I confess my shortcoming there).

That means, at the end of the week, pretty much all of the floor looks and smells like Max. Whether intentional or not, he has marked his territory – and it is all the territory.

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So, when he lays in the room I am vacuuming, unsuccessfully preventing me from removing his fur, it seems that he is protesting or at least lamenting the change in sights and smells of the house.

And this is where I am actually not sure what lesson he is teaching me.

On one hand, I see in that action something very selfish – Max wants what is “his” (the hairy floor) to stay “his” even though it is not. In having to deal with that, it makes me more aware of when I act similarly – feeling and acting entitled that something should be mine, when it is not at all actually mine.

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Max has taught me to be more aware of any tendency to claim space, to become territorial, to encroach on what truly belongs to others or what others do not have enough of. As a white man, this is a lesson I am slow to learn, especially with the terrible history I inherit living on and claiming land that was never mine nor my ancestors’ to begin with, and encroaching on space and thought that is unequally shared.

Max’s flurry of entitled space claiming provides an uncomfortable, but necessary mirror.

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And maybe there is another lesson in Max’s protest to complement that one.

I also see in Max a kind of stolid resiliency that defies fear or anger in order to stand up for himself. Max doesn’t really have any space of his own (outside of his dog bed and as much of the backyard as he wants), because I treat the whole house as human space that he is lucky to be able to share. Looking at the situation from another angle, it seems that Max is asserting his right to be here and have a space in which he is comfortable.

Max has taught me to be more aware of those who do not have space where they are comfortable. He has taught me that sometimes my idea of sharing is unjust to those who cannot speak up for themselves. He has taught me that acting in my self-interest doesn’t always mean doing what is truly good, because it undermines others.

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On top of that, Max has taught me the real value of not giving over to fear. If he feared the vacuum, he would just run away and the protest and lessons would be lost. His protest is an act of bravery that forces me to think more deeply past my biases. Fear has an uncanny way of maintaining the status quo, and even if Max’s protests do not stop me from vacuuming, they are interrupting the status quo and causing me to see the world in a different way.

I am still going to vacuum, but Max has made me think a little deeper about how actions that I think are right can negatively impact others. He has made me think about how better to work toward not seeking to possess what is best shared compassionately. By staring down the vacuum, Max has taught me more about the power imbalances in our house and world.

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Or maybe Max is just lazy…but perhaps that is for another week.

So thank you Max for not freaking out about the vacuum – that makes my life much more peaceful. But also thank you for a fearless protest that shakes up how I see things and teaches me more about power imbalances. I don’t often wield a vacuum, but I will keep your lessons in mind in whatever space I enter with whatever power I hold.

Support

Max has always supported me. Sure he gives me wry looks occasionally…

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But overall Max has been there for me. There have been times when I was lonely or frustrated or very confused about what to do next and Max provided me with company, comfort, and the kind of care that can re-center me when things start becoming chaotic.

And Max has supported me in the exciting, fun times too. When I have felt adventurous or when our lives moved through new changes, or when I felt like sitting outside and soaking in the day, Max was right there with me, providing encouragement, eagerness, and the kind of presence than amplifies as much enjoyment as possible.

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Max has supported my joy with shared joy and my mourning with shared mourning. To a large degree that is an honest form of compassion – Max is feeling with me, something I think most dogs do well. Max has taught me that the foundation of support is such compassionate presence. And since Max has no words to offer, the presence part of this work shines out.

Max has also taught me that often support really feels like a holding up or together. Whether in a sad or happy moment, Max’s compassion steadies me and his consistent presence helps keep things from unraveling. In showing me all that support, Max has taught me how it makes a difference and what a gift it is to offer to someone else.

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But even beyond his individual presence, Max has taught me much about the importance of a whole support system. I found out this week that the family (except for Max) would need to go out of town somewhat suddenly, and as is often the case an offer to watch Max was extended before I even asked around. In preparing for this unexpected event, he has helped me see and appreciate the many sources of support in my life.

Making sure Max is taken care of when I have to leave him home could be a major source of stress in my life, but because there are thoughtful people (and because Max is a charmer and makes plenty of friends), both Max and I have been able to rely on a system of communal support.

Often I forget or am reluctant to ask for help, both for watching Max and plenty of others things in my life. Part of that is not wanting to be a burden on others and part of it is thinking I can take care of everything myself. But then I remember the ways Max has offered me a consistent, compassionate presence that creates a foundation to bear that kind of burden. Max reminds me how good it is to rely on such support and to be honest about needing it.

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Ultimately, Max has taught me the real value of not trying to go it alone. Whether it was his own presence or the people around us who stepped in to watch him, Max regularly shows me the value of a community of people (and animals) that can offer each other the foundation and care needed to hold everything together.

So thank you Max for teaching me the value of supporting one another. Thank you for holding me up and being there when I have needed or wanted your presence. And thank you to all who make up our support system – your care not only impacts us, but also hopefully ripples out throughout the world.

A Visit From St. Maximus

‘Twas three days after Christmas, when all through the house
Not a surface was open, not even the couch;
The stockings were hung over end table limply,
And poor old St. Maximus just couldn’t even. Simply.

The baby had made a disastrous mess;
While parent sat back in utter distress.
And mamma with the snot rag, and I with some milk,
Wait, where did I get milk? How old is this milk?

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Then, outside the lawn seemed a glorious haven,
Now barred from his bed, Max’s fate was engraven.
He’d go to the window if only he could,
And dream of sweet freedom he certainly would!

But stuff blocked his way from the new-fallen toys,
Plus some older stuff thought to be forgotten joys.
When what to his wondering eyes did appear,
But a path straight through chaos was suddenly clear…

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It was risky, no missteps, just time to make tracks.
He knew in that moment, “This is it, St. Max.”
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he humphed, and trotted (after all, he was tame).

Then, dashing! Now, dancing! And prancing like a vixen!
Zooming comet! Winged cupid! Like donning wings and blitzing!
To the door to the porch! These are highest of stakes!
Now dash away! dash away! For goodness sakes!

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the backdoor the old dog he flew
With a tail full of bows, poor St. Maximus strewed—

And then, in a twinkling, he turned his swift head.
His prancing and pawing he quickly stopped dead.
As he drew in a sniff, already turning around,
Back to the hall St. Maximus came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
But his nose knew that something was newly afoot;
He sniffed a deep sniff and honed in on the source,
And he looked for that donut, forsaken, of course!

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His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were still furry, his nose like a berry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

For the journey back in, he gritted his teeth,
But the smell, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He steeled his broad face and ever hungry belly,
And shot straight in the mess, searching out that sweet jelly.

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He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old mutt,
And we laughed when we saw him fall right on his butt;
He tripped on a toy and went stumbling on down,
But got up with a shake, and not even a frown.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And sniffed out the donut; then turned with a jerk,
And trusting his trusty and faithful old nose,
He looked straight at me…as my mouth slowly closed.

The donut now gone, he let out a small whimper,
And I in my cunning, let slip a knowing simper.
And I pulled from behind a sweet bone new and bright-
“Happy Christmas to Max, it will all be alright!”

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Pro Bono

Max is noble and loyal, a very great dog, and a consistent presence of care and joy. He has done many great things to help me out and better my life. But Max has never in his life earned a belly rub.

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And yet, he gets belly rubs fairly often, especially when visitors come over (he knows how to work a crowd). I, too, give him many belly rubs, even if it is not as many as he’d like.

Nevertheless, I stand by my statement that he has never earned any belly rubs. Because it is my sincere hope that such belly rubs are a sign of pro bono gratefulness, something Max has taught me a lot about.

Max is, of course, pro bone, and will gnaw one down any chance he is given. But that is not what I mean here.

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Pro bono is a Latin phrase that means for good or for free. It describes a situation where something is given with no expectation of return and no prior action deserving that good. And Max has helped teach me that pro bono is really the best way to understand and share gratitude.*

As good and obedient and smart as Max is, I do not believe he can conceive of a relationship where he could earn or elicit gratefulness. Rather, he lives fully in a world where free gifts come to him with no expectation of return and with no prior action deserving that good. Sure, he has been trained with treats and attention and I still try to reinforce good behavior, but Max’s day to day life is filled with unearned gifts – food that comes from a mysterious bag, walks that happen even if he has been stubborn, attention whether he is a pest or not, and of course the occasional bone, pro bono.

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And in a world where so much turns on what I can get back for what I put in, where strings are so often attached, or where everything seems to be based on this for that earning and deserving, Max provides a much needed reprieve and new way of relating. His very presence helps me enact pro bono gifts and gratefulness, and then begin to see how I might relate to others in a similar way – not expecting any repayment for giving, but rather receiving and loving gracefully and gratefully.

We could say that Max’s love and attention are the exchange given to me that either repays what I have done or provide the basis of what I am repaying. But I’m very uncomfortable with quantifying affection in that way, and I really do not think Max offers love and affection for any reason other than it is who he is and he knows it makes life and the world better.

And yet, Max does offer something else back to me – foot and leg and arm and hand and face licks. Even so, I believe these “gifts” are also pro bono, and the gratefulness that inspires them is one that is not a repayment, but rather an honest outpouring of love. Just as Max has done nothing to earn his belly rubs, I certainly have done nothing to earn all those sloppy dog licks (or slobbery toys).

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And so Max teaches me and challenges me to be a little sloppier and more pro bono with my gifts and gratitude. He teaches me that the most loving forms of relating to others cannot revolve around what we expect to get from each other, but rather what we are willing to give for free, for good.

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Pro bono gratefulness is the belly rubs of life, and Max would like nothing better than to prove that to each and every person he meets.

So, thank you Max, for reorienting my view of gratefulness to focus more on the gifts and gratitude we can give for free. Thank you for freely receiving my gifts of love, and freely giving back.

*I originally learned this from Diana Butler Bass, who explores the concept in her book, “Grateful: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks.” I give her all the credit for the concept, and I try to highlight here how Max has brought that concept to life in my home.

Happy Howloween 2019

Max was acting a little furtive this year, and after watching more closely I found this rather…maxabre…scene.

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Just kidding, he’s as sweet as a maxaroon!

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But perhaps some frustration has come from his extra hours spent as your local, cheery maxintosh rep.

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Me: So, you want to try to do macrame for your costume?

Max: I am maxrame!

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Welcome to the class sure to scare all freshmen and chill them to the bone, maxroeconomics.

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Check out this max daddy!

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But don’t be fooled, at heart he is just a big ol’ maxadamia nut.

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Did someone order up some big max?

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Me: Did you say you want to give out macaroni and cheese to trick-or-treaters this year?

Max: I am maxaroni and cheese

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Max really wanted to be his favorite superhero, Antman, but after I told him the costume wouldn’t fit right, he settled for acting maxroscopic.

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In any guise, he is certainly immaxulate.

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Happy Howloween from the maxiest Max there is.

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If you liked this, you may also enjoy Howloweens 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018!

The Art of Discomfort (v. 2)

Max is one hot dog.

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Sure, the weather may be turning cooler now, but up until yesterday it was very hot in Texas where we live. So hot that I am glad Max stays inside most of the day. He of course still loved our late afternoon walks all summer, but I noticed how he would go a bit slower and head straight for the water when we got back. It was just not very comfortable to be out and about in such heat, especially with a thick coat of fur.

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Overall, though, Max lives an incredibly comfortable life. He may have to deal with less treats than some dogs and not having 100% of my loving attention all the time, but all things considered, Max is able to live his days in considerable peace and comfort.

And yet, there are moments when Max acts very discomforted. Like the other day when I made him wait until his normal dinner time to eat rather than filling his bowl an hour and a half early like he wanted. You would have thought he hadn’t eaten in a week the way he carried on whining and pacing.

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In such moments, Max has taught me that I am not so different. I too have a very peaceful, comfortable life. I may also have to suffer through the Texas summer, but I can choose to do so in a nice cool house and office. Like Max, I may want my dinner an hour early, but I always have the means to eat one (and eat a snack an hour earlier, since I know how to open the pantry door…sorry Max, thumbs really are the best).

Like Max, I have had times in my life where I have felt justified in expressing discomfort. When something I ordered (food or amazon packages) did not come quickly enough, or when I’ve had to do extra dishes because we cooked more kinds of food, or when I couldn’t successfully argue a bill I thought I shouldn’t have to pay completely.

Max has taught me that we both are a little too good at acting discomforted. It is an art form that can be perfected the more privilege one has to expend toward the effort. And Max and I both have that privilege.

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Max has also taught me to identify that art of discomfort when I see it around me. There are many who join us in acting discomforted when in reality we have all the privilege and means to address whatever concern it is – our lives are not really derailed because of it. Those who feel hurt because of a certain act of protest, those who complain when a social ideology doesn’t win the vote, those who feel discomforted by “politically correct” language, those who feel left out because a government program doesn’t benefit them (even if it does benefit those who really need it).

To be fair, that art is practiced by people on all sides of issues – conservatives and progressives, because the reality is that both camps, and things in between, are still dominated by those who have the privilege to practice the art of discomfort.

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There are definitely people who have been oppressed and marginalized and because of that really are discomforted. I appreciate when that pain is expressed and lifted up to shed a light on what is really at stake. But that is not the art or act that I see in myself or Max or others who hold great privilege in society.

That does not mean we are exempt from pain. There is still injury, despair, loss. But we have some really good means of dealing with it all, and we don’t have any excuse to act discomforted.

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Max has taught me that even though I like to think I can understand discomfort in my own life, I live a very comfortable, privileged life. There is discomfort in the world, but I do not know it. And he has taught me that it is all too easy to see through those times when I act like I have been wronged or hurt. He has taught me that the art of discomfort is not one of the finer art forms to practice.

Instead, he has taught me to look out for and act for those who are not “acting” discomforted. He has taught me that there is real pain around us, and the less I am practicing the art, the more I might be able to see and address those real forms of injustice.

So thank you Max for teaching me to lay aside the art of acting as though I am discomforted. Thank you for helping me recognize my privilege and pushing me to focus more on the real discomfort present around me.

Inspiration

Max is an inspiration to me.

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That may be obvious given the fact that this whole blog is filled with lessons, insights, and new ideas I have gained from living with him. Max teaches me and reminds me how best to uphold my values. He helps me see the world differently when I feel stuck. By watching him and encountering life with him, I think of new ways to interact with others and my brain is sparked to find new connections between things.

You could say Max’s inspiration has enlightened my mind.

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And that is not all. Max has also inspired me to live more authentically and courageously. In all the tough and happy times I have gone through, Max has been fully present with me. His joy, openness, and hospitality have nurtured me. And I have felt the warmth of the inspiration he has offered through his enduring commitment to me.

Max has truly touched my heart and helped fan the flame of compassionate living.

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But, as much as I love Max, the point of this post is not to be overly sappy. I hope to share what he has taught me about inspiration itself, which goes even beyond head and heart.

At the root of it all, Max is an inspiration in the true sense of the word: he in-spires. He breathes new life into me. This notion of inspiration goes beyond enlightenment or encouragement to include enlivening.

Through his loving companionship and true appreciation for life, Max reminds me of the value of the gift of existence. From his eagerness to explore on walks outside to his contentment laying in a beam of afternoon sunlight, Max rejuvenates my sense of peace and wonder. And through his constant reminder to consider others over self shown in his own selfless acts, Max leads me out to the true source of new life found in giving of myself to others, and thus my soul is refreshed.

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I am wary of over-exaggerating Max’s influence on my life – I mean, he does eat his own poop on occasion – but I am confident in my assessment, because Max has taught me that inspiration does not just come from grand, exalted places. In addition to inspiring me directly, Max has taught me that inspiration can come from everyday things like the way plants and insects grow and live together in a garden, or a moment of stillness in the middle of a chaotic week, or a smile or kind word from a stranger.

All of these and many other ordinary things are sources of great insight, encouragement, and new life. Max has taught me to be more and more aware of all that inspiration around me and to breathe it in deeply.

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And he has taught me that the fullness of my life is connected to all others around me. Hopefully when I am inspired by Max or anything else, I can then breathe that fullness of life back out into other places that may need a little more inspiration.

So thank you Max for teaching me that inspiration impacts the mind, heart, and soul. And thank you for offering me that fullness of inspiration.