Max is one hot dog.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.