Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's God's Dog

Scott Bradley

Blyth relates a story about (Robert Louis?) Stevenson which I find both moving and thought-provoking:
At Pillochry, in 1881, when he saw a dog being ill-treated, he at once interposed, and when the owner resented his interference and told him, "It's not your dog," he cried out, "It's God's dog, and I'm here to protect it!"
For this, I would also profess belief in God. Though we may be stewards, nothing is 'ours'. "You don't even possess your own body," declares a Zhuangzian sage, "so how then could you 'possess' the Dao?" This seems self-evident. And it actually requires no God. If you can't take it with you, it was never 'yours' in the first place. Yet stewardship is a great responsibility.

When in the past I have complained about some aspect or other of the cultural or political character of a people, I have been told, "It's their country." And to this I have responded, "Yes, but it's my world!" Yes, this may seem (and might have been) egotistical in the extreme, but it really does not differ in kind from "It's God's dog!" It is an appeal to a morality far transcending anyone's supposed rights of ownership. But let's try a response possibly less problematical: "Yes, but it's our world!" This works. "We the people" of the world collectively feel a sense of responsibility to protect and defend the inalienable rights of all things, animate and inanimate, from those who would take them. Why? Because it is so.

You may think it's right to mutilate a girl's genitalia with a sharp rock, but we say No! You may believe it right to kill those who do not believe as you, but we say No! You may say that it's your forest to destroy, but we say No! You may say that they are your people to murder, but we say No! You may say it's your right to accumulate as much wealth as possible at the expense of millions of others, but we say No! We the people say No!

I can go no further; I can make no appeal to God. We need not. We affirm the self-so rightness of all things. They deserve to exist because they do. We honor them because they are. If this (somewhat) works intellectually, how much more so might it work if it were the deepest expression of who we are?

This is not a blanket appeal to interventionism; nothing is so easy. Trying to fix one mess often leads to still bigger messes. But at least we can always do as the occupiers when their brothers and sisters are being brutally abused by our jack-booted men-in-blue: "Shame on you! Shame on you!"

Shame on us for not saying it more.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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