Like it or not, my worldview is limited. I discovered this years ago during a session of active imagining, which resembles dreaming awake. Seated comfortably, as one might be for meditation, I visualized myself cross-legged on a magic carpet. Then I let go of the image and allowed it to carry me where it would, hoping to fly over the rainbow or at least above the chimney tops. Within seconds after take off, my magic carpet upended. Luckily, I did not fall off. Had my own guided-imagery dumped me, the damage could have been irreparable.
Disappointed by this imaginative limitation; nevertheless I flew on, upside down and close to the ground, peering between blades of grass as random bugs scuttled by. Despite its limits, this outlook characterizes my relationship to things in this world as I make my way without benefit of the “big picture.”
Each day I hope to unearth evidence that what I love, including my place in the universe, loves me back. Some may call this practice superstitious or foolish. For my part, looking for loveliness and conferring meaning feels more like bird watching and unearthing hidden Easter eggs.
In this spirit, I practice emotionally connecting with dogs, usually not purebreds. I want these dogs to know I see them as ultra-kind beings rewarded with a return life to continue giving unconditional love as four-legged rather than two-legged creatures. I have heard “To err is human, to forgive canine.”
However, I never confuse love for random dogs with the true unselfishness of communities like Rocket Dog Rescue and other organizations dedicated to saving animals. I honor those groups in more practical ways. Both financial support and doggie eye contact are empowering strategies, though one makes sense and the other does not, and doesn’t have to.
A second place I hope to find answers and reassurances about my place in the universe is everywhere and nowhere in particular. I might search horoscopes, scanning all signs for messages that reinforce a sense of hope or possibility. I am going to need plenty of help if and when I have to battle cruelty and injustice. Once in Lyman’s chess column above the Cryptoquip in the Chronicle I read these words: “Chess – like other sports – teaches us that defeat is not total or forever. ‘One day you give your opponent a lesson, the next day, he gives you one.’” And there’s Heidi Klum on Project Runway: “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out. Those thoughts resonate.
I gave my sister a thought she could use on a day she felt angry with her life and called to tell me she had lost her voice yelling at god. I said to her “That’s like yelling at a tree.” She found this comment useful and profound and called me back to say so. No evidence has yet been unearthed to support my observation, but isn’t it possible?
Between the possible and the certain runs a practically indiscernible line. I have tried not to cross it. But errors can occur. Take Fact #129 under the lid of the Snapple Diet Iced Tea. That Sunday in the lobby of the Jewish Community Center I alone believed a mosquito has 47 teeth. Skeptically, my friends questioned the accuracy of Snapple lid fact #129. Nevertheless, I told all in earshot what I knew. Whatever disbelief I met, I dismissed. But I had been misinformed; mosquitoes do have teeth but not 47. As a result of googling mosquito teeth, I learn the bottle cap was not gospel. Well, Alison, I mused, next time you find a fact in a bottle cap, pose it as possible not certain.
That seems like an apt lesson in humility for one whose access to information is already limited by a perspective nowhere over the rainbow and certainly not way up high.
Fortunately, the world I love is full of people not like me, who recognize the big picture when they see it or know where to find information about it. For example in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, R. Carlson advises us earth-dwellers to view our trivial concerns against the backdrop of a vast universe wherein we are microscopic dots.
I see the wisdom therein, though contemplating being this insignificant does not increase my hopefulness or sense of empowerment, not the way meeting the eye of a dog in a coffee shop can tune me up for large or small encounters with cruelty and injustice.