“Aussie, did you hear what Pope Francis said?”


“The head of one of the world’s largest religions, Auss. Some people believe that he speaks for God. He said that one of the problems we have in the world is that people prefer to have pets, like dogs, than to have children.”

“He calls that a problem? How many children does he have?”

“None, as far as I know, Aussie.”

“How many dogs?”

“None, as far as I know.”

“I rest my case.”

“Aussie, that may be what’s meant by renunciation.”

“What’s renunciation?”

“Giving things up. In terms of religion, it means that you give up things like certain foods, clothes, independence, family life, sex, and children to focus on taking care of the poor and the sick, or on spiritual awakening. Pope Francis may have given up the possibility of having children or dogs to get closer to God.”

“Come on! The best way to get close to God is to get a dog.”

“How do you know, Aussie?”

“Easy. After dealing with me every day, you’d go anywhere, ANYWHERE!, even up to God in the sky, to get away.”

“But Aussie, the opposite is also true. You know how much I value concentration and hate distractions?”

“Do I ever!”

“But when you sidle over to me and mewl like you do, Aussie, I stop typing, put the coffee cup down, and I pet you. And when Henry comes over and gets up on his hind legs and taps my knee with one of his front paws—”

“He loves ordering you around!”

“–I stop everything, pick him up, and put him on my lap. Even in the middle of meetings. Henry regularly attends at our weekly Zen Peacemaker Order meeting.”

“He’s a waste of valuable time!”

“He’s not, Aussie, and that’s the point. The poet, Mary Oliver, said: Joy is not made to be a crumb.

(Sigh) “I love crumbs.”

“Aussie, I don’t want just crumbs of joy in my life, I want lots of joy! Lots of delight, cheer, and happiness!”

“I thought you were a Buddhist!”

“It’s easy for me to get lost in work and Zooms and meetings and blogs; the whole day and week can go by like that. Instead, I’ve learned to stop everything when Henry taps me on the knee, pick him up, sit him down on my lap, and cuddle with him. The minutes I spend doing that are full of joy. There’s something about seeing his big eyes up close—”

“Mine are much prettier.”

“—feeling his fur—”

“You call that fur?”

“—and feeling the heart beating powerfully in that small, 16-pound body that makes me plain happy. He sits on my lap like a prince on the throne receiving adoring strokes and attention, like it’s all coming to him, as if that’s what life is really about. And that simple act of holding him on my lap and stroking him makes me happy, Aussie.”

“Let me ask you something: When the Buddha sat under the tree and meditated, did he have a dog on his lap?”

“Not that I’ve heard. Unless Mara, the Lord of Delusion, brought him one.  The sutras say that Mara brought him his beautiful daughters to distract him, but also an army of monsters and demons.”

“Then he must have brought Henry. And was the Buddha distracted?”

“He was not.”

“Did he hold him and kiss him and tell him what a sweetie he was? Vomit! Vomit! Vomit!”

“I don’t care, Aussie. Like Mary Oliver said, I don’t want a crumb of joy here and a crumb of joy there, I want the whole shebang.”

“And you call yourself a Buddhist!”

“When you and Henry come over and interrupt some work I do that barely reaches the bar of insignificance in the long run of things, I want to grab those minutes of feeling those soft hairs under my hand, seeing a few specks of gray on your dark fur—”

“Gray! Where? Where?”

“—and feeling Henry’s small body shake and quiver with pleasure as my fingers graze down his back. That’s pleasure! That’s gladness! That’s joy!”

“Maybe, but that’s no way to get enlightened.”

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