photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, February 28, 2013


About a million years ago I had a horse named Mr. BoJangles. He was a great big ugly appaloosa. Seriously. He was not a pretty horse at all. I'd gotten him for free from my grandfather's secretary in exchange for going out and cleaning their 8 stall barn every Sunday.

He was 4 years old, over 16 hands tall and never been touched.

I adored him.

I was 15 years old and did all the basic groundwork with him- taught him to lead, and longe, and be groomed, and generally civilized. But there was always this little niggle of fear at the back of my head because he'd been 'wild'.

When I'd first gotten him they'd had to herd him into a stall and it'd been a rodeo just to get a halter on him.

Once all the groundwork was done, I had him sent to a trainer for 'finishing' which was really just a beginning- 3 months of very basic work under saddle.

At the end of the 3 months I got a month to work with him still at the trainer's.

I was very hesitant to hoist myself all the way up into that saddle the first time.

The trainer asked why and I told him because Bo had been wild.

"HAD been. This is a totally different horse now. Git up on him".

So I did. And it was fine.

We walked, and trotted, then the trainer told me to ask him to canter and I hesitated.

The trainer asked me why and I told him because Bo might run off with me...because he'd been wild.

"Oh, sure he COULD do that. Buy why would he want to?"

And that's the lesson I've taken with me through almost 30 years of working with animals in both veterinary practice and over 30 years as a small farmer.

Because animals generally don't overthink shit like we do. Unless they've been given a reason to think otherwise (abuse and/or neglect) they will pretty much behave and react in a sensible manner and according to their own way of thinking.

I always approach any animal, no matter who it is and no matter if they've always been friendly, with caution tempered by a generous dose of "Of course s/he COULD (bite, kick, scratch, kill) me, but why would s/he want to?"

That calms me down while leaving just enough alertness for the unexpected.

Expect the best from others, and they most likely will live up to your expectations.

Expect the worst from others, and they lose nothing by living down to those expectations.

Telling your toddler, "You may have some of this popcorn but don't put it up your nose" is an invitation to a visit to the ER. That kid probably never woulda thunk of that trick on their own, why the hell do we say stuff like that and then get angry when they follow through?

Which is why I've always wondered about those 10 Commandments.

They're an invitation to disaster and failure.

Killing someone? Why, I never thought of that, but yanno I'm pretty hacked off by what ______________ did- actually I guess I COULD kill him.

Adultery and coveting other people's shit? Well, I was pretty happy with my own stuff, but now that you mention it, my neighbor's shit IS better than mine is!

Really, this is God talking- doncha think he'da thought this out better being everyone's Father and all?

So in case he's listening (doubt it) lemme take this opportunity to do a little revision. On accounta the way they're laid out has not brought us any closer to perfection, but actually messed up our heads mightily- leaving us filled with ideas we never woulda thought of and simultaneously feeling like we'll never be good enough.

I know, I know- supposedly all you need to do is say (shuffling feet, eyes to the ground) "I'm sorry, dad. I'll try to do better..." but yanno that doesn't work.

Because of how his rules are, it's pretty clear that 'dad' is just waiting for us to screw up again.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
OK. This one's pretty much that whole 'jealous god' thing. It's not attractive in humans and even less so in a divine being and needs to be scratched wholesale.

2.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Really? This is just asking for it. "Whatever you do- DON'T carve a golden calf. Seriously. Also don't eat the last piece of pizza in the fridge".

3.Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
For the ultimate Ruler of All, this one gets his feelers hurt awful easily.

4.Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
This one's cool. I'm all for a day off.

5.Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Also cool. Unless your parents were horrible abusive psychos. Then you should totally get a pass.

6.Thou shalt not kill.
See? How about "Thou shalt live life fully and joyfully and do thy best to help others do the same, rejecting violence in all relationships with others". Something to live UP to, not down to.

7.Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Again- "Thou shall love your partner and be faithful to them". Same message- very different delivery.

8.Thou shalt not steal.
*Sigh* "Thou shalt respect the possessions of others and be thankful for thine own". Why is this so damn hard?

9.Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Really, if 7 and 8 were worded the way I have 'em, this one wouldn't even be necessary...

10.Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Oh, for the love of...listen, god- if you hadn't made all that other anti-social behavior stick in people's heads, this would not even occur to anyone. You've been around forever, right? We're all your children, right? How could you miss that positive reinforcement will net you a million times more obedience than negative reinforcement?

You'd think a god would know that. Here's what I suspect.

God does know that. But he can't type or use a pen or computer.

It takes people who make up religions and governments to do that.

People are not inherently bad. People are herd animals and social animals and by that very definition are inherently good- for the continued benefit of the herd. We call our herds 'communities'.

One thing that makes me insane is not being able to think of a really simple word like "door". But that's not important here.

Another thing that makes me insane is the assumption that if "the shit hits the fan" everyone will run out and start murdering and raping and pillaging and whatnot willy nilly and happily because they will be 'off the leash'.

a) If you really think that you need to examine your own heart and intentions. Seriously.

b) Why would they? Why would normal everyday people suddenly turn into something they are clearly naturally not?

Case in point. Me as Exhibit A. I'm not a practicing Christian (duh) and the older I get the less I believe in a god of any sort.

a) I'm totally OK with that. To me, it makes life MORE precious and wondrous, not less

b) I have not one tiny intention or desire to do anything horrible to anyone. Even people who've done horrible things to me.

Maybe one of the things wrong with our poor sick society is not that we don't have ENOUGH god in it, but because we have way, way too much jealous, vengeful, negative damning religious doctrine in it.

Of course we're gonna be depressed and violent.

Why the hell not?

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