John Boston | Being Taught by Babies, Puppies & Monty Python

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A dear and wise friend once suggested that God doesn’t exist in the past or the future, only in that divine Everymoment of the Now. Still. I do wonder. Does God keep photos?

YouTube has been such a guilty pleasure during this quarantine. I’m catching up on everything from 19th-century German philosophers (and amen boy howdy was there an entire passel of them) to Bigfoot videos. I caught a couple the other day featuring dogs and babies. 

I was struck by how gentle and protective these big, giant hounds were with these little round angels, how doting and patient and more than that. These dogs were loving, as only dogs can do, so in the moment. I love that about dogs. Love that about babies. Here I am, so many decades under the belt. I’ve only had one of each.

I wish my daughter could have known Nicky. They missed each other by a few years. The little white Bichon Frise was with me for a decade-plus and I’ve never met a soul more agreeable. Wouldn’t it be delightful if we could learn something once and never forget? I learned from both my dog and my baby daughter that indescribable joy you feel over something as simple as not just the beginning of a brand new day, but a brand new moment. Of course, I’m prejudiced. Both of them liked my singing.

I assure you.

All the approval in the entire Universe, shining at you from the eyes of child or canine? Life doesn’t get any better than that.

I’ve a challenge.

Once a day, try acting like a puppy or a little kid. I dare you. At the mention of maybe, just maybe, going for a walk, run back and forth as fast as you can across the house and muster all the happiness in the Universe. I’m serious. I actually used to do that every once in a while and felt so profoundly happy afterward, although, somewhere along the line, I forgot. I learned that from an episode with my daughter when she was 5. I was in my big office in the back of the house, writing something non-essential. She sprinted in madly, full-speed and asked if I knew where the Scotch tape was.

“Dining room table, last time I saw,” I said.

Shot from a cannon, my favorite person sped down the long hallway and returned in world record time. She then ran to her room to retrieve her art project and began taping stuff together in my office. I’ll never forget that, that special prayer children just simply know. It’s the prayer of gratitude. It’s to do something with unbridled joy. I dare you. Heavens. I dare myself. Some time today, without turning an ankle or coughing up a heart valve, with all the delight you can muster — go RUN and start a task. Taking out the trash. Making a cup of tea. Putting away a rake. Sprint like a colt or filly. There’s no stopwatch on you, no bleachers full of judges or long-dead relatives grading on style points. I guarantee, no matter what your age, you’ll leave several lifetimes of drudgery and woe behind.

Dogs and children model for us that it’s simply just great to be alive. To be enthusiastic. To be silly. Stupid silly. They remind us that it’s also perfectly OK to find that just-right spot on the couch and collapse exhausted into the glorious world of Napdom. Naps with dogs or babies are often better than naps alone because when you wake, there’s that guileless face waiting to remind that there’s mischief that needs attending to, adventures requiring our exploration, lungs that need to be filled with fresh air and loud noises to be exhaled toward distant planets.

Why is that so important?

I suspect most of the people on Planet Earth spend a lifetime trying to discover who they are. I suspect most don’t come close to finding the answer.

Almost 50 years ago, the British comedy troupe Monty Python performed a skit so profound, it should be in the Bible. The sketch was about the ancient Greek philosophers taking on the 19th-century philosophers — in a soccer match. The Greeks in their togas and the Germans in their long coats and top hats took to the field. As they stretched, two announcers excitedly described the philosophers and the importance of the match. As soon as the squads met at middle field for the opening kick, both sides immediately paced aimlessly for the longest time. They mumbled, pausing to throw an index finger in the air and harrumph, postulating I’m guessing why things can’t be done. I think it was Archimedes who finally was hit with inspiration. He ran over and kicked the ball, driving it down field and punting in a goal.

And that’s the secret to life, something dogs and babies know already.

Kick the ball.

Run. Jump. Be silly.

Don’t spend your life, hands behind your back, worrying, pacing, muttering, measuring shoulds and shouldn’ts, what ifs and what if nots.

Bills? Quarantines? The future? It’s always uncertain. That will never change.

Take some time to run down the hallway at breakneck speed, just to get the Scotch tape dispenser.

Kick the ball. Get a dog in a headlock.

Do it all over again tomorrow.

John Boston is a local writer. 

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