The New York Times Book Review interviewed Wendell Berry for their By the Book feature. The entire thing is great but the last quote grasped the breath in my lungs and held it clutched in time:
Q: What you plan to read next?
A: I am 81 years old. By now, I know better than to make plans. Like the foxhounds and other true Christians, I’ll follow my nose.
I have a foxhound. She’s loyal, true, grateful, empathetic, and full of vivid life energy that is nondiscriminatory: all people are her friends. She just assumes this and greets everyone we meet with the same curious love. She also, true to breed, keeps her nose to the ground. Everything is about what is right in front of her. She will miss sounds and sights and all distractions if something smells fascinating.
As for, “other true Christians”…I now understand why many dog owners prefer dogs to people. My personal faith is caught at the moment in a suspended state triggered largely by modern Christianity and the caustic reaction I’m having in regards to women’s issues, discrimination, and hate driven politics. It bugs me there are so few women in the biblical narrative (and I don’t believe for a second that 12 guys went traveling for that length of time and range without girls around) and I hit a major as-of-yet-unscalable wall when it comes to being able to contemplate anything related to the cross. Focusing on how a group of maniacal degenerates diabolically tortured and murdered another human being in front of his own mother has become intolerable for me. Her utter agony of watching that happen to her child isn’t something my system can handle imagining. Any celebration of the reason behind it or the so-called justification of it makes me recoil. I understand from the advice commonly given to those who grieve that focusing on the life they lived, rather than the way they died, is healthier. I lean into that.
I still stand in church and participate and follow the lifestyle of my people but I do so from a place of confusion and unrest, particular when it comes to identifying within a loaded label that means so many different things in 2016’s America. All my love and respect to my fellow parishioners, who are truly some of the very best people I know; it seems more manageable to me to live in community and think about the way Jesus lived than any other spiritual tenant told.
I tend to think that Mr. Berry is onto something (as he often is). Keep my nose to the ground. Try to disregard distractions. Approach life with a trust that first, all people are friends. Animals often gets things right.