Having been raised by a woman of great integrity and unbendable moral values, I have often found myself suffering from pangs of conscience. I still feel guilty about the day when I was eight years old and cut school and lied to my mother about it. I find myself obsessing about stupid things I have forgotten to do, or not done correctly, about things I have said that may have been misinterpreted…Why a mistake I made countless years ago continues to haunt me is unclear, but I find these things popping up in my head, or floating to the surface during a restless night.
There are these frequent niggling thoughts running through my mind, even in relation to the simplest everyday things – Am I doing this right? Should I be doing it at all? What will so and so think? What do I think?
Dogs don’t suffer from conscience; they live in the now. What brings an immediate and positive result is what is they do, and what brings a negative result doesn’t get repeated. There is no sitting and recriminating on what they did and what they could have done differently or what they might do differently in the future, there is only what they are doing right now. “Live in the moment” is a dog’s motto.
We humans are really good at misinterpreting our dogs’ reactions. You come home and find that your dog, bored out of his mind at sitting there alone for hours on end with nothing interesting happening – and you haven’t even left the TV on for him! – has demolished a few of the decorative cushions from the sofa and the whole house is flooded with tiny bits of foam rubber. Doggy takes a look at your face and disappears under the bed. “You see!” you exclaim, “He is feeling guilty! He knows he did something bad!”
Well, think again. Doggy had a great, fun time destroying household property and has no guilt feelings whatsoever. However, being a dog, he is great at reading body language, and understands immediately from yours that you are really angry and that he had better get out of range.
He has no pangs of conscience about having stolen a cookie off the counter top when you are not looking, or sleeping on the sofa when no one is home. “But he knows he shouldn’t do things like that!” you exclaim. “Doesn’t he have a conscience?”
Well – no! His guilty look is only an expression of, “Oh,oh, you caught me and you are angry!” Discretion is definitely the best part of valor…
Life would be so much easier if I could just live in the present like Habibi, never obsessing about the things that happened in the past, and that in any case I can’t do anything about, and never stressed about what might or might not happen in the future, which is not really under my control either. Wouldn’t it be great to just enjoy the now…Wow!