The dog Nessie asks me every day: “What larks today?”
She anticipates joy and so I am bound to provide. Why? She is a reminder that there is natural order, a normal, and we should not forget. Nessie longs for food, water, toys, and affection, mostly affection. She will leave a bowl full of food to snuggle with the Fairest Flower in all Christendom. Who would not?
Nessie lives in “is”, never able to question what should have been.
The dog Nessie was abandoned, afflicted with mange, dropped at a shelter. A good soul took her, got her some medical care, and let us bring her home. She was afraid of being alone, because she had been alone. She has, so far as I can tell, no faults except a tendency to lick everything and love everyone. She is most happy when she is rollicking in the dog yard with her friend SunnI with all the rest of us watching her frolic.
Nessie lives as all such animals should. She has affection and receives affection. Most of all, her needs cause us to meet other dogs and the people that care for them.
After all, those who own a dog in a city must come to know each other. We have baggies on hand, in case the park runs out. We curse those who leave mess behind as forerunners to the breakdown of civilization. We chat about places where the doggies can swim or the best vets. Meanwhile, Nessie just gambols, eats her kibble, runs to get a bone, and rolls on the floor playing with her stuffed Loch Ness monster toy or in the grass hoping for attention. She watches any of us leave from the second story window when we go, hoping we will return. When we do, her backend waggles and her front end, the friendly end, slobbers and she is happy.
You might believe, for just a moment, that you matter! No matter how hard the day, Nessie is ready to walk. She is less ready to fetch, noting that running for a ball, bringing the ball, only leads to the ball being thrown again. She prefers to bring the ball back and put it in a place where nobody will be inclined to go.
She has only “is”, but as an image bearer I have the “ought.” I know that to have been brutal to a fellow beast is wrong. She ought not to have been abandoned. I know the she is dependent on us and that I voluntarily agreed to care for her until death parts us. She has no other decent option. She cannot question what is, only suffer, and so I must do what I can to give her what is just. This is a daily lesson to me in ethics.
If I can be kind to Nessie, can’t I be kind to my fellow human beings? Why should any soul created in the image of God go without food, water, and affection if I can help? What is wrong with us? We know better, than the dumb beasts, but we do worse. They are trapped in the “is” of our training and our world, but we can dream of better times.
So I am reminded of the basics: food, water, affection. I recall that I too can frolic. I may not merely be what Nessie is, but I am at least what Nessie is. I am a soul in a body, like Nessie. If eternity also is in my heart, I cannot find eternity without beginning by getting my simplest, most basic, nature in harmony with the greater part of me. The gap between Nessie and me is so much less than the gap between God and me.
God become man, so that we might have some hope. Our deepest longings are like Nessie’s longing for a bone, for a nap on my lap during the movie. These longings are profound to her, but simple to us. We can think “around” them.
God so loved the world that God came, not to put a leash on us, but to become fully man. We beheld God, full of grace and truth, and this was glorious. Our (relative) simplicity was introduced to the most excellent divinity.
Sometimes Nessie waggles on the edge of understanding, so it is with us and God. We ask: “What larks today?” God says: jollification is coming without end.