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“Doug, I just had an epiphany.”

Great.  A quiet, morning jog appears to be out of the question. He just had an epiphany, and now he insists on sharing his revelation with me. I prefer our morning runs to be relatively quiet affairs. The only sound I want to hear are of our feet striking pavement  in rhythmic unity with our labored breathing. But he decides to exercise his mouth as well as his body, drowning out the harmony of the birds who herald the waking world.

“Have you ever thought what it means to belong to a group? What it means to have an identity?”

We stop for a few seconds at an intersection as a blue sedan tears around the corner. We resume our jog.

“I just realized that we define ourselves not by who we are but what group we find ourselves a part of. And when we define our identity solely by our group, we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters.”

Oh great. Here he goes with that “brothers and sisters” crap again.

“When we define what we are, we also define what we are not. Thus, in creating identity, we create boundaries. The question then is how do we create these boundaries in such a way that they remain permeable? Identity helps define who we are, but it seems that if our identity separates us–” He turns his head over his shoulder and discharged the saliva that has been accumulating in his mouth during his monologue, “Well, what good is that? How can identity and belonging serve the common good, build respect for each other, and promote peace if it divides us?”

It’s too early for this. He is making my brain hurt.

“And so, if identity, by its nature, breeds division, then our language and our actions must build bridges so that identity does not separate us. Rhetoric, then, must promote reconciliation and unity, not anger, scorn, or divisiveness. How can we love our neighbors if the words we choose do nothing to facilitate respect for the dignity of the other?”

Identity? Belonging? What is he talking about? I’m a dog. I only recognize the existence of two types of things: other dogs and food. What do I know about dignity? I eat my own poop.

We get home, he takes off my leash and I run and slurp up water from my dish. He pats me on the head.

“You’re a good boy Doug. I love my runs with you; they can be so insightful. Let’s get a treat!”

I meet him at the the pantry and sit at attention, wondering why he is the alpha of this pack.


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