Blog entry

pre / trans fallacy in anthropomorphic pet owners

word of the day: vaccimulgence / the milking of cows
song of the day: new killer star / david bowie

i wanna hire david bowie's bass player. she is so fucking cool it makes me dizzy. been watching the bowie live DVD while on airplanes and waiting around in airports and stuff, it's really good -sounds killer (thanks daniel!).

the davis family is a dog family this week. tripp lanier left town and left his dog nathan with us. the first fifteen minutes of having him consisted entirely of me trying to get him to go into the studio with me. "come on nate, nate, come here nathan, come here" then i would get him, and my daughter would run off, and then, "come here Ara, Ara- come to pappa" then i would go grab her, and nathan would immediately run off "NATHAN, come here..." and so on back and forth for a good fifteen minutes. this week is an experiment for us, we're considering getting a dog. Nathan is a beautiful lab of some sort, i guess a yellow lab cuz he's yellow, but we're thinking of getting a great dane, something fucking huge that will protect my daughter with its life and scare the shit out of anyone who walks by our house. maybe a german shepherd, or a mastiff. my friend Ottmar has tibetan mastiffs, they look beautiful as heck but they're a bit mercurial in temperament.

of course we had not one, but THREE dogs when i first moved in with my wife. an otter hound (enormous, 150 pounds), a blood hound, and a basset hound. it was pure chaos, hounds are simply a pain in the ass, especially blood hounds, it's like owning a quadra-pedal meth addict. they're skittish, hyper, and stupid. my wife was actually out of town when i first arrived, and i stepped into a house with five huge, steaming piles of dog shit placed like islands in a huge pools of piss. it was a very unpleasant hello. they had somehow been mistakenly put indoors by our neighbor who was taking care of them. i've had a checkered history with dogs at best. there have been some dogs -only a handful- that i have loved very much. our springer spaniel, Lady, while i was growing up, and her successor Whisky (my dad named him) were great. i love my producer's dog Bruno. Snoopy can be funny. and i like Jazz, the cocker spaniel Ara's godmother has. but on the whole, i've had a lot of dog karma to work out in this life time. for about ten years it seemed like everywhere i went on tour there was a dog that i would get entangled with. they humped me, licked me, they shed and i sneezed, they slobbered all over my new clothes, chewed my shoes, bags, and even guitar cases into shreds while i slept innocently in their homes, i stepped in their shit, was awoken by their barking, growling, and whimpering, and most annoying of all- i was embroiled in the ridiculous relationships people have with their dogs. some dogs ARE brilliant, beautiful, and become deserving members of their family. i don't mind people loving their dogs, i think we should love our dogs. what i can't stand is people who elevate their pets to human status and remain completely incapable of maintaining simple human relationships. this is something i've strangely encountered a lot of on the road. it's understandable how it happens, it's the same reason people love babies SO much, and SO unconditionally. babies are really difficult in many ways, but they are absolutely easy and simple in others. you won't have political disagreements with a baby, you won't find yourself in diametric opposition to the ideology of a baby, you won't find them challenging your religious beliefs, your ethical choices, or giving you feedback on your life choices. that's the beauty of undeveloped beings- they're BLANK. my duaghter is 19 months old, and she is full of charisma, sparkle, and magic, and all of its real. and she has no beliefs, no assumptions, no biases or prejudices. she hardly has preferences, for that matter. it's a time of innocence, but not because she's enlightened, not because she's transcended all those things. she hasn't even experienced them yet, she hasn't even acquired these sensibilities yet, which she will hopefully do, and if she digs it, she'll move beyond them as well. and this is something a few people are confused about regarding their pets. i have to tell you i've met a good number of people who think that because their pets have good dispositions, or are capable of holding eye contact, or look super cute-that they are on a level of human (or higher) beings in terms of emotional, psychological, or spiritual development. and that is fucked up.

a dog is a dog.

this is something wilber calls the pre / trans fallacy. it's very simple. let's say we consider three basic stages of development; Pre-Conventional, Conventional, and Post-Conventional. In early years of development, humans go through pre-conventional stages of evolution. We are developing a sense of self, acquiring culture, beliefs, world view, etc. Pre-conventional stages of development are ego-centric for this reason, they are literally the establishment and development of self- sense, or "I", or ego, in a healthy sense. Pre-conventional is not evil, or bad, or stupid, any more than it's evil or bad or stupid to be a four year old. You're four years old, that's all, and you are a perfect four year old. If you continue evolving as you age, you will reach conventional stages of development, in which you become capable of understanding and operating within the codes and systems of society, culture, etc, the conventions of human existence. Conventional stages of self belong to and observe modes of ethics, intersubjective dynamics, and have a sense of self that extends beyond just the ego. They also exhibit a corresponding capacity for reason, cognition, and imagination that is far beyond pre-conventional. Now, if a person is really fortunate, they might develop beyond convention, and move into post-conventional stages of identity and awareness. Post-conventional types of awareness are characterized by an understanding and adequate mastery of all that convention includes, but a freedom and capacity to move beyond it, and although post-conventional beings have access to logic, have access to rationality, have access to cognition, they are not limited by it, and can also employ types of apprehension and facility that are trans-rational, trans-cognition, in other words, post-conventional. People get confused because both pre-conventional and post-conventional are NON-conventional, and so they often mistake one for the other. Just because you are a-moral doesn't mean you have transcended the morality of your culture (the mistaken notion of Anarchy, for instance), just because you are un-conventional, illogical, irrational does not make you post-conventional, trans-logical, or trans-rational, although artists and spiritualists make this mistaken claim all the time. Of course it works both directions, and even more often we find scientists, empiricists, Freudians, and innumerable others collapsing genuinely trans-rational, trans-logical, post-conventional phenomena and saying it's merely pre-rational, pre-conventional flotsam jetsom. To conventional world views, everything that is NOT conventional is PRE-conventional. This is a function of the limits of the World view, not a function of the limits of reality.

At any rate, dogs are pre-conventional beings, and just the way it is. They are not Buddhas, they are not Enlightened, they are not they reincarnation of Ghandi, or whatever other ridiculous qualities and fantasies we may ascribe to them in our incessant need to anthropomorphically ascribe post-conventional qualities to what are pre-conventional beings. Does a dog have a buddha nature? Fuck yeah. What's a Buddha nature? Nothing that's limited or defined by any particular quality or form or characteristic, we might call it Godhead or the Absolute, it's nothing we can conceive, articulate, or quantify by any stretch. All manifest and unmanifest reality is purely, completely this Absolute. All things, all beings, all matter and all non-matter is nothing but this Absolute, all reality has the same Absolute value, literally, and that is that everything is 100% this Absolute. But not all things, not by any stretch of the imagination, have the same depth of realization, the same capacity to recognize their own ultimate identity as the Absolute. As far as we know only humans possess this capacity, the ability to Wake Up and realize what is actually, truly our condition and identity; the Absolute, or Buddha Nature. Dogs do not do this, birds do not do this, nor as far as we know do dolphins, elephants, or monkeys, and no amount of our anthropomorphic wishing and imagining will make it so. This is what is known as precious human birth, the very very unique, singular opportunity that is human birth, the inestimable rarity that it is to have a VEHICLE (human form) which will support and allow for an authentic, complete awakening. This is most important because we can't truly help other beings (humans, dogs, dolphins) wake up until we have done so. The technology for waking up from the Dream and then working within the Dream for the sake of the Whole awakening is what constitutes esoteric spirituality in all forms and traditions. Dogs are not awake. They are pre-conventional, always have been, always will be.

Of course I could be wrong. Maybe dogs are really reincarnated Egyptian Pharaohs and what not. Yes, yes, I know YOUR dog is the one and only true, rare case of a highly evolved soul that chose to incarnate as a four-legged beast that licks its own butthole (hey, I would if I could...). I mean that sincerely, I could be wrong. But I really... really... fucking doubt it.

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-Ken Wilber, Author of over a dozen books on consciousness