Sunday, January 8, 2012

Not purely altruistic


Now don't go off and get the wrong impression of me when I tell you this story. I don't want anyone thinking I'm all stuck up or anything as I talk about an article from the New York Times. While, yes, I do have the New York Times drop an email update to me on a daily schedule, I really only scan the headlines. Put the Sunday issue of the Dayton Daily News and the New York Times side by side and watch me grab for the Dayton paper. Because DDN's Sunday issue has the comic pages in color.

So I admit it's not often that I actually open an article from the NYT email to absorb a story. I discovered that not only do the Times writers tend to use obscure words outside of the common tongue, they use several multi-syllable of the things in a row.

But here's an exception.

Is Pure Altruism Possible? says the headline. Blog readers who have stuck with me over these past couple of years may recall my ramblings about teaching catechism to seventh graders (Rambam's Ladder explains in further detail of these years of penance for me).  I have a foundational belief that I valiantly attempted to fit into the heads of these young people. Regardless of circumstance, each and every one of us has experienced blessings in our lives. And each and every one of us has a resource available to make a difference to someone else. This process of "giving back", my young friends, is the very least we should be doing within our lives
 
Tell ya what, chick-a-roni, says Bodine.   
If you fill my food bowl, I'll write your cards.  
How's that for altruism, feline-style?
So this altruism headline in the Times intrigued me. I got as far as the byline and saw that this opinion piece was written by Judith Lichtenberg, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University. Well, that should have been my first warning to stop right there before my brain exploded. Who did I think I was anyway?  Reading a NYT article written by a philosophy professor? But I bravely trudged onward hoping for a nugget of information that I could actually hold in my humble gray matter.

But, oh!  I got it!  Well, most of it.  Ok, ok, some of it.  Anyway, it's full of some really great profundity and I'm finding it tough to summarize it here. I welcome all you curious folk to read the article in full here:  Is Pure Altruism Possible?  Grab that latte first, though. You'll likely be there for a few minutes. For the truly courageous, read on through the reader comments, where you will find even more deep thinking as provided as critique by Dr. Lichtenberg's fellow philosophers. My poor quivering brain sprung a leak after the first couple of those and I found myself reaching for that glass of Pinot Grigio.

The thought of pure altruism remains interesting to me as a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. Sure, my very hope is that this incredible pup I'm raising will become an assistance dog for someone. Which in turn would provide a level of independence, companionship and a sense of security to someone else who is looking for such things.

Pure altruism however? Well, no.

Inga taming a polar bear at the
Cincinnati Museum of Natural History
Why not? Oh, as if, people. Because I got me a puppy in my house, that's why. I get nearly a year and a half of  happiness as only a fuzzy canine can give. Puppy breath and Frito scented feet in a cotton ball body, followed by months of having a constant companion. And adventures! Have you ever taken your dog to a museum? To the movies?  Well, I have and I gotta say, it's a blast. The dog is a social bridge as well.  I meet amazing people I never would have without this dog at my side.

And we work hard, too, with the socialization and training. Some different doggie rules than the pet dogs have. And at the end of our time together, this dog we love so much, this dog who is not our dog, leaves our home and is entered into the advanced training program at CCI.

Every puppy raiser has their own reason for doing this stuff, for going through the hard work, the happiness and then the resulting heartache. Hey, I'm no philosopher, but here's my thinking. During the short time we have these fuzzies in our lives, we fill them with our love. It's not a conscious choice to be sure, it just kinda happens along the way. Then, with a kiss and a long hug, we send them off to share that love. So when they are placed with someone in the next part of their journey, well, they carry that very love inside them to give forward.

And indeed they do, so I'm told. Person after person, story after story, I hear. Pure altruism? No. But I don't doubt for a nano-second that what I'm doing with these dogs is totally where I'm supposed to be.

During the holiday season, I joined up in a card exchange with other CCI folk.  Puppy raisers, graduates and others involved with the CCI program. Rules were simple, really. Just make sure you send a photo of a dog or two with your card.

Oh, it was wonderful picking up the mail every day to see what dogs were gracing the photo cards that day. I couldn't even wait to get the cards in the house before opening them. Dogs in Santa hats, dogs in snow, dogs at the beach, dogs smiling. Then one day, opening the day's postal treasures, I find myself standing in the driveway with tears in my eyes.  It's a beautiful Christmas card from a CCI graduate, a young lady I've never met. Along with a photo of her and her blue-caped CCI dog, she's left a handwritten note inside the card for each of the volunteer puppy raisers on her mailing list:

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season. Thank you so much for all the time, energy, patience & socializing you invest, in order to give someone else more independence & a greater quality of life. Loving & caring for a puppy you know you will have to give back is such a selfless gift.
Thank you for everything you do.

Dogs and dog cards.  It's a blessed life, it is.
Now if Micron could just plant his blessed behind into a decent Sit.

So in answer to your question, Dr. Lichtenberg, is pure altruism possible?  You know, of course it is.  But I can't stake claim of it here.


Because someone gave back to me.  And I'm feeling especially blessed today.

The photo we used for the CCI card exchange.
"Santa? Stop him, Micron! 
He's goin' for the dog cookies!"

Yaxley, Micron and Jager share some
Christmas spirit.

Aw, is Christmas over already?


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful/thought invoking post :D good job as always!!!!!

    ~Elijah & Hobart II

    ReplyDelete

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