“A foolish man stays awake all night, thinking about things he cannot change. In the morning he is tired and can do no work, and that which was, still is.”
You’ve had a nice meal and a long walk. You’ve stretched, and now it’s time to sleep. Your bed awaits you. Will you fold yourself in and drift quickly into a deep and restful slumber? Or will you stare into the darkness, your mind churning at a thousand things, as you slide slowly down the razor blade between consciousness and sleep? Will you rise in the morning, alert and ready to greet the day? Or will you drop, exhausted, to the floor in the morning, feeling half-human from lack of rest?
“I want to die peacefully, in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming like his passengers.”
Sleepy people do stupid things; we all know that. They crash their cars, injure themselves at work and forget to feed their pets. But what might surprise you is that sleepy people also die of heart attacks far more often than the well-rested. According to the AMA, increasing sleep apparently reduces coronary artery calcification, by up to one third for each additional hour of sleep. Good reason to consider turning in early. And there is another reason: If you are going to work like a dog for yourself and others, you need to be well rested and alert. So pull yourself together, fluff up your pillow and get ready to curl up with your Next Assignment:
Give it a Rest
People of the World, Sleep! Go directly to sleep: Besides making you puffy and irritable, your failure to do so may actually constitute a negligent disregard for your own safety and that of your fellow citizens. Lives may hang in the balance. Since I can’t legally prescribe medications, I’ll offer instead what advice I can to help you blot out your thoughts, strip away your senses and drift into dreamland.
Turn in, Tune out, and Drop off
“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.” - Charlotte Bronte
I learned long ago that my penchant for dissecting things with numbers is a sure-fire way to light up my brain and keep me awake at night, long after whatever problem I’ve been working on has been solved. But if I avoid that, I fall asleep more quickly, so now, no math in bed (except at certain critical moments). I described this phenomenon to a woman I know, who told me she would often “do projects” in her mind as she lay in bed, finding herself unable to sleep. By making an effort to reduce this nocturnal cognition, she too was able to fall asleep more quickly. Which leads me to this: Relax. Clear your mind. Forget your job, your family, your hobbies, dreams and desires. Imagine instead a blank spot full of nothing. This is infinitely harder than it sounds, but it can help you sleep. Or at least give you something to do while you lay there, cursing your insomnia.
“Darkness, darkness, be my pillow” -The Youngbloods
Nothing beats a dark room for sleeping, so nix the nightlight and get some really good curtains – they make the difference. In fact, I knew a guy that actually painted his bedroom windows black… Come to think of it, he was kind of messed up. Forget about him, and go get some decent drapes - something thick and dark that you can fling open dramatically when you are ready to greet the day.
I spend each night with a fan. The fan’s white noise is like a sound blanket, insulating me from the variety of small noises which would otherwise disrupt my sleep. I like sleeping with a fan so much, that should I ever be fortunate enough to have the opportunity I believe I could quite happily sleep with two at once. I’d certainly like to try...
Of course, if all else fails, you can always try hypnosis. Just be sure you can trust your hypnotist, or you may wake up in some strange kennel, wearing a collar with a price tag. At least you can relax knowing that you probably aren’t suffering from Fatal Familial Insomnia, which, though incurable and barely treatable, actually rarely lasts over a year.
Pleasant dreams! -Stripe
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister and mother.” -JC according to Matt 12:50
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”
-JC, according to Luke 6:37
“If you do not have the same beliefs as we do, you are going to burn in Hell forever.” -Landover Baptist Church
The Devil, as they say, is in the details. While many religious organizations seem willing to accept all who may wish to join them, some have preferences concerning race, gender, sexual orientation or sense of humor that make some potential worshipers feel less than welcome. These rejected souls are swept from the table of conventional religion like so many unwanted scraps. What of them? Are their contributions truly without value?
Scrap Soul Salvage
Everyone has something to offer, and some spend a lifetime seeking the opportunity to share their gifts. I’ll try to save you some time. Join us. It doesn’t matter if you are solid blue and married to a head of lettuce, or if your mother was a space alien. You can even be rich; we tolerate all kinds here. Your efforts and input will be appreciated, possibly even acknowledged, and you will feel no need to be thanked for your hours of selfless toil, such will be the completeness of your satisfaction. Just one Detail: Know that if you want to enter this dog’s house, you’ll need to check your own judgments at the door.
Accepting others as they are is a small price to pay in return for being accepted for who you are. As with many things, you have to give a little to get a little, and no benefit is without cost. And, if you are beginning to get the feeling that your last assignment came with at least one string attached, you are today’s big winner. That slender thread leads to your Next Assignment:
Bend Over, Knees Straight, and Place Your Palms on the Floor
People of the world, Stretch! After your walk, or before bed each night, Stretch. Stretching is so easy that you can forget to do it, but don’t. Otherwise, something funny can happen in your lower back that will actually prevent you from laughing, or doing much else, for a week or more.
You know when you’ve stretched as far as you can; you can feel it. Muscles burn, tendons ache, and if you don’t back off, eventually something will give. But, as you continue to push your limits, over time your flexibility increases and your body will stretch farther. This is good for you; limber bodies flex when shaken, and are less prone to injury.
As you stretch your body, take a few minutes to stretch your Mind as well. Imagine yourself tolerating something you oppose. Not participating, or even condoning, just Tolerating. Try pushing your limits, and you will feel something pushing back from within. Examine this resistance; it is the source of intolerance. Think about the reasons for those feelings, and question the foundation of those beliefs. You may find that the more you think you can tolerate, the more you actually can tolerate. This is good for you; limber minds flex when shaken, and are less prone to injury.
Like walking, stretching is a lifelong assignment. Think of it as preventive maintenance. Keeping muscles limber helps prevent problems down the road, and puts a little extra bounce in your step. Mental flexibility helps reduce disagreements, and increased tolerance makes you more fun to be around. This is your reward. Eternal salvation, of course, is another matter entirely…
But this much is true: If a body isn’t stretched regularly, it cramps and seizes up. Unstretched minds cramp as well, excluding new ideas, fostering intolerance and rendering their owners tragically mirthless. Clenched and humorless, these unfortunates condemn themselves to endure each day in the living Hell of narrowed perspective. Theirs is a fate you may hope to escape, now that you have read the fine print.
“Many people die at twenty five and aren't buried until they are seventy five.” -Benjamin Franklin
“I like to Watch” -Peter Sellers as Chance the Gardener in “Being There”
You can sit like a potted plant, basking in the warm light of your television, and letting the taproot of inertia sink deep into the fertile earth of your easy chair. There you may languish, as days turn to weeks and weeks into seasons, until you are rendered as soft as a cushion, and almost as interesting. You would be just one among many, spellbound, as you watch the lives of others unfolding from the comfort and safety of your sofa. You are free to make that choice.
Sever the Root
You are also free to make another choice. Sever the root. Stand up and live your life, even for just a while. The TV will still be there if you need it. So will your computer, so abandon your Second Life, and try having some fun with your first one. And if your sense of civic responsibility impedes your ability to have a good time, well, good news: Volunteers are needed. So, get up, get out and do something. Right after you are through reading this, of course.
There is plenty for you to do, but if your empty craving to aid the unfortunate or salvage the neglected is matched only by your overwhelming apathy or a paralyzing inability to commit, maybe you should consider surrendering yourself to a higher calling. By seeking out others of a similar inclination and joining together with them to do Dog’s work, it may be possible to transform your undirected desire for something more rewarding into a positive force in your life and your community.
But first, in order to join the pack, you’ll need to be able to pull your own weight. The more considerable that weight, and the lower your energy level in general, the less of your surplus energy can be harnessed. With that in mind I offer, in exchange for your everlasting devotion, a gift that keeps on giving – to you and to me. So turn off the tube, go put on your shoes and stand by for a Lifelong Assignment:
People of the World, Rise up and Walk! Each day, a bit or a lot, get out and walk, and keep it up. Walk until your shoes wear out, then replace and repeat. As you walk, observe your surroundings and consider possible improvements to them. Contemplate your role in society, and your responsibilities to yourself and others. Smile at strangers. You’ll feel good, lose weight, tone up, and probably even see something interesting. Your body and mind will be the better for the effort, and your increased energy and acuity shall be my reward.
And before you start in about the weather, let me just mention that I know a 62 year old man in Alaska that walks several miles a day in almost any weather. When it rains he wears boots, when it’s icy he wears cleats, and he logged 1,500 miles in 2007. You do the math - that man WALKS! So, buck up, buttercup, and go burn some shoe leather. -Stripe
“Our party, from necessity having been obliged to subsist some length of time on dogs, have now become extremely fond of their flesh. It is worthy of remark that while we lived principally on the flesh of this animal, we were much more healthy, strong, and more fleshy than we had been since we left the buffalo country. For my own part, I have become so perfectly reconciled to the dog that I think it an agreeable food and would prefer it vastly to lean venison or elk.”
-Meriwether Lewis, January 1, 1806 at Fort Clatsop
There you have it: Good, and Good for You, as judiciously observed by someone I think we can all agree upon as one of the true heroes of American history. Say what you will about Dog-Eaters, the Undaunted Courage displayed by Lewis, Clark and their Corps of Discovery is so monumental that even I am willing to forgive an occasional violation of the Man-Dog friendship bond…
“The dogs now constitute a considerable part of our subsistence, and with most of the party has become a favorable food. Certain I am that it is a healthy, strong diet.
-William Clark, April 13th 1806
The Other Red Meat
Hearing something like this can be disturbing, because we are forced to reconsider things we thought we knew. Like, the idea that eating dog is unbridled barbarism which no red-blooded American would consider, ever. When our national heroes, those reddest-blooded of our line, are revealed to have not only eaten dog, but enjoyed it, we are forced to re-evaluate our beliefs. Clearly, even the barbaric can seem not only reasonable, but actually desirable, in the right circumstance.
Similarly, though a person may have lived a life of devotion to their chosen Faith, unexpected circumstance might cast a shadow of doubt on the foundation of those beliefs, causing them to question long-held ideals. Like, for instance, the idea that following Dog is pagan idolatry that no level-headed person would consider. Though the timid and conventional might call it foolish, even insane, to Surrender Your Will and Self to a Talking Dog, there may be times when such a thing actually makes good sense.
Maybe times like Now.
You Are What You Eat
It is worthy of note that both Lewis and Clark were paying close attention to how the diet of their men was affecting their health. It was their responsibility to pay attention to such things, just as it is your responsibility to monitor how what you eat affects your health.
Your Next Assignment
People of the world, don’t eat dogs! This is important to me, and really cannot be over-emphasized: Do Not Eat Dogs!
But do eat well. Eat as if your very survival depends on it, choose quality over quantity and pay attention to how what you eat affects the way you feel. Eat nourishing foods that will give you the strength you need to work on my behalf. If you take nothing else from our time together, let it be this: Eat Well.
C’mon, it’s not like I’m asking you to sample my secret Kool-Aid recipe, for Dog’s sake. -Stripe
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Okay, so you have the right to own a gun. But not everything that can be done should be done. Gun ownership is a right, not a requirement, and you can be a good citizen without owning a gun.
Consider the Odds
According to the National Safety Council “Odds of Dying” website, 11,624 people in the US were murdered with guns in 2004, making the odds of being fatally shot by someone else 1 in about 25,000 that year. You might know that, but you probably don’t know this:
Aged Hunter takes careful aim; Shoots Self
Odds go up when the gun is in your own hands. Like Hunter S. Thompson would do the following year, 16,750 people in the US fatally shot themselves in 2004. That’s 5,126 more suicides than murders, and it might be reason enough not to buy a gun for anyone you care about, including yourself.
Your Mission, should you Choose to accept it:
People of the World! I call upon you- Stop killing each other! And more than that, Stop Killing Yourselves! Among other drawbacks, this needless loss of life leaves less of you to do my bidding.
So, please, put the gun down, and back away.
Now that you have decided to go on living, here is Your Next Assignment: If you are considering the purchase of a gun, don’t buy one. If you know someone thinking of buying a gun, encourage them not to. And, if you own a gun, consider getting rid of it. And, no, I don’t mean sell it. That would defeat the purpose; you’ll have to Destroy it. And be sure to recycle the pieces! -Stripe
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Sit! Stay! Think: The First Amendment is all about Tolerance. Opinions and ideas are to be shared and discussed, so that an improved society may emerge as a result. You are reading this now thanks to the First Amendment.
You are Free to ask others to join you in your discussions, and to join together to seek answers to your questions, and to work toward common ends. And you are Free to believe what you wish, and to follow any leader you may choose. Even, for instance, a Talking Dog; you are Free to make that Choice.
Ask yourself: Does your life have meaning and direction? Are you using your gifts? Could your existence be enhanced by doing Dog’s work? I call upon you now, People of the World! Step forth and do, on my behalf, that which I lack either the means or inclination to do myself! Use your precious spare time and spend your hard-earned dollars to answer the questions and fulfill the desires that burn within me. You will gain my unwavering affection, and better yourselves and your community in the process! Let us Unite, as One Nation Under Dog!
Your First Assignment is as easy as it is obvious: Spread the Word! -Stripe