Snippets of 2020 (2) Smile


This has indeed been a taxing year for us all to date even though we are seemingly doing less.

The challenges are personal as much as general and involve confronting ones own issues as there are not the usual distractions to stop us from having to spend time on self reflection and transcendence.

In a sense we ought to be rejoicing at this opportunity to do the things we have been putting off for so long but there are only so many hours you can bear to clean the house.

Some of us cope better with change than others too. Personally, I am slow or reluctant to embrace change without a full and complete analysis of my options and quite frankly we are not going to get that in our current global crisis. It is a crisis because it is causing massive change although I have suggested previously that this is good and I still believe that it can be such if we all recognise the opportunities arising and moreover, implement them.

Despite the confusion and despair that some of us may be feeling, I see there is also a greater sense of oneness emerging than we ever had BC. (aka Before Covid)

In general people who don’t know each other that well are starting to notice each other and extend greetings to them. Even if you cannot see the smiling face, the quick wave will suffice. It seems to me that we are now looking for connection with each other that we had previously not valued. This was also evident in New York after September 11 and in some ways albeit with far less terror and toll, we are again experiencing a new paradigm for our society as we learn to care again about our neighbours’ welfare.

This era is also bringing out our creativity and our generosity as we need to source our provisions and base our lives once again in the local community. I am very happy about this because it is one of the most empowering aspects of our society, our willingness to connect and care about our environment and the beings we share it with.

So what of our dear pets?

Much is being surmised about the impact of our changed living and social arrangements on the mental health and behaviour of dogs especially. I’m sure cats are happy to have more laps to sit on and dogs are happy to be walked more often as an excuse to get out the house but since the introduction of compulsory mask wearing in public it may be a little while before good information comes to light about the impact this is having on young minds including our children and pets alike. From my personal observation and understanding there are some animals that adapt faster than others and the major challenge again is one of change. Dogs will react to unfamiliar experience and changed conditions, then they will usually adapt. We are not sure how much they depend upon our facial queues but I would expect mask wearing to halt learning and disrupt responses especially towards people they don’t know. For example, it has long been recognised that dogs have learned to smile only by observing the facial expressions of their owners in the same way that human babies do, so there is evidence that they notice our faces.

It was not long ago that anybody approaching wearing dark glasses, hoodie or hat and a mask was actually likely to be threat so we should not expect dogs to know the difference in such a short space of time. On the whole it seems they may be faring quite well as my practice is seeing only the occasional deranged animal and as a behaviourist I am likely to hear about these problems. I have had a couple of cases in recent weeks that highlight the need to keep ourselves well balanced as dogs belonging to people who are not coping  well will also not cope well. It will be quite a while before data from this debacle will be analysed even if it will ever be deemed interesting. In the meantime it is advisable to treat your dogs, irrespective of their age, at this time as young puppies again and remember to reward them for appropriate behaviour and signalling when out of doors and challenged by any product of our current situation. Ironically I had the completely opposite experience recently whilst out running. As a runner I don’t wear a mask and I was almost attacked by a dog that had decided that I was a threat, so it is all relative. Perhaps that dog had never seen a person not wearing a mask. Let’s pray that parents are spending enough time indoors smiling at their babies too or we may face a pretty grim future.

Strange things are happening ain’t no doubt about it as our friend Randy Newman says but also you’ve got a friend in me.


Smile, smile, smile!
Your anxiety-mind
Shall disappear.

From the book Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 22



Smile, smile, smile
At your mind
As often as possible.
Your smiling will considerably reduce
Your mind’s tearing tension.

From the book Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, part 229



Smile! Smile!
If you do not smile,
You may suffer the attacks
Of the most powerful loneliness.

From the book Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 32


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