Head Coach: When the world turns upside down
Doves mate for life, are incredibly loyal to each other and work together to build their nest and raise their young. Because they tend to nest in areas that humans can watch, people picked up quickly on the idea that doves were dedicated, honorable and peaceful.
While hawks and other birds of prey would violently attack their neighbors, the dove was a bird of peace - eating seeds, easily trained to eat out of the hand or to become domesticated. Beginning with the Egyptians, the dove was a symbol of quiet innocence.
The Chinese felt the dove was a symbol of peace and long life. To early Greeks and Romans, doves represented love and devotion, and care for a family. The dove was the sacred animal of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love. The dove also symbolized the peaceful soul for many cultures.
So, imagine my internal conflict as I sat on my backyard deck witnessing two doves fighting. It wasn't playful. There is no mistaking the hostility between them. They squawked and screamed, letting feathers fly as they went for blood.
I couldn't watch. It was too incongruent. Our world is a violent and hostile place at times. There is more danger and less safety today than any other moment in my lifetime. But I have always been comforted by certain stable truths that give balance, however flimsy, but balance just the same. I hate it when something disturbs this delicate balance by disrupting certain truths I use to preserve what is left of my childlike naivete. Doves just aren't supposed to fight.
These disturbing moments usually push me a little deeper into my inner child where fairy tales still exist and playful memories abound of times when everyone else worried about the realities of existence so I didn't have to. This time, I didn't have to be pushed. I ran there, literally.
It was the annual K9-5K in Riverside Park. This 3.1-mile event is all about our four-legged friends. Runners and walkers are encouraged to bring their canine pets and race the course together. It was a perfect moment for my playful escape.
For, you see, my pet is an imaginary dog demonstrated by a hard wire leash suspending an empty dog harness. When I run, holding this leash, it gives the appearance of a dog running in front of me. Only the harness is empty.
Unless, of course, you have enough imagination to appreciate the presence of my dog, Stealth. I take him to the K9-5K every year. It is a perfect opportunity to get over seeing doves fight. I can always count on the fantasy-loving and imagination ability of children to restore balance. Until this year.
Stealth is always a hit. Everyone plays along. This year, however, I ran into resistance. None of it came from adults. It all came from children. One young girl approached me with a troubled look on her face.
"Where is your dog?" she asked.
I pointed to the harness and responded, "Right there."
She glared at me for a moment and then reached down to the harness. I thought she was going to pet Stealth, assuring me of her joyful acceptance of make-believe. Instead, she grabbed the empty harness, lifted it to my face to show me, and rotated her fist inside the harness to demonstrate its emptiness. I quickly grabbed the harness and exclaimed, "Don't do that to my dog! Stealth doesn't like that."
I gave Stealth an assuring hug and put him back on the ground. The young girl froze with her eyes locked onto mine. Her facial expression changed from puzzlement to a hint of fear. With her eyes cautiously fixed on mine, she slowly backed away until she felt safe enough to turn and run. I think she thought I wasn't well.
Now, I have to reconcile both doves fighting and children being disturbed by make-believe. Is there no order to the world anymore? Then, I remembered "man's best friend." I can still rely on the loyalty and unconditional love of my dog, Stealth. The K9-5K is the only time I ever take him anywhere.
The rest of the year, he stays in my garage hanging from the rafters. Yet, in spite of this self-serving neglect, Stealth is always happy to join me once a year and never hesitates. Once again, there is balance, and all is right with the world.
I encourage each of you to spend time with your fantasies. Never let go of make-believe. It can rescue you when the world turns upside down.
As for me, I think I'll go out to the garage and pet Stealth. But, if he bites me, I quit.
Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.