13 January 2014

On dog-walking

In a reply to a comment on an earlier post, I wrote:
'Sorry for the self-indulgent reference to the significance of dog-walking; our last dog died three years ago, but we have almost accidentally acquired another as a favour to a friend--and among many other things I have re-discovered the value of our conversations on walks. Our last dog was lately arthritic and blind, and so our conversations were rather limited. Our new one is only two years old and currently principally obsessed with chasing squirrels, but I trust she will become more philosophical as she grows. '
I'd originally thought that my point was merely whimsical. I took my cue from Maryellen Weimer at the Teaching Professor here.

But as I was questioned about what I meant, I realised there was more to it.

There is a venerable poetic tradition of hypostatising an internal dialogue. I remember this Dialogue of Self and Soul  from W B Yeats (1933), but the tradition goes back centuries before that—which I am not going to go into.

It is also a therapeutic technique in the Perls Gestalt tradition, most directly in the "empty chair" exercise. The dog and I take turns in debating a point...

And I was right—the dog is not an entirely passive recipient of projections in this dialogue. She (in the present incarnation) can help or hinder the development of trains of thought, simply by distracting and interrupting with her own agenda; she may need cues to anticipate a kerb she can't see, or control when she over-reacts to another friendly, but much larger, dog... Those interruptions are indeed exiguous, but they do serve as a sort of Darwinian filter, stripping away the wool-gathering thoughts which can't survive the necessary re-direction of attention.

Perhaps I ought to credit her as co-author. Or at least editor?



I brainstorm possibilities with Woodie Weimer (the beagle who takes me for walks) as we make our rounds through the woods. - See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/why-i-blog/#sthash.SSSuBlrv.dpuf
I brainstorm possibilities with Woodie Weimer (the beagle who takes me for walks) as we make our rounds through the woods. - See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/why-i-blog/#sthash.SSSuBlrv.dpuf
I brainstorm possibilities with Woodie Weimer (the beagle who takes me for walks) as we make our rounds through the woods. - See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/why-i-blog/#sthash.SSSuBlrv.dpuf

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