Humility, Dogness, and the Horizontal Hula

“What does being a better person actually mean?” I thought.  Did I believe “better” was something spiritual? Probably. After just two weeks training with Corky I was thinking about humility. If you’ve spent much of your life feeling shame you don’t have room for a modest view of your own importance. That would of course be a step up from all encompassing misery. In my case I’d even had some contempt for humility—I’d made fun of St. Augustine when I was forced to read his Confessions in college. Augustine’s humility was out of control. He regretted stealing pears! If that was the gateway to meekness who needed it?

I needed it. Shame had been my ego, a necklace of depressions and self-enforced isolations. The disabled learn to wear this. Or some do. My lot had been whatever wasn’t self aware but angry, wounded; or desperate for acceptance which I started seeing as an extravagance. There’s not an ounce of modesty in anger or embarrassment. They offer a fight or flee world of tears and shouting.

Walking around Guiding Eyes with jangling Corky by my side I wondered if humility might also be nobility; if I might climb above my boyishness, my inheritance of sadnesses, with something like self-effacement and thankfulness. It wasn’t a question of healing myself or of “giving away” my disappointments, but wanting to find ways to think of myself less. This is one of the things a dog can do. I saw it.

That dog lay on her back with all four feet in the air and did a horizontal dance, a kind of hula and I saw it was unwise to be too sure of my own wisdom.

Disability could afford a potent life. One could be graceful. That was something new for me. Something new.