The Treaty of The Feral Dog

I begin to feel that shape and tenor of the inner critic. She occurs like a metal band, with teeth around the edges, wrapped around the neck of desire. The way they do to the feral dogs of Tijuana. Skittish dog sees nothing. From behind comes the metal loop. The cord is pulled and it tightens. A stunned moment. A shock and a freeze. Then, deferential, ears back, shrinking down to the ground, not just playing dead but being the dead the master is asking of it.
Or the yelp and howl that makes the soul stir, that awakens the human response to “rescue” something that feels, expressing the terror that is beyond what can be numbed to or inured to.
Either way, desire caught, forced to submit.
The critic is here to clean up the streets of my mind. The checklist of reasons is long, she always arrives with bureaucratic officiousness, the long list with “book of life” accuracy: “infractions and consequences”. The list, exhuasting and shocking, a case for more regimentation, more structure, more order. With each consequence of the uncivilized mind where desire roams free another check.
Opportunities lost. Check. Glares from upstart women. Check. The men who froze, terrified. Check. The reputation that flew out the window long ago. Check. Check. Check.
“Lock these things up” she says not even looking down, “anything with this in its wake is subhuman”, she includes me in her inquisition. You with your bleeding heart and libertine mind. With your ‘everything deserves to be free’ and your dirty egalitarian barefoot hippie love. “Did you actually believe all that free love crap?”. Not all expressions of love are created equal.
For example, some expressions create fear and loathing in the uptown. There, they pride themselves on sparkling sidewalks and floral dresses. The neighborhood of “good positive” thoughts like benefit your fellow man (and not that kind of benefit), toothy smiled generosity, the serene faced connection to god. They scrub all language clean of the gun powder, the charge it would carry. Sanitize it. Remove the grit and grime that would signify that you had been to those places, had been compromised. Had been in situations. We don’t talk about those things, in this house.
We don’t talk about the longings or the seductions. We fortify ourselves with good behavior. Build a thick wall of good behavior, between our hunger and all the myriad unwelcome treasures that gather round to feed it, magnetized. In this house we nibble, use our napkin, chew with our mouths closed. Hunger is uncouth.
The lore in the good neighborhoods is that this dirty animal comes in and takes over. Of course not immediately, don’t be naive, but you’ll see. Property values plummet. The rest will feel welcome. And pretty soon there are no controls. Utter chaos. And you, you end up drunk and homeless and taken advantage of. Keep it spotless in here, lest it spread.
A constant eternal vigilance is required. “It’s a burden, yes” says the ever martyred critic “but so very worth it or else you will end up like ‘that’.” And it seizes control of the minds eye, flashes images. Of destitute failures, or fat lonely women with tattoos living in trailer parks, or the old once A list starlet now in a Reality Rehab Show with cheek implants and a single shouldered too tight red dress. Desperately alone.
The images stop, when she is satisfied. “This would be you were it not for me” the critic admonishes in that barely tolerant paternalistic tone. “This is going to hurt me more than you” it says and indeed robotically devoid of enjoyment in a way that truly screams pain, sets to work turning pleasures into obligations, scrubbing clean the obsessions and petty jealousies, when necessary beating out the holdings and the clingings of a heart that wants to love bigger than the dose the prescribed.
But yesterday, sitting retreat with my teacher, there was an opening, an immersion into an internal spaciousness that allowed all the characters of this mind to get up and shift position. I went in and sat next to the critic I usually avoid at all costs. I went in and wrapped my arm around those tight shoulders and allowed my good warm body love to pour in. I felt her all stiff and tough begin to soften. I explained gently and softly: “We all just want to love in here, you too, we want to love you too”.
We sat together quiet and soft, a kind of warm conflicted funeral silence that might occur for a loved one you had a lot of conflict with. But loved to the bones. We sat together and let the warm rays of the sun wash through us.
Together we looked out at the field of desire, with the frolic and play, the devotion, the innocence of only wanting to please – that this desire is. So pure that I could have sworn that even the stalwart critic had seen, had been moved.
A treaty was formed: resources originally earmarked for defense would be redirected. We would protect our own, the innocent within.
And this land that is me would be made into a sanctuary for wild life.