Artwork from the Power Station of Art, new curators exhibition, Shanghai
I mentioned this to my office manager in Shanghai this morning as we were on our way to Pudong in a cab, and she laughed out loud.
"Give a little credit to the dog," she said.
I think she was right. In a certain sense, we are worse than dogs; a dog simply is what it is, and although it may die having achieved, essentially, nothing, it can die without shame.
On the other hand, every human being brings to their death everything they have ever been, and nothing more; and within this mixture is a definite measure of shame. Gurdjieff referred to the need for a human being to sense "organic" shame— this, by the way, is related for the need for things such as feeling and intention to become organic. The point is that a man or woman needs to come into relationship with their shame in a deep and intimate manner, so that the feeling – sensation of our sin is something sensed to the marrow of the bones.
When one thinks of death, one thing is certain. We will all die with a sense of shame in us; and as death approaches, this begins to mature, since a man or woman's sense of their own sin is part of what prepares them for, qualifies them for, heaven. If I don't see how far short I fall of the standards that are required, if I don't see my real position relative to God's grace, I have not done the work I am supposed to in this life. So shame is an important ingredient in our effort. The difference between a man and a dog is that we can feel our shame; the dog has no such ability and is under no such obligation.
This brings me to an interesting thought which was not present when I began this essay. Animals, and all of their guises and varieties, represent a kind of perfection, since animals are unable to err from their Being. Only the psyche of man really carries this ability with it. As such, animals other than man constitute the lower mirror of the angelic kingdom. Both kingdoms represent perfection on different levels; mankind stands in the middle. In this sense, we can respect the dog; because for what it is, on its own level, it represents a higher force. Essence-based cultures generally recognize this, leading to the totemic and symbolic function of animals in many myths. Because animals are the earthly and material reflection of angelic forces, alliances with them can produce an alignment with correspondence that draws angelic influences towards a human being.
Well then. This isn't exactly where I was going with this essay, because although the title implies that it's about the dog, really, it is about shame and death. It's quite important, I find, to come into a much deeper and more personal sense of contact with my own shame. This question resurfaces in me periodically and I see how much of it is related to my sensation of sorrow — a subject which I will get to tomorrow.