The Photo I Never Thought I’d Get

A week or two ago, I mentioned that Malibu taught Vlad how to use the drinking fountain in the dog park standing up, or in what I like to call “Big Boy” Style.

I find it absolutely delightful to see them share their water that way.

Yet since it does also require a human to press the spigot, and the moment is fleeting, it’s hard to seize the photo op.

Last week, however, when a friend of ours was helping, Vlad showed his sister Dua how it’s done, and I was able to grab the shot.

(brother / sister hydrating)

Beyond that the phenomenon is so fun to observe, it’s definitely also a little more sanitary to drink from the fresh stream than the shared bowls.

Even more than that, it’s just inspiring to see puppies learning not only from their owners but also from each other.

(Side note: I’ve never liked the word “owner” when applied to dogs. When she completed her Humane Society training, Belle’s Service Dog certificate listed me simply as her “handler.” Given how much of a celebrity she was, that seems far more appropriate.)

One thing I’m struggling with during this year’s homecoming visits are the opposite of Vlad and Dua’s example.

Namely, the non-learners in my life, those people who simply refuse to grow wiser from experience.

(I find “non-learner” a more compassionate label than “bad person.”)

With some non-learners, the refusal to absorb and understand anything can reach truly Olympian levels.

And yet you might just have to sit down for a holiday meal with such people.

Perhaps you can relate…?

Sometimes non-learners fool themselves by mangling the life lesson in front of them.

They gain and promote wrong––even ridiculously wrong––insights.

Years ago I read a glossy magazine profile of a famous Hollywood agent who later represented some of my friends on projects.

He recounted the story of graduating from an Ivy League school and driving across country to begin his movie mogul career in the mailroom of one of the largest talent agencies.

He was so eager to start his Hollywood ascent, he slept as little as possible.

Nearing LA and driving along the coastal highway, he nodded off at the wheel.

His newly purchased convertible crashed through the guard rail.

Fortunately, he was thrown from the vehicle just before it tumbled down the cliffs toward the Pacific.

“I learned my lesson,” he told the reporter.

Never wear your safety belt. If I had been wearing one, I would have gone down the cliff with my car.”

Obviously, a better lesson––the real and only lesson, in fact––is:

“Get enough sleep so you don’t doze off at the wheel!”

And yet the simple wisdom of that somehow completely eluded this Harvard grad turned Hollywood player.

Now, having brokered countless deals for billion-dollar action pictures, I can’t help but wonder if anything has changed.

I don’t remember where or when I first read this story but I love sharing it.

A newlywed bride prepares a holiday dinner.

Her husband lovingly observes her.

He notices that she trims the ends off of the holiday ham, however, before putting it in the roasting pan.

“I’m curious. Why did you trim off the ends?” he asks.

The new bride smiles but is stumped.

“My mother always did it that way,” she replies. “I guess I never questioned it.”

They get on the phone with the bride’s mother. 

Her response is identical.

“That’s the way my mother always did it.”

Fortunately, Grandma is alive and well and they ring her up.

Grandma laughs, then explains.

“When we first got married we had so little, just one small pan. The ham wouldn’t ever fit in, so I had to cut the ends off.”

Culinary Mystery Solved!

All of us absorb some life lessons exactly like that.

We adopt behavior without questioning its origins.

We mistake something that no longer applies to the present situation as dogmatic truth.

We don’t question things, simply repeating patterns exactly as they’ve been shown to us.

We cut the ends off the ham when there’s no reason to do so.

We maintain the status quo even when it doesn’t really make sense.

And that’s definitely another kind of non-learning.

A decade ago when I was teaching private yoga, a client of mine asked for a recommendation for a juice cleanse.

I shared the link for my favorite prepared juices with her.

Excited, she thanked me and immediately ordered a week’s worth.

When I saw her next, I asked about her experience on the cleanse.

“It was fantastic,” she exclaimed.

I thought that the almond milk one went well with rum, and the cayenne pepper was good with vodka, and with a little gin, the kale and cucumber one was pretty delicious.”

Basically, she’d turned a week’s worth of detox juices into mixers for her bar.

In this case, let’s just call her learning “unique.”

She made the experience entirely her own.

Who can fault her for that?

They say that the Buddha’s finest sermon was simply holding up a flower.

Indeed, nothing teaches like example.

(Just look at Malibu and Vlad, then Vlad and Dua.)

As so many of us return to holiday situations that are slightly more tense than say walking through a lush meadow in springtime, I hope these reminders are helpful.

  • Try whenever possible to surround yourself with those who are willing to learn.
  • Forgive the non-learners whenever you can, particularly if they keep learning the wrong lesson or repeating behavior that lost its purpose a long time ago.
  • Always wear your safety belt. And PLEASE get enough sleep so you don’t nod off at the wheel.
  • Maybe ask someone why they’re trimming off the ends of the ham.
  • And, if necessary, sometimes––especially during the holidays––adding a little liquor on a juice cleanse might just be necessary.

Namaste for Now,

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