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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, February 1, 2014 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“Books abound on dog love, loving dogs, what it means to have or be with a dog. With all the writing about dogs, it might seem that we are too much infatuated with their unique qualities. But that is not it at all.

“Even while we are ostensibly doing everything in our power to ascertain the nature and desires of dogs, the questions we ask obscure or betray what is most salient about them and necessary to their lives. And through it all – the testing and the loving, the ownership and the training, the argument for dog rights and the facts of their disposal – we never question the status of the human as a problem, not a privilege.

“To say, as Gregory Berns does in his new book 'How Dogs Love Us' and his recent New York Times op-ed 'Dogs are People, Too,' that dogs have the reasoning capacity of a young child is to continue to ignore what it is that dogs possess that we do not. Dogs are not people. Dogs are not humans. But we are desperate to appropriate whatever it means to be dog and to make that over in our image.

“The urge to characterize dogs as like ourselves speaks to our ignorance and to the failure of imagination. As humans who control the arena of judgment, we cannot brook the humility demanded in confronting what we cannot understand, what we do not know.

“We need to step back and ask how we can know feeling that is not tied to our assumptions. To risk losing ourselves in what is beyond our ken is to experience what it might mean to feel sufficiently.

In other words, to know the kind of imaginative response that does not simply substitute one hierarchy for another but instead enables us to see otherwise or cross-wise.”

– From “Dogs Are Not People” at bostonreview.net

A quiz

Which planet's weather is controlled by conditions deep in the planet rather than by the sun?

Wisdom of the ages

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Current wisdom

I won't be angry ever again. Today was definitely one for the books.” – Tammy Webster, whose typical 45-minute commute in Atlanta turned into a more-than-five-hour odyssey when snow and ice brought Southern states to a crawl.

Quiz answer

Saturn, partly because it so far away from the sun and generates heat internally.

Snob words

pettifogging (PET-ee-fog-ing), adj. – insignificant, petty; dishonest or unethical in insignificant matters; meanly petty, as in: “The editorial writer couldn't think of anything reasonable to write about the politician's pettifogging tirade.”

Today in history

On this date in 1790, the Supreme Court convened for the first time; the justices surely didn't realize the power they would have.

Now you know

Lina Medina, a 5-year-old Peruvian girl, was the youngest person ever to give birth, delivering a boy May 14, 1939.