Delight In Delight

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog has taught me a game. The rules are simple: I pick up a stick. He rushes me and snatches the stick from my hands. I exclaim, “Hey, that’s my stick!” (saying my line was the hardest part for him to teach me). And then I give chase. We have a small pond in our back yard and it makes a perfect track for running in circles. The game becomes more fun when I reverse directions and force Dog-Dog evasive maneuvers. Sometimes he drops the stick so that I will pick it up so that he will be able to snatch it from my hands so that I will exclaim, “Hey! That’s my stick,” and the game begins anew. The game ends when I can no longer breathe.

I’m not sure which of us loves it more. I find myself laughing uncontrollably at the look he gets in his eyes, the combination of intensity and glee. He delights in the pure pleasure of the chase. I delight in his delight.

During these bitter cold days, when I am dedicated to warmth and staying inside, he has a specific bounce and shirt nip technique that is the equivalent of throwing down a gauntlet. I know he wants to play THE GAME – not some namby-pamby indoor game, but the real thing. He is insistent and persistent – which has become another game: I pretend that I don’t understand to escalate his insistence. When he is near to outrage at the dull wit of his master, I feign a revelation. His relief is palpable. His excitement is unbridled, bouncing at the back door as I slowly (another game) pull on my coat and gloves.

Dog-Dog is helping me see life simply. Many things that used to seem so complicated now look to me like infinite games (see James Carse’s terrific book, Finite and Infinite Games). There is abundant joy everywhere if the game is recognized as a game, if playing the game well is more important than winning. If the game is not recognized, if winning is all that matters (a finite game), there will be serious faces, an existential tug-of-war, loads of stress, and dis-ease. “Hey, that’s my stick!” but with deep investments in stick ownership and control.

Each day that Dog-Dog tugs my sleeve, throws down the gauntlet, and bounds outside, I find myself bounding outside, too. I find that I am laughing before we start, before the stick is snatched from my hands. If the mark of a good life is the capacity to run for the love of running, the sheer joy of the pursuit, then I am blessed with a master teacher who believes that the best way, the only way to learn is in the doing: play to play.

 

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