Dogs of God

Not all of them are dogs. But all are looking with the same openness and confidence as the dog looks at its master. In the safety of the created being and in the presence of the Master taking care of the creation. In the Mesoamerican exhibition of the Dahlem Museum of Berlin.

With all its eyes the animal world
beholds the Open. … Free from death.
Only we see death; the free animal has its demise
perpetually behind it and before it always
God, and when it moves, it moves into eternity,
the way brooks and running springs move.

Mit allen Augen sieht die Kreatur
das Offene. … Frei von Tod.
Ihn sehen wir allein; das freie Tier
hat seinen Untergang stets hinter sich
und vor sich Gott, und wenn es geht, so gehts
in Ewigkeit, so wie die Brunnen gehen.

(Rilke, Eighth Elegy)

Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: a big bird with an Indian
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: head of a dear
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: dog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: dog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: dog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: dog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: dog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: dog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: frog statue
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: bird (pelican)
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: bird (owl)
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: lama with his master
Berlin, Dahlem Museum, Mesoamerican ceramics: man
Ethologists write that during the several thousand years passed on the side of the man, the dog became a being that is genetically dependent on man and is only able to accomplish itself in a symbiosis with him. It is not a being closed in itself as the majority of animals are, but is open to man: he is the center of its existence. It can become wild, but by this it also becomes deformed, unlike other animals, while if it lives in a real closeness to man, it is somehow able to rise above the limits of its own animal existence.

As a man living in a real closeness to dogs, I have been watching for several years this strange metamorphosis of them, and I can imagine on this model the relationship between man and God. As it was quoted from Saint John of the Cross by his companion Brother Eliseo (at that time living, by chance, in a Mexican Carmelitan monastery):

When a very simple sister once asked him why the frogs were jumping into the water when she was nearing to the pond in the garden of the monastery, he replied that for the frogs the depth of the pond is that place, that center where they feel safe and where nobody can hurt them. Let her act the same, that is, let her avoid the creatures and submerge to the depth and in her own center who is God and let her hide in Him.

Man – again unlike the majority of animals – is not a being closed in himself, but by constitution is open to God. His “center” is not in himself, but in Him. And like the dog, he also has only two choices of either turning away from this center and thus getting deformed, or trying to get increasingly nearer to Him, and thus rising above the limits of his human existence.

It is precisely John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila who describe this anthropology in the most detailed way.

And yet, upon that warm, alert animal
is the weight and care of enormous sadness.
For what sometimes overwhelms us always
clings to it, too—a kind of memory that tells us
that what we're now striving for was once
nearer and truer and attached to us
with infinite tenderness. Here all is distance,
there it was breath.
..
Und doch ist in dem wachsam warmen Tier
Gewicht und Sorge einer großen Schwermut.
Denn ihm auch haftet immer an, was uns
oft überwältigt – die Erinnerung,
als sei schon einmal das, wonach man drängt,
näher gewesen, treuer und sein Anschluss
unendlich zärtlich. Hier ist alles Abstand,
und dort wars Atem.