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    September 19, 2003


"Animals are an important part of our culture
 and our economy.  How we treat them and how we
 think about them affects our society more than
 most people appreciate."

 -- Harley Hahn

What is the Ideal Dog?

The Greek philosopher Plato (c.427-347 B.C.E.)
spent a lot of time thinking about how to
understand the world in which we live.

In our search for truth, Plato taught, we must
not rely upon our senses.  True, the senses come
in handy when you want to eat some moussaka or
watch a video, but to find the real truth, Plato
said, we must learn to have faith in our intellect.

He explained that the "cosmos" (a harmonious
community embracing both spiritual and earthly
beings) consisted of two parts: the World of
Becoming and the World of Being.

The World of Becoming is our familiar material
world, the one we perceive from moment to moment.
According to Plato, this world may seem like the
real thing, but it's about as reliable as a
politician's promises a month after the election.

If we want real reality, we must turn to the
World of Being, which is nothing less than a
complete collection of perfect unchanging ideals
of everything that exists.

Although we may never see actual perfection, it
is, said Plato, possible to talk about it.  For
example, we can talk about ideal beauty, ideal
mathematical forms (such as a perfect circle),
and ideal government.

In Plato's view, our goal as virtuous people is
to strive for harmony between the human soul and
the World of Being.  After all, he explained, it
is the World of Being that brings structure,
orderliness and meaning to a universe that would,
otherwise, be in constant flux.

(If this sounds confusing, imagine how it was for
Plato's students -- such as Aristotle -- who had
to learn the whole thing in Greek.)

The reason I bring all of this up is that, not
long ago, I was fortunate enough to hear a speech
in which a renowned expert discussed what it would
take to have "the ideal dog".

Whether or not you happen like dogs is not the
point.  What is important is that, when we engage
in the act of thinking about perfection -- for
example, when we purposely imagine the perfect
dog -- we come that much closer to resonating
with the World of Being, and (although Plato
didn't actually say it in so many words) we come
that much closer to becoming totally cool.

For me, the experience was momentous, but the most
interesting thing about it was that it all happened
by accident...


"On Thursday, May 29, 2003, I traveled to Los
Angeles for the day. The occasion was a trade
convention called BookExpo America, and the
reason I went was to talk to a publisher about
a book deal.

"I had arranged to meet the publisher in the
early evening, but I arrived at the convention
center with several hours to spare..."


-- Harley Hahn