Life Lessons from Konan

Like most puppies, my dog likes to play.  A lot.  He has tons of energy.  He's always running around, begging for us to play with him.  He loves going to the park and running everywhere and sniffing everything.  He loves chewing up anything he can get his paws on.  But one of his all-time favorite activities is tug-of-war.  We bought a rope from the store to play with him, but we can't always find it, so we've also donated two old blankets to the game.  He's actually very smart and he recognizes that these two blankets are allowed but other blankets are off-limits for the game.  He'll indicate that he wants to play by running over to the blanket and biting it, while looking up hopefully at us.

Konan has a need to play.  In particular, to play tug.  He doesn't want to fight (not for-real fighting, anyway).  He doesn't want to harm us.  He doesn't even want to harm the blanket or rope we use for the game.  But he wants to tug.  He wants to play-fight.  He gets the urge to be violent and he needs to channel that urge into something healthy, such as attacking a blanket.  So, we pull on the blanket.  We attack him with it.  We growl and bark at him with it.  He wrestles it, he pulls on it, he attempts to wrest it to the ground by shaking it violently from side to side.  He needs to engage in conflict.  He has an innate need for conflict.  Not to lash out.  Not to harm anyone or anything, but to playfully be aggressive and violent.

The play for him has many benefits.  First, it clearly releases endorphins in his brain.  He absolutely enjoys it.  In fact, I have even used it as a reward in place of food treats while training him and it works wonderfully.  He loves the game.  Second, I believe that it helps floss his teeth and thereby provides him with dental benefits.  It is exercise, so it helps his muscles grow and remain toned (something I need to do more of myself).  It seems to be intellectually stimulating to him, in particular when we place the blanket over his face and he has to wiggle his little body to remove it.  He gains much from this play time, and it is even enjoyable for us (we don't have the same endurance he has--we're done playing long before he is).

So, why am I writing about this?  How does it apply to me?  Because I also have the need for conflict.  There are times when I am in the mood to engage fiercely with other people.  Not physically, but verbally.  I want to argue.  I believe that arguing is very good and beneficial.  I think the benefits are manifold.  For me personally, I feel that it helps to refine my personal beliefs and the way that I view the world.  I have recently had a few arguments with Conrad about the concept of compassion toward animals.  It has been very engaging and intellectually stimulating.  I have argued numerous times with people of different political and religious viewpoints and I have changed my views on so many of those issues.  I used to be Republican and Mormon.  Now I am a socialist libertarian (yeah, I know it sounds contradictory--I'll write about it in a later post) and atheist.  I've argued my views vehemently on many occasions.  Sometimes I walk away more staunch in my previous views, and sometimes I walk away questioning my views and eventually changing them.

So, I think that the biggest benefit from arguing is arriving at a fuller understanding of truth and a firmer grasp on reality.  I feel that the arguing I have done has helped me to understand the world better, to be more enlightened, and to make wiser choices in my personal life.  I also think there are immediate benefits.  I don't know exactly what chemicals are released in my brain when I argue--that's something I haven't yet researched but perhaps will someday.  But I do know that overall (perhaps not always in the heat of the moment) the experience is a pleasant one for me.  I enjoy being right far more than being wrong, but I also enjoy learning new things and arriving at a better understanding of reality and therefore even occasions when I am wrong turn out to be beneficial and therefore pleasant.

Like my dog, when I argue with someone, I do not intend to harm.  I don't mean to injure people's feelings, just as Konan doesn't mean to draw blood.  Sometimes Konan does accidentally bite us, out of his exuberant enthusiasm.  And sometimes I may say something which ends up hurting someone, out of a burst of emotion.  This is indeed unfortunate.  Minimizing such incidences is indeed a priority.  However, the existence of such incidences in no way justifies an attempt at never engaging in the first place.  If I were to deny Konan his play time simply because he bit my nose one time, I would be a bad owner.  Similarly, if I were to decree never to argue with anyone simply because one time we fought and feelings were hurt, I would be an irrational being and a poor friend.

Also like my dog, I believe that my need to engage in conflict is (in large part) biological.  I believe it is part of human nature.  And therefore I feel that it is foolish to deny or repress it.  I think it is far better to embrace it and engage.  Certainly, ground rules should be laid.  Efforts should be made to ensure the experience is pleasant for all participants.  But the conflict should be allowed.  Exchange of ideas should take place.  Disagreements should be voiced.  Reasons for the disagreement should be given.  Rational arguments should be laid out.  There is a place for conflict.  It can be fun, it can be beneficial, and it certainly seems to be a necessary part of our existence.