One of the surest paths to inner peace, wellness and longevity is hopping into your lap and licking your face — your dog or cat. Most households here in the Rogue Valley include furry kids, because whether we know all the statistics and the research or we don’t, we can feel the deep attachment that exists between us.
And we can feel, at a deep emotional level, how much peace, joy and emotional stability our furry friends bring into our lives. Dogs, in particular, as the most completely domesticated of the two most common pets, have a deep devotion to Homo sapiens.
Like so many of our good habits that we don’t consciously think of as inner peace tools, opening our hearts and homes to a deep dedication to a dog may not register with us as something extraordinary. That’s what makes science — and scientists — so much fun. They ask the questions that we don’t think to ask, including: How exactly did the fierce, wild wolf get transformed into this entirely new species called Canis domesticus?
Even more interestingly, why did those primal wolves start down the domestication road? How long did it take, thousands of years, five generations or somewhere in between? What were the intermediate species like?
I’ve been enjoying the massive amount of new published research on this subject, primarily in genetics and archaeology. As a longtime seminar presenter, online course developer, and OLLI volunteer instructor, there was only one possible outcome: I created a new class on Wolf to Dog, exploring this crucial domestication. If you join us on Wednesday afternoons in September at ScienceWorks in Ashland (plenty of seats and plenty of parking), we will start with an overview of what domestication means — it’s much more than mere tameness – and survey where and when various other important species, including cats, were domesticated. (The origin and spread of orange tabbies is especially fun!) Then we will zero in on wolves, and explore all the new data, including some evidence that wolves approached humans to initiate the relationship, and why?
It’s possible that theories of the usefulness of dogs are all wrong; our canine friends may have morphed into their present species primarily as an effect of increasing tameness. We will have fun looking at an exciting 50-year study of Russian arctic foxes that has culminated in the emergence of a genuine new species of “doggy” foxes.
If you already are enhancing your inner peace with a loving dog, we will have projects you’ll enjoy. If you don’t — yet — you will be yearning for one by the end of our three-week journey together.
The second class I am inviting you to, to enhance your inner peace journey, explores culture from an anthropology perspective; it follows the dog class at ScienceWorks, so you can settle in for a very fun 1-5 p.m. The definition of culture used to be clear-cut. What do we do now when apes, corvids (ravens, crows) and some other animals habitually do things that fit our old definition?
We will explore what cultural relativism means and how that differs from moral relativism. We’ll explore all the fun ways that anthropologists study human cultures, and how hard it can be to really see the world without the cultural filters that we grew up with! The exercises we go through in this class will be very helpful for your own deep spiritual and wisdom explorations.
Anthro is Fun (4) will also take you on a magical journey through the various ways that humans achieve subsistence and the ways that our economic systems drive our political (power-sharing) systems. Many things that seemed inexplicable become much less so as you enjoy this three-week class.
Continuing the exploration of dogs, economics and power-sharing — and inner peace — mark your calendars for Bloomsbury Books, 7 p.m. Oct. 5, for the launch of "Red State, Blue Heart." My first memoir weaves humor into anthropology and serious political commentary from my five years as a Blue soul in a Red state.
Whether you currently have a furry friend or not, the subjects of culture, economics, power and dogs are fascinating. If you can’t attend, both classes are available in abbreviated form on my YouTube channel anthroisfun — see www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmy02Cyc6fY for the first part of Anthro 4. May all your journeys bring you closer to inner peace every day!
— Victoria C. Leo invites you to explore her new classes at www.soaringdragon.biz/webinars-events, as well as her specialty programs to end serious pain, relieve stress and lose weight.