My friend Orestina was once driving down the road outside of Jesi one night when she spotted a puppy by the side of the road. It was a rainy, summer night, but her Humane Society instincts took over and she stopped the car. Ever since I’ve known her, 25 years now, she’s probably taken in over 80 animals, mostly cats and dogs but also the occasional sparrow, rabbit, goat, or hawk. Going to see her is always an adventure. At one point she had even taken 29 dogs from a dog pound and raised them in an abandoned country house, each dog having it’s own comfy chair.
But this night, Orestina was not to be indulged. The dog ran away.
She called me a few days later, laughing. “Can you believe it?,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about that poor dog for days, but today I realized that I have no idea whether that dog was homeless or not. In fact, it might have been right in front of its own house. Why would my mind imagine that it was suffering?”
I remember catching my own mind once trying to make me feel bad about something. I was looking at my white towel drying on the line next to my tent. There was a strong wind blowing, and the towel was twisting wildly over itself. I felt sorry for it. I felt its pain. Then it occurred to me, “what the heck, man, it’s just a towel!”
Ha-ha. The truth is, is that what I was witnessing at the time was my own suffering. I just needed something else to show it to me.