I’m a little embarrassed to admit it but Bobby has (yet again) helped me solve a theological conundrum. I’ve been thinking about how we know stuff (see previous post Thinking without words) and what I’ve been wondering about is a phrase from Tom Wright. He says ‘love is a way of knowing’? (Tom Wright Suprised by Hope ‘Love is the deepest mode of knowing’ pg 85) So is this just a nice sounding phrase or does it actually mean anything?
So here’s where Bobby came in: one morning while we were on holiday I decided to go for a run. Bobby watched all the usual ‘going out’ preparations: running shoes, jacket, ipod, all the while eagerly hoping he was coming too.
Sadly, ‘You’re staying’, is a phrase he knows only too well. His ears droop and if he’s at home he will actually crawl on to the empty bottom shelf of the bookcase where he used to hide as a puppy. On this occasion he merely looked at me miserably as if to say ‘how could you leave me’ and off I went.
I only know what happened next because David was there to observe. Bobby trotted over to the pair of slippers I had abandoned at the front door and collected one in his mouth. He then retreated with it to his bed, not to enact revenge by eating it but simply to curl around it, feel comforted and fall asleep.
I don’t think I could give a better example of love being a way of knowing!
Bobby ‘knows’ that I love him and he ‘knows’ that he loves me. He didn’t understand why I should leave him sad and disappointed. But he ‘knows’ that my fragrant slipper is somehow a reassuring token of my presence. He also ‘knows’ that where a slipper is, a mummy will at some point reappear.
All of this ‘knowing’ is not really about knowing at all – it’s all about loving and being loved and feeling safe in that love.
I hope it’s not too flippant a connection but this story speaks to me rather profoundly about the meaning of bread and wine in communion. They are given to help me remember, they are given to comfort me in my Master’s absence, they are given to remind me that he will return.
‘Take, eat’ is such a simple commandment, it could almost be classed as a ‘no-brainer’. Quite literally so, the simple concrete act of taking communion bypasses my brain and reaches my heart without the need for words. It is perhaps the supreme example of love being a way of knowing.
We complicate our understanding of the sacrament when we worry over whether Christ is actually present or only symbolically present. Personally speaking being symbolically present doesn’t quite do it for me. Something real is happening that is not simply a memorial even though I would not go quite as far as my Catholic brothers and sisters.
This story of Bobby and my slipper helps me express my understanding of what is going on. Am I actually present in my slipper? Well obviously, no I’m not. But in fact I am. Especially if you’ve got a nose like Bobby’s. Of course I am present – pheromonally speaking. But the fact of my presence or non-presence is not the point. The point is that the comfort is real. Bobby is genuinely reassured by this token, genuinely reminded that I will return.
Anyone who has ever trained a dog knows that single word commands are the best (‘Sit’/’Stay’ or ‘Pray’ in my case with Bobby). But I think single word summaries have a lot to recommend them. There is a film just out on DVD with the brilliant title ‘Eat. Pray. Love’. The book is good, I read it and reviewed it here about a year ago but it’s just the title that’s been in my mind. As a summary of the Christian Life, I think ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ just about covers it, what do you think Bobs?