Three White Dogs
After a messy breakup not too long ago I found myself in Seattle, Washington. I had a 180 square foot apartment filled with whatever knickknacks I could escape my previous relationship with and just enough money to get by. I had one friend who lived in the city but he was also experiencing a breakup and was in no place to offer me emotional support or hand-holding when I needed it most.
For almost an entire month I spent most of my time in that small apartment. I didn’t have a car and I was terrified to use public transportation for no reason other than it was unfamiliar to me. After a while the loneliness became the norm and I spent many hours simply staring our the window at the ravens that often visited the roof next door. Unemployed and without any job prospects I felt lost and hopeless. I decided to the only way to avoid complete despair was to leave my cave and venture out into the unknown.
A beautiful green-space with an excellent garden and observatory called Volunteer Park was nearby and it seemed like a good place to start. Almost everyday I walked to the park and explored it’s many facets; I sat on every bench, walked every path, and became intimate with its numerous landmarks. It became a place of quiet solitude and a haven for releasing my stress and worry.
There was a single park bench near an open field that I quite fancied. The surrounding trees were filled with birds that were active at all times during the day. They flew here and there, soaring from tree to tree — it was a veritable village of birds. I sat there often and watched as they played, watched as people jogged past, watched as buses zoomed down the nearby street filled with passengers — I watched, sat quietly, and let life happen.
Early one morning I was sitting on that special bench as per my usual zen ritual. The birds were uncharacteristically quiet and there wasn’t any traffic; it was just me and the clouds in the sky. I heard the jingle of a leash and looked to see a woman walking three small white dogs of varying breeds. One walked very close to her about a foot away. The second dog walked about 8 feet ahead and the third about 16 feet. They stayed the same distance apart from each other and never strayed from their designated spots. I watched as they were led down a paved path when she suddenly stopped to check her phone, the dogs all stopping with her. They didn’t look back, nor did they begin to sniff around the edges of the path — they simply stood there waiting. When she began to walk the one in the front started trotting along again with the other two in tow. The dogs all knew it was time to go without being told or looking back at their owner. They went on their way and that was it.
I began to think about those three white dogs and how odd it was; about their perfect marching order and commonality of color despite their differing breeds. I began to think about how I was the only one on this particular day to see this event unfold and how mundane it was in the grand scheme of life. It made me pause to consider what my place was in the grand scheme.
What is the meaning of life exactly? In reality life is one long moment; one moment filled with numerous events that occupy an empty space. Everyone always assumes the point of all this is some grand event — the biblical apocalypse, spreading human life throughout the galaxy, achieving a technological breakthrough bringing us to godlike stature — but if we believe any of these reasons we have to concede the possibility that smaller events might also hold significance.
Could the meaning of life be something so seemingly pointless and easily forgotten? Could being the only observer of three white dogs in a park really be what it’s all about for me? If I could rationalize that all of life is one long moment, then seemingly any event in my life could be the point of everything. That day in the park I realized that my purpose is simply to live in the moment, for it is living that gives this moment purpose.
Happily it’s your purpose as well! Whatever it is you are doing right now — reading this story, checking your phone, relaxing on your couch — you are part of this eternal moment we all share. You don’t need to know the reason for your existence because simply existing is enough. You are a single thread woven into a beautiful tapestry and without your presence everything would unravel.
You will always be important.