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Zeus mysteriously materialized in my life a few years ago. He’s a very complex, wise-cracking, irreverent dog with some serious attitude. However, he is arguably the most highly evolved being I have ever encountered. His great delight is in turning my world (and yours) inside out and upside down, with the soul purpose of revealing forgotten knowledge. For example:
Very few restaurants in Los Angeles cater to both man and dog–even a dog that has incarnated from another dimension to help Earth’s inhabitants cope with the major challenges ahead. However, a handful of excellent eateries in West Hollywood are exceptions to the rule. They welcome us with open arms, provided we sit at one of their outdoor tables. Très Européen. One particular day I was deep into my second cappuccino and the morning paper’s crossword puzzle when I began to notice Zeus’s unintelligible muttering.
“What in God’s name are you on about?” I asked.
“Keeping score,” was his enigmatic answer.
I put the pen down. After five years of living with this extraordinary canine, I knew when my next lesson was about to be served. “Keeping score of what?” I asked obediently.
“It’s amazing,” Zeus mused. “I’ve been tracking it since I first came to California and it hardly ever changes–unless of course a monumental event is at hand, like the Oscars, the Super Bowl, or the final episode of a TV show.”
“Would you please stop talking in circles and explain what this is all about?”
“Why do people bother talking to each other?” Zeus asked, which explained absolutely nothing.
“To pass on information about things,” I responded.
“You wish!” he retorted. “That happens little more than 30 percent of the time. Most of what people say is intended to make themselves appear more interesting, intelligent, or important–the three I’s of the lower ego.”
“What’s your point?” I asked. “People talk about whatever’s running through their minds at the time. So what?”
“So everything!” Zeus said. “Did you know that the size of a goldfish is determined by the dimensions of the bowl it’s kept in?”
“I think you’ve been sniffing too many hydrants. Have you flipped out?”
“It’s a natural high, kiddo. Stop being so dense and hop along for the ride. You might learn a thing or two. In a small bowl, a goldfish will become only a few inches long. Move it to a large aquarium and it will double or triple its size. Put the same goldfish in a large pond and it can grow up to a foot long! That’s true of humans as well. Except your goldfish bowls are a matter of thoughts and words. Allow me to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, who was more evolved than most of you guys realize: ‘Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.'”
“And you’ve been eavesdropping on conversations?”
“What else is there to do when my leash is tied to a table leg? Frankly, 90 percent of what I hear is reruns of grade-D sitcoms. Every so often there’s a little gem–like a gold nugget in a heap of sand. The contents rarely interest me; I just keep a running total of the categories.”
“I suppose that’s where the 30 percent comes from?” I asked.
“Yep. In case you’re into statistics, over two-thirds of the conversations are pure gossip–the pronoun parade of I, you, he, she, we, they said or did. The next category, relating, accounts for about 25 percent. Most revolve around business, sports and entertainment, current events, or things people have or want to get. The last slot in my study is reserved for the sharing of ideas, exploration. The differences are like moving from a tiny bowl to an aquarium to an ocean.
“Here’s what you guys never consider. When two people converse, they create an energetic field of pure potential between them–like a perfectly tuned Steinway ready to respond to the performer’s preference: Chopsticks, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, or a Mozart concerto. Why waste any opportunity to explore the full possibilities of such a magnificent instrument? Why live your life confined to one octave, striking the same five black keys again and again and again?”
Stunned by Zeus’s last questions, I let my attention wander to the diners at the other tables. He was absolutely right. Most were engrossed in animated conversation dedicated to the pronoun parade. “But what’s wrong about talking about people? Surely it doesn’t have to be gossip?”
“In theory, no,” Zeus quipped. “But the survey suggests otherwise. The subject isn’t all that important; what really counts is the purpose for conversing. If it’s just social chit-chat, you’re missing a wonderful opportunity. Like using two fingers to play Chopsticks instead of committing both hands to perform something more meaningful. While gossip seems harmless, it ain’t. Gossip is as shallow as it gets-and it levies a pretty price.”
“Why do you say that?”
“A one-inch fish thinks it’s a giant if all it’s ever known is a six-inch bowl.”
“You mean a big fish in a little pond?”
“You meet a lot of people like that–especially in this city,” Zeus said, full of self-importance and the need for acknowledgment. It’s always amusing to listen to people who seem so positive about what they think they know. They resist moving to a larger bowl because it might threaten the validity of their beliefs.
To make it through this illusion, kiddo, you’re gonna have to risk letting go every once in a while. And every conversation offers the perfect opportunity–even the ones about people and events. Instead of listening to the words, be intensely curious about what lies beneath them.
Try this out the next time you’re engaged in conversation: Check out the five journalistic W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Gossip quickly fills in the first four, but ‘why’ brings any discussion to a deeper level. Curiosity always asks why. Why is she saying that? Why is he reacting that way? Look for the underlying intent of everyone involved in the conversation–especially your own. Once you’ve done that, crank it up a notch. Move past the significance of what’s being said and notice the patterns of energy flowing between the participants. If you can skirt your way around judgment, you’ll soon see the archetypes–the universal constructs–humans employ to work through their self-imposed fears.
Words are like energetic viruses scavenging your mind for receptor sites. They readily bond with preconceived ideas and beliefs, and when they do, you start evaluating instead of listening. When you find yourself formulating a response well before the other person has finished speaking, know you’ve been hooked.
It doesn’t take long to master the art of listening to gold-fish-bowl conversations from the perspective of aquariums and oceans. And in the process, your little fish are given an extraordinary opportunity to grow.
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write by Rowan