While enjoying dinner with a few colleagues at the Iron Cactus in Austin, Texas one of my friends blurted out, “There’s a cat on a dog! And there is a rat on the cat!” My immediate thought—no more margaritas for Robb. He repeated, “There’s a cat on a dog! And there is a rat on the cat!” We looked out the window—and indeed, there WAS a rat on a cat on a dog. Right there on the corner of Trinity and 6th Street.
The animals—Booger, Kitty, and Mousey—travel with Greg Pike. (You can find information including a video at http://bestpeacesign.com/.) After I snapped a couple of cell phone photos, I spoke briefly with Greg and asked him the question that he probably has been asked a thousand times—“Are they drugged?” Nope said Greg. They have become constant companions. Rather than fighting like cats and dogs (and rats), the mellow animals accept and, in some ways, care for one another. Greg shared that people generally ask a second question, “If they can do it why can’t we?”
The Austin street scene reminded me of a video I have used on occasion in class. A couple of years ago, CBS News did a piece on an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. The animals there tend to pair up and peacefully live out their lives. There is one odd couple, though: Tara and Bella. Tara is a gargantuan elephant; Bella, a shaggy mutt. The dog and pachyderm are inseparable. What a site to see them side by side. More amazing: Watching Tara pet Bella’s belly with her enormous foot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBtFTF2ii7U).
I know, I know. Animals are not people; nature can be very cruel to animals; these are anomalies. Yes, we can explain away most anything we want to—especially if it does not fit into our existing view of the world.
But why not, even if for a moment, sit back and wonder what it would be like to look past the differences. Consider if instead of living down to stereotypes, we created a new schema with which to interact with our world. Naïve? Perhaps. The CBS clip challenges us to “take a good look, America. Take a good look, world. If they can do it, why can’t we?” It goes beyond “tolerance”—right to “acceptance.”
This week, help someone see beyond difference and accept the similarities we share. You will make it a better world.
© Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2010.