I have been up front with my readers about my many years of lackluster educational performance. I finally wised-up while working on my doctorate. Now that I'm teaching at the University of St. Francis, I can't understand why some of my students aren't as committed to learning as I am now. As an adjunct professor at St. Francis, I've taught many different courses. However, world religions and especially those of the Far East tax the understanding of many of my students especially if they aren't totally committed to the search for knowledge. Because of this, I am always looking for illustrations to capture their imagination and to explain better their troublesome theological ideas.
Just recently, while preparing for RAGBRAI (a 450-mile bike ride across Iowa), an excellent illustration jumped out at me-literally. I was riding the country roads around my home when a huge Rotweiler charged me. I couldn't get my cleated-feet out of the pedals quickly enough to get off the bike and defend myself. Consequently, I fell to the road with my feet still attached to the bike.
Fortunately, the front tire and handlebars pinned the dog to the road. Unfortunately, I came to rest face to face with a very angry dog. While the bike pinned down the raging Rotweiler, I grabbed the neck of the irate canine to keep from getting my face mauled while struggled to free my feet from the pedals. When I finally freed myself from the bike, I got up as the Rotweiler also struggled to his feet. In less than a nanosecond both of us were free, and he lunged at me with his large mouth wide opened and teeth readied for taking a piece out of my leg. As he attacked, I was able to land a solid kick to his throat. My guess is that he won't be swallowing without a great deal of pain for some time.
With the Rotweiler in full retreat, I dusted myself off and checked to see whether all my fingers were still connected and my face wasn't hemorrhaging. I've read stories about accident victims who didn't realized that that had suffered severe injuries for a while after an incident. I was okay save for a couple of scrapes to my arm and leg. Most importantly, I managed to avoid getting gnawed.
Peddling away from my first canine cycling encounter, I realized how lucky I was-it could have been far worse. I also concluded that I needed to be prepared-the next time with pepper spray. In addition, I vowed to be more vigilant about dogs or any other possible danger while biking. However, as I wiped my forehead now wet with trauma induced perspiration, I smelled the Rotweiler's scent on my gloves. The odor quickly caused me to relive the unprovoked incident. It was then that I started to get angry about the attack. "What right did that dog have to assault me? I had every right to be on that road. And besides, I did not intend to do him any harm."
As my feet drove the pedals around and around, my thoughts went around and around thinking about the audacity of the Rotweiler's attack. Then it came to me. I was angry at a dog-a big mean dog, but the Rotweiler was not a cognitive human being. The aggressive Rotweiler was merely responding to his instinctive sense of territorially. This was not a premeditated attack against me. He would have pounced upon any other person riding past his yard. As I rode further away from the attack, the clearer it became for me. I was getting upset with a dog that didn't know any better.
Nearing my home, something else dawned on me: I had an excellent illustration to explain Taoism to my world religion students. Aside from the obvious learnings: be better prepared and keep on trucking in spite of difficulties, I learned an important Taoist lesson about life. One of Taoism's central thoughts is that we should go with the flow and not try to change nature. Running counter to the dictates of nature only destroys our serenity. I'm not going to punish the Rotweiler by mulling over the incident in my head. But if I continue, I will punish myself with anger and anxiety. Whether you are preparing to join me on RAGBRAI or not, we would all benefit from Taoism's worldview. Be prepared, but go with the flow when dealing with things that you can't change.