In today’s reflection, Derek Lin explains that straw dogs are small figurines, woven from straw, that are used in rituals, and later burnt or discarded. He says that we are like straw dogs in the ritual of life, eventually discarded in death. He suggests that this imagery should help us put things in perspective, and see the triviality in our mundane arguments.
I must be missing the point, but I could not resonate with today’s reading. In fact, quite the opposite. It bothered me. I felt this was a flippant view of life’s process – to assume our role as trivial, like straw dogs, and therefore, meaningless.
I am not a taoist, as I have said before, but I have partaken of different rituals, and it occurs to me that a ceremony using small effigies could be effective. It could give us the opportunity to consider the many ways that we glean our identity and reevaluate the importance of each.
For example, my therapist recently gave me a small, woven doll to represent my inner child. She suggested that I carry her with me to remind me of the little one’s needs. This figurine represents one part of me.
I could also make straw beings to represent the many other parts of my self, such as the risk-taker, the rebel, the conformist, the artist, the insecure, the pessimist, and so on.
Doing so would give me an opportunity to consider the role that each plays in my greater being, and I could realize that some of those aspects are just straw dogs and ready to be burnt or discarded.
If I chose to throw all those individual aspects away, I might understand that I am greater than the sum of all my identifiable traits, and be humbled into appreciating the mystery that is life.
I am not ready to view the totality of my existence as a straw dog, but I am willing to admit that sometimes, it is worthwhile to stop hanging onto that which has no value in the larger picture.