If there are two different perspectives, neither with incontrovertible proof, a rational man is free to choose the perspective which works best for him.

William James

Faith makes life better now, and there is the hope of then.

James Ferguson

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

We lost Bo today. He was a loyal and good friend to my Portland son-in-law, Matt, and his companion for a decade and a half. It was his time, but it still hurts. Dogs don’t live as long as humans. Perhaps a dog’s love causes their life to metaphorically burn more quickly and brighter, “like a candle in the wind,” as Elton John sang of Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe).

It is thought that dogs evolved from wolves to become “man’s best friend.” If you want to experience guileless love, adopt a dog. I grew up around dogs because my dad raised bird-dogs for hunting. I remember rolling in the backyard grass swarmed by a half-dozen puppies. I remember puppy breath, and, yes, I remember stepping in their piles. But I especially recall my first dog more than sixty years ago. He was white except for a few spots of yellow which coalesced over his broad face. I named him Tang after the drink developed for astronauts.

The Bible holds that we are created in God’s image and imbued with reason and free will (Genesis 1:27, Isaiah 1:18, Genesis 2:16-17). The Earth and mankind may be unequaled in the Cosmos, but I don’t think so. As a writer of science fiction, my novels “Epiphany” and “Mantis” explore other possibilities, imagining other thoughtful beings. But these first two novels of my Stellar Trilogy are unique and compelling because they also advance spiritual concepts of revelation and redemption.

I like thinking outside the box and imagining different perspectives. I recommend you consider the perspective of Enzo, a golden retriever, offered in the beautiful and bittersweet book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein.

I also offer the perspectives of the Bible, though I am not a Biblical literalist. I consider the Bible more a source of wisdom than a compendium of facts. The stories are timeless and I believe are meant to challenge us to think, rather than to indoctrinate.

Spiritual existentialist Soren Kierkegaard wrote about “a leap of faith.” My journey was different and built upon logic. I agree with Aristotle that something cannot come from nothing. And it is more logical to see and praise an Intelligent Designer rather than to embrace some notion that a cosmic or quantum flux produced everything that is.

Some have said that the notion of infinity and heaven is part of man’s design. Perhaps this notion is proof of their existence. Years ago, I came to the conclusion that two options are possible when I die: I will either blink into oblivion or awaken in Paradise. I thought I was quite clever until I read Plato’s “Apology.” His mentor Socrates was on trial for his life, accused of not respecting Athens’ deity and corrupting the minds of Athens’ youth. In his defense recorded by Plato, Socrates said they could kill him, but he would become a martyr and either cease to exist or he would awaken in paradise and meet his hero, Homer, the writer of the Iliad. I learned that “Few things have never been considered before.” (The same vision is depicted in the Star Wars battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who, at death, joined the pantheon of the Force).

You may be familiar with the movie “The Gladiator,” which opens in the time of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius battling foreign invasion in an area near current day Vienna. There is considerable historical accuracy in the movie, but also a glimpse of the stoic’s vision of Heaven. First described by Homer, The Elysian Fields or Elysium was a “beautiful meadow in the Underworld where the favored of Zeus enjoy perfect happiness.” At the end of the movie the slain gladiator is reunited with his martyred wife and son in Paradise, and they are seen walking hand in hand through a bucolic meadow with his beloved dog. It is a beautiful Roman vision of Heaven; one where “All dogs go to Heaven.”

I cannot prove there is an afterlife, nor can anyone disprove it. There are those who say their intellectual honesty forces them to say there is no God or an afterlife. They are free to say No! to God, but understand it is only an opinion, perhaps born of hubris.

There are a lot of things humans did not understand 100, 500, 1000 and 2000 years ago. And there will be further discoveries and new awareness in the future. Paul wrote, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror…[we] know in part; then [we]shall know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12). I know what I know now, and I am held accountable for that level of understanding and my choices.

There is so much beauty and wonder in the world. It’s too bad that, unlike our “best friends,” man often sees what he doesn’t have (or shouldn’t have) rather than thanking God for another day of life, enough to eat, a hot shower, a soft bed and enough time to reflect on purpose, responsibility and destiny. I’ll bet we could all make a gratitude list which would dwarf our challenges, aches and pains, even academic arrogance (Ecclesiastes 12:12) and the destruction engineered by “fools placed in high places” (Ecclesiastes 10:6).

I love my dog and love the grace she extends to me. Actually, she is my Knoxville son-in-law’s dog, but since they are working and in school, Lulu hangs with us. She is our “Day Dog,” and she seems fine with that because Becky and I are retired and home all day. And she has a “farm pool” to enjoy during the dog days of summer (so named because Sirius the dog star is in ascendancy). Perhaps we all have the best of both worlds. I know I am thankful for the arrangement, and Lulu acknowledges with a thump of her tail and a smile that all dog lovers can see.