Ever since he was a puppy, whenever my dog Cosmo's stomach is upset, he wants to eat grass.
Over the years, Jordan and I have concluded that this grass-eating regimen must be just what the doctor ordered. Cosmo eats some grass, throws up, and feels better. "How amazing," I've thought more than once, "that he knows just how to take care of himself. What a wonderful biological instinct."
But there are two sides to this story. Whatever glowing holistic instincts Cosmo might have, he's also been known to eat discarded chicken wings, pizza crusts, and horse shit. (Sorry.)
In other words, he's still a dog.
This very morning, in fact, he whined to go for his walk -- something he rarely does (Cosmo will sleep in til noon, if we do) -- which told me, "his stomach's bothering him," so off we went. I watched him prowl for grass and leaves to soothe his stomach. "Ah, Cosmo, such a wise, health guru," I thought, and then jerked back to reality to pull him away from a pile of chicken wings he was trying his best to inhale.
The thing is, both things are true: Cosmo knows what's good for him. And he also knows what he wants. His instincts tell him to pursue both.
People aren't very different, are we? I know going to the gym will make me feel better, or taking a yoga class. I also want to lounge on the couch. I am compelled to do both things. Choice by choice, only one set of instincts wins out -- the ones that draw me toward my optimum health, or the ones that provide immediate gratification. Unlike dogs, we can learn, over time, that the rewards of health are the greatest rewards, but still, I wonder.... what happens to the part of us that just wants what we want? We can train ourselves in a particular direction, but underneath it all, that pile of chicken bones will always look pretty darn good.
How do you choose between bones and grass?