“A dog has the right to be a dog.”

Posted by jlubans on March 25, 2014

April 1 will be the something* anniversary of the self-declared Republic of Užupis, a creative and free speech enclave in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania in Northern Europe. Established sometime in the recent past* Užupis means “across the river”. Each time I’ve been there, the river has been up and flowing swiftly. As you can see, the mermaid in my photo is having second thoughts about leaving her sanctuary in a wall on the River Vilnelė:
Užupis is remarkable for its eccentric alleys and galleries, its quirk, its creative spark – in evidence all about – and, most important of all, its offbeat commitment to freedom of expression. That freedom is made manifest in its 41 constitutional “Rights”, which, ala Luther’s Theses, are nailed to a city wall.
Written by Romas Lileikis, a poet, musician and film director, it
decrees people have “the right to be happy”, but, and this is a big but, they also have "the right to be unhappy.”
In my eyes, the Užupian manifesto of human, dog and cat rights is akin to the Tao.
Both employ paradox and contradiction to lead us to a deeper understanding of what we may take for granted.
From the Tao:
“We shape clay into a pot,
But it is the emptiness inside
That holds whatever we want.”
And, specifically to my theories about the democratic workplace: “Human beings thrive when least interfered with.”
Explains Lileikis. “(The constitution) is connected and also contradictory - Everyone has the right to have no rights! -
but it is only against one thing: the aggression that comes from inside of us.” He spells it out in the constitution as a non-right: “No one has the right to violence.”
Cats get top billing in Užupis, but dogs are not left behind:
Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.
Caption: Užupian Wall Art. Not sure who’s taking care of whom.

A dog has the right to be a dog.**
Here are a few non-rights appropriate to how we treat each other in any organization, national, corporate or not-for-profit:
No one has the right to have a design on eternity. (Maybe there should be a “take-a-dictator-to-work-day” in Užupis?)
No one can share what they do not possess.
No one has the right to make another person guilty.

And, then there’s something well worth contemplating daily, especially in these anxious times:
Everyone is responsible for their freedom. Freedom is not given to us; it is up to us to keep it. If an aggressor steals it, then hide the memory, like a burning ember in sand, and seek freedom’s return.

*#42 Everyone has the right to forget historic dates.

**. What I had to say about the Way of the Dog in the book:
"Both of us (Bridger, the year old dog and me) learned about each other. I like to think we met somewhere in the middle. In my study after our walks, she’d lay her head in my lap and look up at me with the most peaceful expression, as if saying “All’s right with the world, mate.” I’d turn to my work and she would lie for hours in companionable silence next to my chair – content to be near. Now and then, I’d look away from the computer screen and catch a glimpse of dog-ness: Happily contented, Playful. Trusting.
Time for a cookie!"

Leading from the Middle Library: Webster University and Eden Seminary, Missouri, USA

@Copyright John Lubans 2014
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