Linda Downing

Dog Days threaten sanity

The Dog Days of summer feel as if we hover over something about to explode. An obscure British office clerk, John Brady, described it back in 1813: "The Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies." How do we keep our sanity? Technically, these days ought to be confined to July and August, but September looms with no let-up in sight. Congress is taking the five-week vacation the public resents, and late night comedians are joking about the president's golf stance. The new healthcare plan kicks in October 1, though no one seems to have read or prepared for it. On the world scene, the Arab Spring became the Arab Winter. Arab Dog Days is a more apt description now with fires of hate lit in all the countries claiming to seek freedom: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Europe and the West, far more secular than religious, continue to underestimate Islam. It burns for supremacy over its own people and the world. As in biblical days, those who put their faith in Egypt, meaning anything or anyone other than the true God, will be disappointed. That culture entices; but when pyramids are examined, death reigns inside. The crowds in Tahrir Square put a military dictatorship back in power and that guarantees more massacres - as in Syria, as in Iraq, where we sacrificed lives and money.
Narrowing our scope does not bring relief. The economy simmers when we long for it to boil. The schools decline while we argue and write ever more complicated ways to fix them. In the August/September National Geographic Traveler, Daisann McLane describes saturation with the world's beauty: ".my threshold for awesome goes up and up until the inevitable happens: I lose all ability to really see it." That also occurs when soaked with the world's ugliness. We stop seeing it. We are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). The new buzzword in education is "Common Core," another experiment some 45 states, including Florida, have signed up for. It might work if we really were born equal - stable home lives with educated parents, high socio-economic status, undamaged brains and bodies. What it claims to be about - putting more focus on critical thinking than rote memorization - will work only after students are disciplined and drilled in the basics. They must lay foundation before they can build upon it with something more than their own experiences and opinions. The insanity of Dog Days is upon us, no longer observing calendar boundaries, but stretching across our days, infiltrating every institution. Unlikely "natural" events, "little" events, mirror the spiritual. A mother in Tennessee wants to name her baby "Messiah." A judge ruled against it, saying it is a title "only earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ." The ACLU, atheist groups, separation of church and state screamers and others will say the mother can name her baby what she pleases. I agree - with her and the judge. The Messiah I know is the one who offers sanity through Dog Days and the only one who can end them. He is not threatened by babies named "Messiah"; neither is he impressed. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side. Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at