The Westminster People Show
March 1, 2010 by Dr. Neal Mayerson ·
Today I asked my veterinarian tennis buddy about how they judge dogs at the Westminster Dog Show. He told me that the judges have in mind an image of what a perfect form of each breed looks and acts like, and then they go about trying to find the closest approximation to that ideal. And, he said, it is a highly political process since winning such a coveted prize has significant monetary rewards to the owner/breeder of the winning pooch.
I love dogs, but I don’t like the Westminster. One year I attended the dog show and went backstage. What I saw was what appeared to be relatively lifeless dogs waiting to go on stage and being primped in ways that I imagined would have to be embarrassing to them if their “ordinary” brethren happened by. Nothing felt wholesome or authentic.
My dog Mugsy would never win a dog show, though I think he comes pretty close to being perfect. Perfectly Mugsy. He obeys a bit but mainly when it doesn’t matter. His teeth are worn down from persistently unraveling the chain link fence that confines him in our yard. He licks a lot, pushes his tennis ball under furniture on purpose, and is impulsively too aggressive with other dogs. But, he is a character. Perfectly himself. He puts smiles on the faces of all who know him and he wiggles his whole body when he sees people he likes. What you see is what you get.
I’m like Mugsy. I won’t win “best of breed” nor am I interested in that as a goal. I could approach the VIA Classification Of Character Strengths as a roadmap to human perfection… to build each and every character strength to a high level and thereby become about as good of a version of a human being as may be possible. Or, I could approach my results from the VIA Survey in a comparative way, with an aim of being higher on strengths than anyone else. These approaches are of no interest to me. I just want to be like Mugsy – as truly myself as I can be. Perfectly Neal – with my innate and chosen traits trumpeting loud and clear.
I have my part to play in the symphony of humanity and my job is to play it great. My goal is to focus on my strengths and play them off well against the strengths of others. From day to day I move in and out of duos, trios, quartets, and full piece orchestras, always aiming to play my part to the hilt and give meaning to the playing of others.
My “best me” is not equivalent to simply my “natural me.” My challenge is to find my strengths of ability, character, interest, and resources, and to weave them together into a rich resonance. Practice them. Learn when to use them in full force and when to use them with nuance. What gives music and life character is the variations in tempo and loudness. There’s a time to play forte (loud), and a time to play piano (soft). And fitting my notes with the notes of others requires full awareness and sensitivity – mindfulness. Living well is an art that no one masters and it is a team effort – not a solo.
Maybe someday I can win “Best of Me” and “Best of We.” But, in the meantime, I just look forward to getting together with folks and playing our hearts out.