“Jackie, stop!” I say in my most authoritative voice. “Stop it now—stop barking!”
I gather the struggling terrier into my arms and try to calm her down while my wife trucks bags of groceries into the kitchen from her car in the driveway. Still holding the dog, I walk into the parlor, away from the kitchen commotion, where the dog catches sight of herself in the mirror on the wall above the antique settee. Immediately she cues in, cocks her head, then raises her tiny black nose to sniff the dog in the mirror. She begins to whine, insisting that I bring her closer. She gets so excited that she jumps out of my arms and runs back into the kitchen, only to return momentarily and leap up on the sofa, where trembling, she stands on her hind legs and proceeds to paw at the base of the mirror, repeatedly jumping up to see if the other dog is still there.
Later, my wife stacks cushions on the settee so the dog can hop on top of them to catch a glimpse of her reflection. It appears that she still thinks there’s another dog in there somewhere, through the looking glass, and she’s frustrated that she can’t gain access to it.
A friend of mine, an expert on these matters (he has had at least two dogs in his household at one time or another over the course of the past three decades), tells me that he has witnessed dogs acting in a similar manner when they catch sight of another canine on TV. They see the dog, they hear him bark; but baffled, they can’t seem to break through into his world.
In his book The Art Spirit, Robert Henri writes:
There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.
Like dogs discovering another dimension through a looking glass, we momentarily glimpse miracles. Sometimes, struggle though we might, we are unable to make sense of them. But if we are fortunate, sometimes the light breaks through—and in an epiphany we see truly, face to face.
Such are the sign-posts toward greater knowledge; such are the sign-posts of wisdom.