Two stories caught my eye this past week:

New York City's Madison Square Garden recently hosted the 132nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Dog owners from around the world came to exhibit their purebred pooches. In what is considered by many to be America's most prestigious dog show, the judges award the dogs who epitomize the published standards for each breed. For example, this year's winner was a 15 inch beagle, which – according to WKC's standards – is a dog with a "muscular body, bold attitude and hardy bearing." Its ideal disposition oddly reminded me of my children: "smart, independent and easily bored, they will get in trouble when unsupervised."

In response to this show, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released a TV ad showing a hooded KKK member making himself at home at a meeting of the "purebreds"-only American Kennel Club. According to PETA, the pageant is irresponsible because "it promotes dog breeding and spurs interest in 'purebreds' while animal shelters overflow with unwanted mutts who are in desperate need of homes."

"When it comes to contempt for 'mixed breeds' and a fetish for 'pure bloodlines,' there's not much difference between the KKK and the AKC," says PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch..."

Second story, off the AP wire:

A California court recently issued a verdict in an inter-neighbor dispute.

Mark Vargas had asked prosecutors to file charges against his neighbors because their towering redwoods blocked sunlight to his backyard solar panels. After more than six years of legal wrangling, a judge recently ordered Richard Treanor and his wife, Carolyn Bissett, to cut down two of their eight redwoods, citing an obscure state law that protects a homeowner's right to sunlight.

Both sides say they want to do what's best for the environment. Treanor and Bissett, who drive a hybrid Toyota Prius, argue that trees absorb carbon dioxide, cool the surrounding air and provide a habitat for wildlife. Vargas, who recently bought a plug-in electric car, counters that his solar panels reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and more effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

These two stories share a common thread—a characteristic so typical of many if not most of today's disputes.

Yes, there's still plenty of evil out there, and the battle against the forces that relentlessly represent oppression and hate still continues. But for the most part, in our age that stands on the threshold of the Messianic Era, humanity is beginning to accept moral and ethical ideals. But we still fight. One environmentalist pitted against the other; one animal lover equates his fellow animal lover with a KKK member.

I don't know who is right in either of these disputes. And no matter who is right – and perhaps, as is often the case, both parties have a valid point – it seems that the tactics used are less than savory. But here's what I see: we have well-intentioned individuals fighting each other over the same cause. It's an unfortunate fact that sometimes we can be striving for a specific goal, and the methods we employ are actually detrimental to that cause.

Let's bring the issue somewhat closer to home. We all want to be spiritual. Are the methods we are using to attain spirituality furthering the cause, or are they hurting the cause? Are the trees that we are planting perhaps blocking our souls' "spirituality panels"?

It's great that we have the right intentions. Really, no sarcasm whatsoever intended. But we have to be certain that these intentions are properly directed.

Thankfully, G‑d gave us a Book of Directions.