lt took me a few months, but today I finished reading John Gray's provocative little book, "Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life." (Other books took priority in my morning reading time; my first post about this book is here.)
The final chapter contained some nice observations about our search for meaning, and what cats can teach us in this regard. Here's some excerpts.
If cats could understand the human search for meaning they would purr with delight at its absurdity. Life as the cat they happen to be is meaning enough for them. Humans, on the other hand, cannot help looking for meaning beyond their lives.
The search for meaning comes with awareness of death, which is a product of human self-consciousness. Fearing their lives ending, human beings invented religions and philosophies in which the meaning of their lives carried on after them.
But the meaning humans make is easily broken, so they live in greater fear than before.
The stories they have fashioned for themselves take over, and they spend their days trying to be the character they have invented. Their lives belong not to them but to a figure conjured up in their imagination.
One consequence of this way of living is that human beings may become fixated on occasions when their stories are disrupted. They may lose loved ones, find their own lives in danger or be forced to leave their homes.
Those who turn their life into a tragic story are coping with experiences of irremediable loss. But it is a way of coping that comes with a cost. While thinking of your life as a tragedy may give it meaning, it binds you to your sorrows.
...Contrary to the post-modernists, there is such a thing as human nature. It is expressed in the universal demand for meaning, for one thing.
But human nature has produced many divergent and at times antagonistic forms of life. How can anyone know their own nature, when human nature is so contradictory? Might the idea that each of us has a nature of our own be just another metaphysical fiction?
The truth in the fiction of an individual nature is that the good life for each of us is not chosen but found.
Even when they come from decisions we believe we have made, our experiences are not determined by us. The good life is not the life you want but one in which you are fulfilled. Stripped of metaphysics, this is Spinoza's idea of conatus and the Taoist belief that we must follow the way within us.
In this we are at one with all other creatures.
Humans do not rank above other animals, or below them. There is no cosmic scale of value, no great chain of being; no external standard by which the worth of a life can be judged.
Humans are humans, cats are cats. The difference is that, while cats have nothing to learn from us, we can learn from them how to lighten the load that comes with being human.
One burden we can give up is the idea that there could be a perfect life.
It is not that our lives are inevitably imperfect. They are richer than any idea of perfection. The good life is not a life you might have led or may yet lead, but the life you already have. Here, cats can be our teachers, for they do not miss the lives they have not lived.
If you are not concerned about the afterlife, you are ignoring the very gift of human awareness. No other life form that we know of can introspect, question and view into this great "unknown" that is inevitable for everyone. Only humans get to "worry" about a life following this one. To feign contentment, especially when one is in the latter stage of human existence, is a great mistake. Of course, this query may lead to many beliefs and activities that may seem hypocritical or overly apprehensive. But the fact remains, Brian, that this existence is a mere 100 years at best. What about the time which will follow? You are perfectly correct in saying that cats, as well as every other animal, have no concept whatsoever of time's extension and the continuation of individual life after death. One must not confuse contentment with apathy, slovenliness and lassitude.
Posted by: albert medina | February 09, 2021 at 05:20 AM
I just ordered this book 😸
Well... if there is an afterlife (and I think there is but I can’t prove it to anyone) then you’ll just move on to another form. For all those who don’t believe in free will, what does it matter. I believe in “free will” although it’s mostly misused. But I find the arguments of those who don’t believe in free will to be quite contradictory to their own beliefs. On one hand you say this, on the other hand you say that... and then when someone points out how it doesn’t add up, you say it’s beyond man’s comprehension. (In which case contemplating on an afterlife would be beyond wo/man’s comprehension.)
Posted by: S | February 09, 2021 at 09:29 AM
Looking at what can be learned from cats compared to what can be learned from GSD and RSSB ( the satanic religion) I say cats life is way more liberating and enlightening.
GSD wants you to stay in his will which mean: keeping the 4 vows, come to satsang atleast weekly, do seva, get darshan from him, give to charity (rssb ofcourse) , keep repeating the satanic mantra; dont have fun; run from your blood family; love your new brothers and sisters; have no interest in money; more surrender to GSD; dont think; dont critise RSSB or GSD; dont be judgemental, be a cult door mat; definatly fear the lord, have guilt and shame; dont disrespect GSD, no matter what bull he says; also marry into rssb; having no free will; believe their RSSB afterlife story; believe GSD is the living saviour (but in reality a counterfeit) and he will take you to heaven; and definitely believe that you have a heavy karmic dept and that only the master can take away this burden. All your decisions are based on how much more of a slave u can become and please the puppet master in return for guaranteed seat in heaven - absolute bull.
While cats just live there life, with plenty of sex, and go !!!!!!
I know what I would choose ;-)
Posted by: Uchit | February 09, 2021 at 02:43 PM
Cats. Purrrrfect Masters.
Posted by: Attila the Pun | February 10, 2021 at 06:56 AM
“Purrrrfect Masters” says the Lion.
Posted by: S | February 10, 2021 at 07:29 PM
@ Purrrrfect Masters” says the Lion.
The smart cats will lionize them.
Posted by: Dungeness | February 11, 2021 at 12:10 AM
The good life is the life you already have...
You never appreciate what you've got, until it's gone
And sometimes we find that out the long, hard way, following some loopey looney, defo unpurfffect so called self proclaimed, selfish wanna be master
Rings a bell....GSD low life blood sucking leech.
Posted by: manoj | February 11, 2021 at 04:31 PM