Saturday, 12 April 2014

Sensing Lent 34: Cat

'Pippi' (Dutch)

I sometimes wish I were a cat. Sleep a lot, someone feeds you every day, nothing much to worry about. It's the nothing much to worry about which is so attractive. Recently I read a good philosophical account of why human consciousness means we do worry but we can also experience more happiness than animals, for the same reason. It is all to do with living in the present.

'For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations - especially the latter. With these assured he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure' (Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity, 1951).

We do seem to be both burdened and blessed by a sense of the passing of time, which cats do not have. There are things in the future I worry about and things which I anticipate which fill me with pleasure. The present is the thing I struggle with. Perhaps that's why cats can seem to be so patient. In the event of a door being closed, or someone not yet being up in the morning, the cats in our house will sit looking at the door. As soon as it opens, they spring into action. But they don't appear bothered to hurry the moment. They'll look out the window for hours.

If I have managed by the end of Lent to be more present in the moment, perhaps by watching cats, I will have learnt something useful. 

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