Friday, August 7, 2015

Dog / Cat meditation

As I sat licking my wounds and fingering my checkbook this week, I happened upon this profound quote from naturalist and Thoreau wannabe Henry Beston, author of The Outermost House: A Year ofLife on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. 

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. 

Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.

We patronize animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.  And therein do we err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. 

They are not brethren; they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

OK, he uses the uppity ‘our’ spelling of splendor.  You know what that means – it’s certifiably deep thinking about cats and dogs. 

And I subscribe.

Having said that, I am immediately faced with my contradictory and hypocritical nature.  But let’s not talk about that right now.  Let’s talk about the wise and mystical part. 

That’s why we get dogs, right?  Sure, they are goofy and sloppy and primitive in their habits, but because they love us so well and without question, we know they are pure and wise.

It’s hard to deny.  If you are conjuring arguments against a dog’s depth and faultlessness, then you have not known a dog.  Humans can never overtake the goodness of dogs. 

Even for those who feel squeamish about slobber, dogs will win them over with the unadulterated perfection of their being.  To resist a dog is to deny your humanity.

The things dogs learn from us are learned from a place of tolerance and patience – on their part.  Sit.  Stay.  Fetch.

Or, they learn to sacrifice themselves in our place in scenes of man-made disasters and explosions of nature.  They do this from the exquisite selflessness that is the essence of dogdom.  They learn this from us only to teach us what loving and giving can be.

For cats, we must go to the mystical.  A cat has nothing to learn from us and teaches us by inscrutable example.  We are grasshoppers to the cats’ senseiWax on, wax off.

Cats understand and accept their own flawlessness and model for us by case in point that effort is unnecessary and futile.  As they have, we must simply learn to be.

Beston’s words apply most clearly to cats: “They move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”

Those who are puzzled by cats or uncomfortable under a cat’s enigmatic gaze squirm out of uneasy internal recognition that they have misjudged and thereby underestimated the cat.  Because a cat responds, or not, from her own will, not that of a human, the human sees himself as lacking.  He doesn’t like to be reminded of his own perceived weaknesses and he blames the cat for his discomfort, though the cat has said nothing, of course.

With a dog, you don’t have to try.  With a cat, you must not try.  Both are Zen masters.  In both cases, we are to learn from our association with them.  They have nothing to learn from us.

Some of us claim to be “cat people” or “dog people” when no such distinction exists.  Cats and dogs are the yin and yang of life and living.  We cannot have one without the other.  Only when we learn the rhythm of the pendulum swinging between the two, will we have arrived.

And that, Dear Readers, is how I justified paying the vet bill this week.