To have your life work, you’re told to follow the teachings of great men and women. If these don’t do it for you, there are always those little pills. But hold on; staring you straight in the face everyday is perhaps the wisest guru of them all; your cat.
Let’s face it; each morning, the first waking thoughts of millions of people are worries. Worry about a job, a relationship, health, money — take your pick. Some people fret about all of them simultaneously. For many, when one concern passes, the others assume more importance. Each person’s total amount of worry always seems to remain the same. Look back over the past, say two years. Of all the potential “catastrophes” that haunted you, how many of them actually occurred.
Last Friday this guy lost his job, he became depressed and anxious. He had a right to be; he was suddenly unemployed. Yet the saddest thing is that he had worried incessantly about losing that job for two years. Simply put, his own thoughts had made him feel rotten for that entire length of time. Were it not for that anxiety, each day would have been very pleasant. He liked the job, he loved where he worked, he got on well with his manager and all his colleagues and the pay was pretty good.
Had he the temperament of Elsie, his fluffy female cat, in those two years he would have had one bad day instead of the seven hundred and twenty five that he forced on himself. As a cat, he would have wallowed in the simple pleasantness of his daily circumstances. (Being a cat, he’d probably have moved his chair nearer the window to be caressed by the sun’s healing rays and avoided unpleasant encounters, as much as possible).
Occasionally, even as a cat, he’d have become stressed for a few minutes when, for example, out of the blue, the “Big Bad Boss” burst in. BBB stressed everyone. But that tension lasted, at most, about ten minutes and happened only twice a week. When the Big Bad Boss had gone, as a cat, he’d get back to his pleasantly productive work, helped by the gentle warmth of the sun, an occasional pleasant chat with his co-workers and, if no one was watching, a discrete scratch.
As a human, though, his life was far from idyllic. Every day he had persistent “rumbling” apprehension about a) his job security, b) his girlfriend staying with him, and c) where his life was headed long-term. Interspersed with these permanent concerns were interchangeable, more immediate anxieties about such things as the sudden possible arrival of BBB, whether he had turned off the gas-cooker in his apartment, or whether the new ache in his back was terminal. All this prevented him from noticing the sunshine high-lighting the subtle shading of the potted plant near his desk. It stopped him engaging in pleasant conversation with the nice people working around him. And, though he liked his work, the constant worry sucked any fulfilment out of it.
There’s so much we can learn from cats. The principal lesson is their Zen-like approach to life. They avoid unnecessary confrontation and always find the simplest existence that works for them. They accept their circumstances the way they find them. They have no desire for a different future or nostalgia for a distant past. Few things get them down. You won’t see them popping serotonin reuptake inhibitors — selective or otherwise. (That’s not to suggest either that they take them in secret.) No, it’s quite simple. They’re content, when they have what they need, and they don’t need much to be content.
That’s why cats are dumb animals.