By Beverly R. Muzii
The other day, I was grooming one of our five cats.
As I gently combed around her face, neck and back, she stared straight ahead with a purely unamused expression on her face. Now and then, she would meow complainingly, and by the time I had completed her grooming, she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me—for about 15 minutes. Before long, she had returned to purring and rubbing affectionately on my legs.
She may or may not have forgotten about the experience, but the moment had passed and whyever would she still be upset about it?
Unlike us humans, cats do not loom on the past, and neither do they dread the future. They live in a state of continual contentment in the moment.
For centuries, philosophers have struggled to find the meaning of life and how to achieve perfect happiness. Cats, on the other hand, are born with an innate sense of fulfillment and satisfaction with their lives.
In his recent book, “Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life,” John Gray, a British political philosopher, explores the “cat way of living,” an ideology that may offer more insight into the secret behind serenity than any religion or philosophy ever will.
“Much of human life is a struggle for happiness,” Gray writes. “Among cats, on the other hand, happiness is the state to which they default when practical threats to their well-being are removed.”
The book examines how cats only ever exhibit displeasure when they are immediately faced with something they dislike (for example, being groomed). Regardless of the extent of the issue they face, once the instance has passed, they return to a state of contentment as if they had never been upset at all.
In summary, cats do not burden themselves with anxiety or concern about themselves, their lives, or their relationships with others. And with this lack of anxiety comes a liberated sense of tranquility. “Feline Philosophy” is not intended to be comical, yet readers cannot help but find parts of the book quite amusing. This could be in part due to Gray’s remarkable writing style—eloquent, yet at many times superbly blunt. Or, perhaps the humor results from the reader’s own realizations of how senselessly they have been complicating life by in- venting nearly impossible, if not impossible, methods to achieving perfect happiness, only to realize the answer lies not in religion or philosophy, but by living a little more like their feline companions.
After all, Gray writes “if cats could understand the human search for meaning they would purr with delight at its absurdity.”
At the same time, the book is also brutally honest. For many, it hits close to home as Gray reflects on the ways in which we suppress our true nature by conforming to a preconceived societal standard of whom we should and need to be. “Cats are happy being themselves, while humans try to be happy by escaping themselves,” he writes.
Overall, “Feline Philosophy” is a delightful read for any cat-lover. But even those who do not consider themselves cat people will relish in the fresh perspective of this sophisticated, thought-provoking book as they discover why Gray comes to the ultimate conclusion that “while cats have nothing to learn from us, we can learn from them how to lighten the load that comes with being human.”