Easing Through It
It is a little bit easier today. Just a little, because E. and I allowed ourselves to grieve the past 24+ hours thoroughly. That, aided by my stuffed snow leopard, given to me by E. one winter when I was heading off to Bennington, snuggled between us for the night.
Figaro's passing has led us to muse on the nature of attachment and suffering, on self-hood and memory.
The Buddhists say that we suffer because of our attachment--the desire we have, the joy and even the discontent we feel: we're attached to the feelings as well as the people/creatures and don't want to let go. Only when we soften into the reality that death is just a change, just a shift in perspective, do we cease to suffer. This last idea, though very simple, takes a hell of a lot for the human mind to accept. It generally takes a lot of time.
We were attached to this creature who we believed and felt certain things about; things that made our own experience of being human seem better. We appreciated his cuteness, his cuddliness, even his very dependence on us. We were, in fact, ehanced, fuller, because of the many tiny details we attended to in him: the feeding, the cleaning up after, the petting and letting in/out. These little things became a part of the weave of our lives and only now that he is gone did we realize that those simple actions: running a brush down his back, or dropping a scooper of cat food into his bowl, had significance to us. (though of course, how many times have I heard his feet pattering down the stairs or his cry in these hours since his death!)
It makes me think for some reason of people who are forced to give up everything they knew--because of war, or poverty or even in order to embrace a better change, how utterly stripped we feel when we can't turn to our familiar.
It seems to me that a human sense of self comes out of two main things: Our rituals--those things we do repeatedly that are familiar, from teeth brushing to driving certain routes, to feeding ourselves certain foods, to behaviors and emotional patterns. And second, our memories. We remember ourselves on a daily basis, in a certain way. Times spent with people, experiences that hurt and invigorated us...our memories are as real as our blood, bones and tissue (and why dementia in people is so devastating as many of us know first-hand).
I think this is why animals do not have the complex kind of memory that humans do. Imagine remembering all the moments of fear in the wild where you waited for a predator to find you; the moments of hunger, the extremes of disease. Animals have to live in the present, with their instinctual memory to guide them. Otherwise, they would suffer all the time.
I hate to make a lesson out of everything, but I believe that animals do teach us how to be in the present. They teach us how to enjoy and take pleasure in the very smallest of activities, the tiny moments that, much like the "dark matter" of the universe, actually fill 90% of our lives.
Figaro taught us about the "everything in between" that is actually the true heart of our lives if we'd only stop long enough to catch it, taste it, live it...and remember it.