Thursday, January 11, 2007

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.


At 7:37 PM, Blogger Samus said...

Siopao says she's sorry about Figaro. I admit I used to sneak him food. I hope you two are doing well otherwise.

At 4:08 AM, Blogger Patrushka said...

Beautiful thoughts. Great insight. In my opinion: masterly written.

I know you suffer for the loss. What I see about the situation, having seen many people die from cancer, is that you three were 'lucky' -I know this is not the perfect word here- that he didn't have to suffer for months, in pain. On one hand, a sudden loss is horrible, because you didn't have the chance to get used to the idea of his departure. On the other hand, he didn't suffer! And your suffering for the loss is probably preferable to a long suffering for his pain and gradual disappearance.

I know the only thing you see now is his absence, and it's ok and logical. But if you start feeling very sad, just think that maybe it was the best way for it to happen.

And, who knows... maybe he had already done his part in this world and in your life and it was just his time to leave.

I know you feel his physical absence at home but his presence will be with you for as long as you want it to be.

Love to you and E.

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Thank you both. Grief is so strange, so completely un-logical, coming at absolutely no strategic interval or time. It just smacks you, and walks off...

but we'll get through it because we have each other.

Thanks for your words.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger paris parfait said...

Very wise words and philosophy. Hope you're feeling somewhat better today.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Patry Francis said...

I like your musing on the ordinary moments, what you call the "dark matter of the universe. Yes, animals live those so well.


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