There is a book called Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life by John Gray available on Google Books. I believe that it is an excellent book. It’s the kind of book I like because not only does it respect the cat which I think is so critical for cat and animal welfare generally, it encourages us to observe our cats and through that observation and self-reflection improve our lives by adopting some aspects of the feline mentality.
People can be tortured by societal expectations, by looking back at their mistakes and worrying about the future. Often people can be tormented when they needn’t be if they lived in the present; if they lived a little bit more like their cat companion.
Learning from the feline mentality
Here are some points about John Gray’s book which I think are instructional. I hope people genuinely reflect on these points and they might even buy the book which is available on Amazon at currently under £10 in the UK. It might be the best £10 you ever spent in terms of attaining a more contented life.
Nonhuman perspective: My understanding is that John Gray believes that people should try and adopt a non-human perspective when thinking about the meaning of life. He argues that we should observe our cats and think about an alternative way of experiencing and looking at the world. He believes that the cat might serve as a model for humans to live life without human baggage and human-centric concerns. The human is very human-centric. Everything we do and think is from a human standpoint but perhaps we should discard this.
Authenticity and freedom: John Gray suggest that cats embody authenticity and freedom in their lives. Authenticity means genuineness. No fake or pretend behaviours. Not putting on a veneer and pretending that one is something one is not. Often people try and present behaviour which meets with the expectations of others and society. People want their behaviour to be validated by others. Cats do none of these things. Their behaviour is unapologetic. They are saying take it or leave it. They are genuinely themselves and they live by their instincts. They are totally natural in their behaviour. Natural and genuine behaviour is very valuable in humans. It equates to charm provided it is filtered a little! The less contrived and fake a person is the more charming they are and younger people tend to have this quality whereas older people tend not to because of life’s experiences. John Gray suggest that humans should question the constraints that people place on themselves and try and adopt the domestic cat’s authenticity and naturalness.
Playfulness and curiosity: under this heading, John Gray is suggesting that humans should embrace the present moment. They should live in the moment as cats do. Cats do things for the sheer pleasure of it. They don’t attach a purpose or a higher meaning to it. They just do it because they like it. Gray suggest that people should adopt a similar sense of play and curiosity. This will allow people to live more in the present and enjoy the small pleasures of life available to them. It’s the small day-to-day things which bring pleasure if one can tap into that mentality. Humans tend to buy pleasure through possessions or even eating!
Solitude and independence: cats are said to be independent creatures which is a source of irritation to some humans because they can be ‘disobedient’ (a human-centric view) and humans feel that they should be networking all the time. In fact, we are told this by the experts but Gray suggests that humans can learn from the domestic cat’s independence and challenge the idea that we should be constantly socially interacting to gain fulfilment. We can appreciate and value solitude and reflection leading to self-discovery. This can also lead to a sense of peace and self-acceptance. And an acceptance of things we can’t change. Struggling to try and change things because you are unhappy with them can create a lot of mental friction. It can be better to simply accept. I also find that it’s better to avoid looking at things and remembering things which are upsetting. Try and cut these things out of life.
Transcending anthropocentrism: this means rising above the concept that the world revolves around humans. Gray criticises the anthropocentrism worldview which replaces humans at the center of the universe. He also challenges the idea that humans must be part of a grand scheme or purpose and that there must be some sort of meaning to our lives. We should look to the value and significance of nonhuman life. We should respect nonhuman life. I’ve always stated that we should respect animals to the point where we treat them as our equals. We should be on a plane with animals in my view (no hierarchy) and that would include our cat companions. People are moving that way slightly because they treat their cat companions as members of the family. If we do this we develop a humbler view of the world and we can understand it better.
Personal note: I find being as active as I can mentally and physically helps to stay in the present. I also find connecting with nature helps to keep calm.
I recently wrote an article about relinquishing the idea of owning a cat and thinking about our relationship with our cat companion; an article which in fact touches upon the points I mention above:
‘Why can’t a human be more like a cat? That is the question threaded through this vivid patchwork of philosophy, fiction, history and memoir … a wonderful mixture of flippancy and profundity, astringency and tenderness, wit and lament’Jane O’Grady, Daily Telegraph on John Gray’s book: Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life.
Source: My thanks to Poe and AI computer for assistance in writing this.
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