tudying my cats, especially Misu, leads me to some thoughts about experience. For humans, this is Being-in-the-world, which, at least sometimes, has a thematic idea of itself which idea it subjects to critical reflection and self-reflection. We come to stand in our own experience (and thus to call ourselves into question...). It does not seem to me that cats have this kind of "consciousness".
On the other hand, it seems that cats have "something". I speculate this may be perfect instantiation of an aspect of what becomes, in persons, [ambivalent] consciousness. A cat's gaze seems to be perfectly receptive. It sees all, in a universal receptiveness. A cat may be a kind of "universal witness". There is no questioning, only pure "receptiveness" (obviously, cats' famous "curiosity" is something different from this, which I shall not treat here). There seems to be a "defect", however: the cat (unlike us humans...) does not seem capable of being a witness to its being-a-witness. Thus it has no "history", and no "future". Perhaps a cat is "intermediate" between surveillance cameras (which see nothing) and human surveillance agents (who, at least potentially, can observe themselves observing, know a universal context for the observational situation/event...)?
Obviously, there are "fringe" cases. When Jethra was very ill and near to death, she climbed onto my wife 's and my bed in the night and nestled as close as she could to our faces, seeming to seek not to be alone. Was she only seeking comfort for her pain? Or was she seeking to not be alone in what she somehow sensed was an unprecedented and highly consequential life situation? --But this is exceptional. The more normative "way of being" of a healthy cat is to simply observe whatever takes place in the cat's surround. Truly it seems as if it does not matter to the cat whether it has "company" (unlike both humans and, e.g., dogs). This seems to me more evidence for conceiving of a cat's "way of being" as: to be a pure witness.
One might imagine a form of Deity, Whose eyes were cats, and Whose mind is us. But the "optical nerve" is broken. Perhaps what Buddhists mean by "enlightenment" is the healing (or construction) of this pathway between witnessing and witnessing witnessing. "Tat tvam asi" (Thou art that). "It was the word beyond speech...." (the ending of Hermann Broch's novel: The Death of Virgil)
The eyes are the windows of the soulMisu's eyes!
Spectator (Misu at age 6+1/3 years).
Read Claude Levi-Strauss on cats, savages, and us.
|Note: January 2000, Misu has recently found a new gastronomic interest -- eating paper: invoices, doctor's prescriptions, etc. Maine Coons are know in general to have unusual (and potentially toxic!) "taste" for such things as eating plastic or licking photographs. Jethra liked to eat plastic (which she would later barf up on the nearest available space of floor or carpet...), including plastic grocery bags and the Kevlar handles on 14 pound boxes of cat litter. Misu has taken to eating paper. Click here to read about another eater of paper -- a person this time --, who, in Abel Gance's great silent film Napoleon, saves Napoleon and Josephine from the guillotine by ingesting their dossiers.|
|Note: March 2003. Two Finnish persons have emailed me that "Misu" is a common name for cats in Finland. In Finland, "Misu (and Kisu) are diminutives meaning little kitten."|
|Both Misu and Abiko are from the Tabbey Road Maine Coon Cattery, Purdys, New York (about 30 miles north of New York City). I highly recommend them. Cheryl & John Kominos really do raise the cats "underfoot", with lots of love and care. Visit the Tabbey Road website|
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Go to more pictures of Misu.
Misu catches her first mouse!
Go to pictures of Abiko Maine Coon cat.
Go to pictures of folk art wooden cat.
Enjoy two (2) great cat cartoons.
Meditate on raking cat litter.
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Copyright © 1999-2002 Brad McCormick, Ed.D.
09 April 2006