I’ve commenced another one of my lunchtime polls in my chats with friends and loved ones, which happens once in awhile when I’ve grown weary of small talk, and am craving conversation that is a little deeper under the surface than “what are you having for dinner tonight.”
In the past I’ve gone with the juicy fruit of thoughts on God, death, sex, and cognitive dissonance, but this time I figured I’d keep it basic, the armchair philosopher’s equivalent of talking about the weather.:
Does (your) life have meaning, and if so, what is it?
And I have to say, my cat was NOT amused that we were bringing up this old chestnut.
He much prefers conversations about which side of his neck to scratch, and the importance of keeping the laptop on my lap only for such time as it takes to heat it, then it must be promptly removed — lest I face the consequence of his editorial additions to my blog posts.
But then he paused (no, he didn’t “paws”, you terrible punster, you), stretched out, lifted his round bum in the air — the feline equivalent of clearing his throat — and we had the following exchange.:
Oh, come on. You’ve gotta give me more than that. I’m desperate for intellectual stimulation, here.
Fine. I was going to say squirrels.
Squirrels? Squirrels give your life meaning?
No, but I hoped that would shut you up.
I would say you enjoy squirrels. You delight in them.
Yes. And that’s all that matters.
Is it? Just a little titillation and suddenly your life is amazing? Don’t you want to make a bigger impact? To be a force for good? Lift up your fellow feline-kind to greater levels of empathy and understanding than they’ve ever known before?
I think you’re doing a little something called, projecting.
You’re right. I’m just feeling like, happy hormones aren’t satisfying enough. If that’s all that matters, we should all hook our brains up to electrical pulses and go gently into that good night.
And in this corner, reductive arguments.
Wow, you’re pretty catty for a … cat …
Only when you make me answer your lunchtime poll.
Just, indulge me. Please?
Sigh. Okay, if you insist. So we’ve already established the squirrel hypothesis is flawed — it’s not actually my source of meaning. It’s a source of joy, but that’s different. Same verdict on my next answer, the furniture — so, so, so good for the scratching — and a to-die-for rush of happy hormones, don’t get me wrong — but it’s not like I’m inspired to face the day because there’s an inch of your armchair that I haven’t torn up yet.
(Note to self: tear up rest of chair.)
It’s not your blankets, or the various cushions and laps where I frequently find them — although I have to say, that Christmas tree skirt aka cat blanket conveniently placed next to both heating vent and large floor to ceiling window — hoo boy howdy, was THAT a great idea! Totally appreciate you for that. It’s also not toppling over your bags of gift bows that you’ve been leaving around lately. Nor the wrapping paper that you so kindly roll out for my benefit (and isn’t it awesome how I can always find dead center? I do that for you, ya know.)
It’s not even having another cat to chase, lick, and lie down with — although she’s absolutely divine. Thank you for getting her for me all those years ago.
And I can’t believe I’m about to say this — it’s not even the f–, the f–, the foo— wow, this is harder than I thought it was gonna be. The FOOD! There, I said it. And yeah, it’s not that. Although DO NOT STOP WITH THE FOOD. NEV-ER, EV-ER. Do you understand me? Good. (I do love it so. Especially when I can repetitively meow my way into getting it two hours before feeding time — ah, that is the best).
All of these things make me happy. But meaning? My why? My raison d’etre? I’d have to say that my final answer to what gives me purpose is —
Omigod someone just walked in the kitchen and is within steps of my cat food cabinet and treats and if I run I can get there before they do and
Oh. False alarm. What were we talking about?
Meaning. Right. Okay, you know what? In case you haven’t noticed in my general demeanor, I am actually really freaking good at this thing called aliveness. I own it. No self-esteem issues, existential crises, or endless pursuit of various world religions to try to find my star. I lead a completely satisfied, fulfilled, enriched existence, no philosophical pondering required! Maybe my life is meaningful. Maybe it isn’t. Quite frankly, I don’t spend a whole lot of time on the question, and I’m quite certain I’m the happier for it. And as every cat knows: Happiness. Is. Everything.
Now, would you kindly remove your laptop from your lap, so I can get my perch back? I have some happy hormones to generate.
Thus endeth his lesson.
I watched him turn around a few times, lower himself in between my legs, and curl up into a very contended little ball of fur.
I pet him almost involuntarily. It’s hard not to stroke a cat when they pull that move. They’re nearly irresistible.
It all works out quite well for him, it seems, this philosophy of doing what feels good at the time, seeking out moments of bliss, and protecting his euphoria at all costs. I almost believe him when he says, happiness is everything.
Meanwhile, the lunchtime polling continues. You’ve been warned, my friends and loved ones. You’ve been warned.