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The Zen of Animals


It appears to me that animals are much more emotionally balanced than humans.  They seem to lack the ability to either be too happy or too sad.  When they play, there is a fleeting yet seismic joy that quickly dissipates; when they are in pain, they quickly get over it once the pain goes away.  I’m convinced that my cat (pictured above) could care less what happened a week ago and is not concerned with what will happen a week from now.

 Humans are blessed and cursed with a far greater sense of vision and emotional range.  We discuss and study and blog endlessly about what has happened and what will happen.  No one blogs about the present much- partly because it’s so fleeting, and partly because as a society we don’t much care.  This is strange, because the present is the only thing we can actually control.  I don’t mean to say that we should never think about the past and future (that would be absurd) but we should give greater importance to the present than we do.  The past is, after all, nothing but former “presents” just as much as the future is nothing but upcoming “presents.”  Surely the present that is here, now, is more important than either one of those. 

I will probably live another 20,000 days, but if need be, I would trade you every single one of those for today, for they would meaningless without it.  Conversely, I cannot trade you the days I’ve lived in the past, for they are no longer mine.  So this is a new maxim- today is worth more to me than any other day.  This second is worth more to me than any other second.  It’s time to start living that way- as soon as I find out what “that way” is.

 Humans have a greater emotional capacity than animals- we can feel more depressed and more elated.  Our intellect gives us this ability.  Unfortunately, most humans are unable to find lasting happiness and then gravitate toward the sadder end of the spectrum.  Here’s another maxim- most humans on this planet right now are sadder than the cat pictured above.  The cat is tethered to a very short emotional leash.  We, on the other hand, are only limited by our capacity to be depressed.  When we don’t take the effort to be happy, we sink further into despair than an animal ever could.

This is fair because we could also choose to be happier than the cat, if we made the effort.  It’s as if the cat has in its possession a perfectly good apple, and we’re stuck with an apple tree that is crooked and only gives off bad fruit.  We could help the tree (or even use the apples it provides to make new apple trees) but instead we sit and suffer, surrounded by rotten fruit.

Why is the tree crooked so often?  Partly because we are so tethered to the past- but that’s a subject for a different post. 

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