As I write this, I am watching an orange tiger cat stroll across the high wall at the side of our garden, its tail undulating as if it were conducting the slow movement of a symphony. It is unbothered by our trio of dogs, who are racing to and fro loudly barking, totally frustrated that the cat is ignoring them. The cat delicately skirts an overhanging tree branch, then crouches and playfully pounces on a bit of string hanging from the fence atop the wall, obviously taunting the dogs. This orange tiger cat belongs to the present moment and is simply enjoying being itself.
I grew up surrounded by various animals on our dairy farm in Vermont. There were many cats, mostly half-wild barn cats, but we always had one or two tamed cats living with us in the house. The cat I most remember was named Hey You because as a young kitten, he was always making a nuisance of himself and getting into places where he wasn’t supposed to be. Then someone would shout, “Hey you, get out of there!” And that name stuck!
Hey You was a black and white, independent-minded, arrogant cat with a “personality” who did what he pleased, when he pleased. He was also very affectionate when he thought he could get a choice morsel of food. He loved to stretch out on the top of the back of Dad’s reclining chair where he could keep his eye on everything that was going on. When he wanted to go outdoors or come inside, he would jump up and curl his paws around the doorknob until it rattled to let us know that he wanted in or out. Hey You never seemed to have a problem being himself. He didn’t care what we thought about the way he walked or waved his tail. He was totally himself all the time.
Unlike Hey You and that orange tiger cat who is now indolently lying on our garden wall disdainfully surveying his surroundings and the noisy dogs, we humans tend to wonder what those around us think we should be like: what we should wear, what we should say, how we should live our lives. Many times the result is that we wear masks and try to be what others want us to be, without trying to be what God wants us to be. We tend to focus on our weaknesses rather than on our strengths. We like to criticize and complain rather than seek the positive and good in persons or situations.
What do cats know that we don’t? I believe they are at peace with themselves, they like being cats … they are not trying to be dogs. They are good at being cats, and they enjoy concentrating on improving the art of being a cat.
To be ourselves and not try to be like someone else or like what others think we should be is being the person God wants us to be, entirely appropriate behavior for a Christian. It fits; it’s comfortable, and it’s fun for us and for those around us. There is a feeling of rightness in being ourselves … and with God beside us, we can even enjoy a bit of peace and contentment as we fully live in the present moment of “being”.