For several years I had the pleasure of house sitting a cat named Elmer. He was handsome and charismatic, like Marlon Brando; unfortunately, as he grew older, also his body mass index got close to that of elderly Brando. Elmer’s behavior also resembled Brando’s best performances: he indulged in life with the same intensity as Brando did in his silver screen characters, and whenever Elmer came to me, he took his space in my home as naturally and unapologetically as Brando.
It is a widespread thought in religious and spiritual circles that humans are the peak of evolution, and perhaps only some domestic animals may have a chance to incarnate as a person at some point if they have evolved enough. However, in observing Elmer I often noticed how he was teaching and humanizing me.
Elmer was how I wanted to be and how humankind is at its best, in my opinion. He was centered in himself and wasn’t depending on the approval of the outside world. Naturally, animals don’t have man’s intellect and freedom of choice, so they don’t make mistakes or wrong choices, which cause the accumulation of karma. Animals live by following their instincts, which probably means that they have a direct link to God. It may be one of the reasons why the lifespan of an animal is generally so much shorter than our lifespan. Human beings rely way too much on their intellect, don’t live in the moment and don’t make decisions based on reality. Therefore, we need a long lifespan to make mistakes, understanding our wrong choices and try to correct them.
One can find the truth in nature, because in nature everything is what it is. A cat doesn’t think: ”I wish I was as big and strong as the dog next door! I’m just a poor little cat.” It is completely natural for animals to accept their own state and enjoy it. A cat doesn’t try to be a dog, and vice versa; they are different and they both are needed. They both live happily and complete the whole by being themselves.
An animal doesn’t deny itself or its environment as it fulfills and realizes its meaning, but it lets life flow in itself. Nature, as a whole, surrenders completely to its own existence, thus fulfilling its own task. Therefore, one cannot think that in nature, something is better than something else. Nature is a vast entity in which every single part has its own important meaning and in which everything is interconnected all the time. Nature simply is and fulfills its task as a result of the interconnectedness prevalent in it — and life and balance is maintained in that state. Perhaps we, too, are simply meant to live life loving and respecting ourselves and giving life what we can.
Elmer taught me how to surrender to the moment and face life as it is. He didn’t exist, like humans do, on the level of doing. He was able to live in the moment. Elmer took things as they were: his past didn’t make him bitter; he wasn’t afraid of the future and he didn’t have the fundamental belief that he was inferior, weak or incompetent. He didn’t live in his intellect but found all that he needed for his well-being in the moment. He didn’t wonder whether he should rest or go for a stroll in the yard or whether he should eat or not.
When Elmer ran into the neighbor’s dog in the street, he didn’t wonder whether he should run away or charge. Is that an enemy or not? Should I show five claws or all 10 or should I kick just to make sure? In Elmer, everything was in balance and he faced the world as it was. When he rested, he regained his strength, and when he sensed danger, he was ready to attack or flee depending on the message within. He simply was and gave everything permission when everything just happened how it was supposed to.
I was always good enough for Elmer. He never turned me down and he didn’t think my hands were too dirty when I wanted to stroke him. When he left me for the last time, fatally ill, I could clearly hear in these words in my ears, ”My task was to teach you independence, and the task is now completed. It’s time for me to go, but I will never leave you. You can connect with me whenever you want and I will help you. We’ll be friends for always.”