Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tintin & Schopenhauer

What does Tintin think about when sitting alone above my pillow in the dark? I found out that life can be easier if you find the right philosopher to answer such questions for you. Schopenhauer (1788-1860) believed that cats live for the moment, the present. They never reminisce about the past nor contemplate the future. That's why, he said, they are placid and contented. Unlike people, who impose unnecessary burdens upon their lives, fretting over past mistakes and scheming to set the future right, to catch the bluebird of happiness, to find the Rainbow Connection.

Tintin wakes up while it's still dark, goes to the food bowl and eats, licks and grooms herself, jumps onto the bed and lightly nudges my arm to see if I'm awake. Sometimes I wake up a little late and see her sitting on the pillow, just right over my head, looking patiently at me. I greet her and we snuggle for warmth; she purrs in delight while she sits on my tummy and I stroke her back and tickle her chin. We live for the moment: yesterday was a cancelled ticket, the present is the future unfolding second after second after second: a new present for each cancelled past. Life with a cat can be so simple and at the same time metaphysically complex.

And it is the inclination of great philosophers like Schopenhauer (hereafter simply referred to as Arthur) to make the complex as simple as possible, to make the elegant seem quotidian. To make us understand; to cast pearls before swines, so to speak. Arthur was the Great Pessimist, but not the type to see life as a glass half-empty -- to him the world is a glass full to the brim, of suffering and pain, where misfortune in general is the rule. Happiness, of course, is the exception. Happiness is merely a brief achievement of contentment, a temporary cessation of endurance or pain. Not a happy day in our life will pass untainted by the spice of sorrow, mischance, even dissatisfaction.

Certainly Arthur, a thinking man, wears the mask of tragedy; he bequeaths comedy to carpetbaggers, money-seekers, kings, pawns and bishops -- "to the crowd of miserable wretches whose one aim in life is to fill their purses but never to put anything into their heads." Yet Arthur was not a man of dark design who took delight in misery. He was blunt, he was honest, but he was not dreary. If one of life's purposes is redemption from ignorance of evil, Arthur redeemed himself by this endearing statement: "The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole!"

Using Arthur's elegant mode of expression, I say, "Tintin finds herself suddenly existing, after thousands and thousands of years of non-existence: she lives for a little while; and then, again, comes to an equally long period when she must exist no more." What applies to my playful Persian applies to the whole existence of the universe. We are made of stardust: life is cosmic.

Tintin exists, therefore she thinks. Arthur believes that Tintin my pet, with less mental complexities and expectations than humans, does not suffer boredom. Still I wonder, when Tintin sits by my side in the dark, if she can anticipate the pleasure of play when I wake up. Arthur believes that creatures like Tintin does not possess man's power of reflection, memory and foresight: in short, Tintin simply wants to play, she does not reflect that I am the chosen companion, a bigger creature she can trust and approach without fear of harm; she has no memory of yesterday's pleasure, no anticipation to meet again at daybreak tomorrow. The philosopher, in this case, is way off the mark. I believe Arthur, in his long existence, had missed the good fortune of being loved and trusted by a cat, of understanding the silent communications between a human and another species, of the enduring memories of paws and hands meeting in affection. But, in case Arthur is right, that Tintin will in a short time outgrow the playful moments and memories, then I abide. Still, Tintin will stay in my mind. We have met, and I will not forget.

November 3: Yesterday two good people have decided to share their life with Tintin in their home. It is a comfortable life, with the right food, toys, a Ragdoll playmate, a scratch post, and a great expectation that her nine lives will be blissful. Live long and prosper, Tintin my lovely.

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