I was asked to make sure the household cat remains in eyesight at all times today as she’s reached an age that cats do, whereupon they have a tendency to wonder off, finding a cosy spot to die without a fuss. She’s not been eating much all week, this snow white feline, sleeping for most of the day almost defeated by the heat. She sits in the shade in the garden, or rather, she flops to the stone and sits there immovable. If anyone tries to approach she attacks and hisses at the disturbance.
It’s made me quite reflective however on the nature of my own demise at the end of my own journey. Would I have a similar dignity or would there be people around to watch the rather normal event. It made me wonder too on the reaction of death and how death impacts the survivors more than the dying with the cat being a microcosm of the observation. While the cat is disinterested and ambivalent to its own passing, its almost a expectation to not have the same reaction. After all, our minds are far more evolved than the cats, surely it would make sense for us to mourn and grieve unlike them. Yet are they not more evolved than us in this philosophy? Seeing death as a part of life and the natural conclusion to their experience rather than a grand sadness. Yet we feel it all the same.
I was reading a post on Reddit the other day that said about control not rejecting emotions when the come to never allow them to overtake you or overwhelm you. It’s perhaps why the stoic Jedi philosophy leans into this and why it has become so misunderstood in both the real world ethos of stoicism and the fictional one of Star Wars. Of course there is sadness at the end of a life, as there is any sadness at the end of any chapter or any journey but we are not to be disabled by the emotion as it is our duty as living animate beings to continue to walk the path. As someone’s comes to an end, or they begin a new journey, what else is there to do but pause, reflect on the good and keep going?
The lessons we learn and the memories we keep from those who’s journey has ended are what keeps us smiling even after they go and when we feel that loss. It’s like the funny stories and the laughter that lightens the skies at a wake following a cremation. Of course, there will be tears of sadness but also joy, and neither should be a thing to oppress us in our own journey. Would the deceased want for us, that morbid existence too? A waking death, fixating on what isn’t rather that what is there in each continual moment of our lives. I know for a fact, my cat wouldn’t give a shit what I do, but that’s besides the point.
Of course our friend Marcus Aurelius had some things to say about death. Rather blunt if you ask me with little nuance about the greater human condition and expectations from others. Yet perhaps it was not expectations of others that he held in high regard but expectations in those he called stoics. As someone who calls myself this, I like to think I meet those standards but it’s always a work in progress. Ironically my own death does not concern me or worry me but the death of others, well, I’d prefer not to test my resolve yet I know ultimately whether I prefer or not that time will come as it does for all of us.
“Do not despise death: welcome it, rather, as one further part of nature’s will. Our very dissolution is just like all the other natural processes of life’s seasons being – like youth and old age, growth and maturity, development of teeth and beard and grey hair, insemination, pregnancy, and childbirth. In the educated attitude to death, then, there is nothing superficial or demanding or disdainful: simply awaiting it as one of the functions of nature. And just as you may no be waiting for the child your wife carries to come out of the womb, so you should look forward to the time when your soul will slip this bodily sheath.” – Meditations 9.3
One day I will be tested again as I have before, this time I wonder if I shall uphold my philosophy…
The cat returned, sat smugly on the kitchen tiles. I couldn’t help but smile.