My wife has a cat named Rascal. He and I tolerate each other.
Rascal wakes me up in the early morning to the sound of him upchucking hairballs on our white bedroom carpet. His 5 a.m. alley cat cries pour down my spine like a bucket of ice-cold water poured over my sleepy head as he demands I get up and feed him.
When I do get up after pounding the pillow with my fist wishing he’d stop his incessant wailing, I all too often feel a squish between my toes as my foot comes into contact with the warm hairball of bile he deposited on the white carpet moments ago.
Rascal is my teacher.
He teaches me to accept the imperfections of life—his and mine. My imperfection, my messiness includes the fact that after several years of this early morning ritual I still haven’t learned to be patient. I still haven’t learned that I can’t continue to expect perfection of him or myself or of others.
Rascal is teaching me the virtue of wholeness. Wholeness—the flip side of perfection—allows me to be compassionate with both my impatience and with his bodily functions. Wholeness teaches me to accept the fact that nothing in life is perfect. Rather it is our messiness, our holey-ness that is part of our being, part of what it means to be perfectly human on the pathway toward becoming wholly divine.
When I look at Rascal through the lens of him as my teacher, my angst fades into humor. I lighten up. I laugh at him and myself, and look instead towards the wisdom I’m being taught. And when I stop expecting Rascal and I to be perfect, I also learn to stop judging others and accept them for who they are.
Maybe our life’s experiences, each of the people and creatures we come into contact with daily, are our teachers. They help us grow and become more fully human. Perhaps the Creator chose to put messy cats, and imperfect people, including ourselves, into this world teaching us how to live with unconditional love.
brian j plachta