So I said, earlier this morning (“Projection, Introjection”): I want out! of the Projection racket. I want to learn to Listen instead. And with Bugs, truly, I have very little, really no, idea how to do that.
So remember what Roger Scruton said about “scrupulous optimists”? (“A Dash of Tropics,” 1/9.) About how his midwife – that paragon of virtue and veritas – would “consult the existing store of knowledge and authority”?
I’ve found an “existing store of knowledge and authority” I like. It’s Life With 4 Cats, http://lifewith4cats.wordpress.com/
I appreciate that the human behind it – Sara – trains her focus and expertise on feline health plus psychology. I trust her because she’s said a few things that jive with my own experience as a FELDENKRAIS practitioner – for example, about how human and cat feet and leg-bones were designed to walk on forgiving surfaces like leaves and grass, and not so much on concrete, tile, so forth.
So I was really glad to read what she says about the stark difference between what we think we’re saying to cats, and what they might be hearing instead.
Again – to keep focusing (I’m turning over a new leaf here), I repeat: This blog is about interpreting what Another Being is saying. It’s about Listening. It’s about applying the Five-Part Test, to generate some Love. (Bugs’s Excellent Adventure, 12/16; Love for Other Species, 12/13)
And here’s how that Five-Part Test works, boiled down, this time, into two elements:
(Consult Empathy category-button, on the right.)
So I’m very glad to find Sara sharing her “store of knowledge and authority.” I’m especially glad. Because I myself have such a long, habitual history of indifference and negation or worse. Because there are so very many inherent differences between Bugs and me. Because these circumstances challenge me, they invite me, so often, to drop into Projection-Land, instead of Listening.
This morning I applied Sara’s advice to conversing with Bugs. I’m excited to report that I may have found some experiential data to support her recommendations.
Sara writes on her blog about a misunderstanding between her mother and Sara’s cat. (“See Mom Come,” 1/6/11.) The misunderstanding goes like this:
Mom to Cat: “Oh you are S-S-O-O- S-W-E-E-E-T-T! what a S-P-P-eSHHHal boy you are. look how S-S-SWeeTT he iS-S-S.”
Cat According to Sara: “Of course he is afraid. She marches into his territory and then tells him she is going to take it over and not just drive him away, but KILL him if he tries to stop her. He just sits there with eyes gone big with fear and I can tell he has gone white under his fur.”
Doesn’t that just make you wanna holler?
So the first thing I realized is maybe I shouldn’t be calling Bugs Bugsss. Maybe I should be calling him Boo-Boo. Buggy. Bee-Bop. Boo-Ga-Loo. Bunny. Bugley. (Guilty as charged. Many times. In the privacy of our home, just between him and me.) I mean, I can keep calling him Bugs in print here – but not to his face, maybe not so much.
The second thing Sara advises is: The word “meow” might be a favorite with cat-commercial copywriters, but it’s not what cats say to each other. If they want to do some Love-generating, they say to each other – once, softly – “p-r-r-r-t.”
So I tried that with Bugs. Here’s how it went.
Bugs: [flops over on his side and looks up. Adoringly? Why not? Ordinarily he doesn’t flop over on his side unless he wants to play – and he rarely flops over in the place where he was. Plus, I think he responded to what I said. I think I’m talking causation and not correlation. (Nov. 30). Plus usually he flops over only when he feels like it and to be honest, lately he hasn’t apparently felt like flopping over as often as I’d like to see.]
So I’m excited. I’m cautiously optimistic, as my dear dad used to say. Not to say, just yet, scrupulously optimistic – not just yet. Let’s first see if we can replicate these results. Sara warns not to p-r-r-r-t Bugs too often. Might wear it out.
And what did Bugs say about all this?
— “snark” —