I was given a Mayo Clinic Health Letter on Mindfulness by my friend and colleague Bob Bamford. These little packets of information seemed to arrive when I needed a jolt of wisdom.
Mindfulness involves learning to live in the present moment. The problem is that most of us want the “Calgon-moment,” to be beautiful, sublime and serene. When the moment we are supposed to infuse with mindfulness arrives like an ill-timed adolescent erection, our sense of deep calm quickly runs to retrieve a pharmacy dispensed tranquilizer.
The difficulty is to remain relaxed and dignified even while the proverbial shit-hits-the-designer-fan. Take last week for example, when a touch of samsara arrived to disrupt my day. I came home to scenes that would be suited in a David Cronenberg film. My son Noah, who was playing with Lego, stood up and began to projectile vomit. It did not help that he devoured a whole container of blueberries minutes before the horrific gush.
Giles, our thirteen year old manic depressive orange cat, clearly still pissed off at our recent acquisition of our Border Collie/American Eskimo puppy, choose to document his displeasure by defecating on the white bedspread along with strategically urinating in the corner of the room where the radiator was situated. You can imagine the resulting stink. Maggie, our fifteen year old tabby cat, faithfully keeping the rhythm of this ejective symphony in place, contributed with a solo performance of hairball hubris.
It was not a matter of Giles not being able to hold his remains any longer. He was clearly sending a message by dropping his internal matter on many different spots on the bedspread. With great artistic flair, reminiscent of the Italian artist Piero Manozni who canned his own excrement to be sold at great cost to the New York elite, Giles was telling us in no uncertain terms that he hated Savvy the dog and that he would continue to stain every square inch of the house until the dog went back to the farm. Suzanne thought that spraying Giles with pheromones would help his regal discontent. The herbal mixture seemed to work. Giles didn’t stain the bed just the basement floor, inches away from the litter-box, as if to send us a clear message. Perhaps we need to call our friend Karen who is a cat-whisperer of sorts.
Savvy the dog thought that Giles the cat had left his feline remainders for her. Apparently cat feces are a delicacy for canines. Who would of have known? Cesar Milan did not tell us about this gustatory delinquency. Savvy proceeded to consume the material with the gusto of a caviar starved socialite. She then proceeded to lovingly lick Giles as a gesture of profound thanks. Giles of course proceeded to beshit the couch cushions and against his better judgement, he conditioned the dog better than Pavlov’s bell.
In my disgust at this display of Dionysian frenzy I tried to invoke an Apollonian order. I thought about the manner in which the body reveals itself for what it really is, namely, a leaky vessel filled with in-human components that are beyond our ability to control. Our rationality sets up a scaffold that attempts to keep this nether-world at bay. But as Freud clearly showed, what is repressed always manages to rupture the confines of our cultural containers and our aesthetic conventions. While the Buddha would remind us that there is great wisdom to be found in these animal misdemeanours I find no solace in the dharma of excretion.
It does not help to call upon the physicists who will tell us that the shit I am cleaning up is actually a constant flow of electrons, protons and other atomic particles. Really I say, it is nothing more than atomic particles thinking about how some atomic particles do not smell so great. Here I will defer to the wisdom of the cartoon show, Kid vs. Kat. Cats really are evil aliens. Here, in my house though, there is no all-conquering hero or heroine to save the day. The day does not need saving even if the floor still needs to be wiped clean.
Tags: Bob Bamford, Border Collie American Eskimo, Cesar Milan, David Cronenberg, home, New York, Piero Manozni, work