Much to be learned from a cat (and a cat doesn’t even try to teach you anything)

TUESDAY, 28 MAY 2013

Why do I write?

To serve a cause?

To try to win an argument?

To make a contribution?

I write, to a large extent, to say one thing: I was here.


“What am I doing?” I ask myself.

Would the guy in prison ask himself this question? If so, what would he answer? Would he answer, “Nothing, I’m in prison”?

Should the family man ask himself the question, he would surely answer, “I take care of my family.”

Is that enough? Is that good enough?

Ask the pastor or church minister or missionary, and they would answer, “I am doing God’s will.”

Easy. Shift the responsibility to God. “I’m just doing what I’m told.”

If the soldier asked himself the question, his answer would be similar to the religious person’s: a pre-formulated answer will be recited. With conviction.

Would the poor man or woman in the squatter camp say they are trying their best to get back on their feet again?

If the mother of two children in a war-torn area asked herself the question, it would certainly be quite reasonable if she answered: “At this point I do what I need to do to keep myself and my children safe and alive.”

What would she say if the guns fell silent?

How would the couple respond who returns to the ruins of their home after two years in a refugee camp?

What would the heroin addict say?

What would the alcoholic say when he has his first drink of the day, shortly after breakfast?

How would the unscrupulous businessman answer? Would he dismissively reply that he makes as much money as he can, as if you should have been able to guess the answer?

Would he really be satisfied with that? If he is reasonably intelligent, and if he thinks about things every now and then, and you sit for an hour with him at a coffee shop or lounge bar, what would his more comprehensive answer be?

What would the entrepreneur with a social conscience say?

How would the young politician answer who has not sold his soul yet?

How does the author, the artist, the actor, the playwright, the comedian answer?

If everyone has to dodge bullets or shrapnel, or if they wake up at night from hunger pains or cold or the call of a hungry loved one, everyone just reacts. If anyone in the area wants to take a moment to ask a philosophical question, he or she will probably be pushed aside. If you simply react every moment you are awake, the answer to what you are doing is obvious.

But what happens when you are not in immediate danger, and you have options to choose from before you act? What do you do then? And why that choice or action?


I look at the work I have to do, for my personal writings as well as for my commercial projects.

My rational brain says: I have to do it; otherwise nothing will come of all the work I have already done.

My emotional brain says: For every R100 I am going to put in in terms of time and effort, I will get back between five cents and R1. (“But I guess I have to do it; otherwise nothing will come of the work I have already done.”)


What does a cat do?

The cat did not ask to be born. The cat had no choice about its species or gender, or about the time, place or condition of its birth.

And yet, there it is.

What does the cat do with its daily existence? It tries to get through the day and night with as little tension as possible.

That’s the only thing that makes sense to it.