Friday, June 1, 2007

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, May 2007

A few days ago, my blogging pal JDZS posted an article on synchronicity, Jung's word for events that seem to indicate some underlying pattern in our existence. I told JDZS at the time that I thought our lives were chaotic, that there really is no underlying pattern or organization, but that humans often build one when they look back on unrelated events and find that they seem connected.

I'm doing exactly that this morning, as I look back on the past week. I mentioned my brother's dog Utah dying on Friday. But I didn't mention Sandino, the fluffy gray cat belonging to my friends John and Sue, who also died last week. And last night I learned that my friend Kevin's cat, the elegant and mischievous Sassafras, died yesterday.

None of these animals were young. But there's still a measure of shock that comes with the death of a pet, no matter its age, and the fact that I've known so many trustworthy companions who died within the past week does indeed seem like some kind of unhappy synchronicity.

These were the pets of our youth, the ones we adopted as we set up housekeeping in our post-college years (or in my brother's case, during college). Yesterday I mentioned my old cat Howard, who I adopted in college and who died a few years ago. My friend Sue lost a cat of similar age, Chester, around the same time.

The connection, the synchronicity, in all this is our own transition out of our young lives. We've all entered a new space, this odd place called middle age, and while it's not to be dreaded, it demands adjustment. Life is a continual evolution of gain and loss, and within the past few years we've all been saying goodbye to the remnants of our twenties. (Not to be premature, but my cat Armenia's recent illness is also an element of this.)

Buddha pointed out that loss is inevitable. When it happens, we can't cling. It's hard, but clinging only makes it worse. All we can do is open ourselves to the advancing years and face them with equanimity, remembering those who came with us as far as they could, and carrying them on as part of ourselves.


  1. Well ... but before the equanimity comes non-equanimity - grieving. It's part of getting back to balance, at least I think so. Grieving for the animals, yes, but also grieving for youthful days now gone forever, is normal at a time like this.

    I don't believe as a human I'm capable of saying for certain whether or not there are patterns or chaos in the big picture, but I do believe that every little thing and every large thing and everything that's ever happened is interconnected in such complex ways I'll certainly never understand them. Is that chaos or pattern? Don't ask me.

    Another thing I believe is that things happen in threes. Three dear pets passed over. May they rest in peace!

  2. Steve, I've thought that life is all chaos and that we humans are constantly struggling to find order in it. Religion, superstition, traditions, organizations, it is all about the illusion of control and order.

  3. Reya: Absolutely. Grieving is natural and essential. I certainly don't mean to imply we should not grieve.

    And while I believe in chaos, I also believe in interconnectedness - that chaos is all connected, actions breeding reactions, etc. Which I suppose negates the chaos to some extent. You're right - at what point does chaos become order??

    Merle: I think it's natural to try to see order in things. But control is an illusion, as you mentioned!

  4. Well put, Steve. Silly as it sounds, some of the hardest times in my life were when my pet rats died. Every two years, for three generations, a pair of rats would die (when one goes, the other doesn't last much longer), I'd grieve, and then get another pair.

    What attracted me most to Zen, I think, is that, while some other religions promise that you *do* have control, everything *does* happen for a reason, and you *will* live forever, Zen says: You have no control. All reasons are made-up. Everything dies. Now -- how do you want to live?

  5. The pic: it looks like the transom above the door is dented. I like the whole pic.

    It is hard to lose someone who is constantly making eye contact, giving you little nuzzles and kisses, and always wanting to sit in your lap. I lost a cat who used to get so excited when I came home that he'd do little jumps that sometimes looked like cartwheels--he was the most athletic cat ever. he died suddenly right by my side--so I didn't have to worry--did he suffer...etc..--but I also was in shock and misery for a long time--(he had an aneurism at age 4. --he was a one person cat--and I was the one person he adored--that made it very wrenching)

    I totally agree with Merle. I get so tired when people try to get me to attend church services--I want to scream--"It is a man-made construct!!!" but one must be polite.

  6. hey steve. A lovely thought, very well expressed.

    and in relation to animals, specifically - i think you might enjoy The Philosphers Dog by Raymond Gaita.


  7. oh! the friends i stayed with in the mountains had to have one of their siamese sisters put down yesterday as she had the feline version of hiv. she was only 8months bless her. they must be needing cats in heaven
    have a smooth weekend mate

  8. Jesse: Wow, you summed that up really well. I wish I'd said that!

    Ched: The transom is bent, and it says "323" in the windows, a common graffiti tag here. Sorry about your kitty. :(

    Lettuce: I will check that book out! And I never got back to you re. your dream -- yes, it is a prophecy! :)

    Pod: Indeed, it seems like the cats are being called home (as Oral Roberts used to say). Maybe it's the cat rapture??

  9. Well, thanks for the mention (*WINK*) - but you neglected to say that I expanded on your commentary - by adding that, in true Zen fashion, chaos IS perfect order, and thus randomness IS syncronicity. ;-) There is an embrace of opposites that is required of wholeness - you cannot have randomness without non-randomness. It is impossible. Usually when I say such things I just elicit blank stares - but it makes perfect sense to me.

  10. cat rapture, hahaha! imagine all that purrrrrring

  11. ooh it would be deafening letty!