“A Philosopher Needs a Cat"

Lola, our cat, is curled up beside me on the sofa. My wife is also napping on the sofa. And I am having a cup of tea, appreciating the value of Silence.

"A Philosopher Needs a Cat" is a chapter from a book called Breakfast at the Victory, which I read a long time ago. The author, a Professor of Philosophy at a New York University and a Zen practitioner, heard the words as a casual comment by a friend when the cat "escaped" the apartment and was curious about the elevator. The author turned the remark into a memorable reflection on language, and the "language" of non-human animals such as the cat, and Silence, and "suchness." I reflect on such issues to this day, perhaps amplifying (internally) to include the language of trees, the metaphor of tree-sprites or tree spirits, the nature of Spirit and it’s relationship to the Spirit and spirits of nature… And right now, it is "right action" to keep my happy, thoughtful, playful mood in silence, with an occasional scratch behind Lola’s ears, leaving my wife to sleep in peace. As a family member once said, “Sleep is Sacred…”

One of my spiritual teacher’s descriptions for moving from reflection to meditation is "soak it in silence." Another commentary, also heard long ago, spoke of the language of wolves and dogs, and then of the language of trees… and I often listen to the tree near the back deck, especially before and after meditation, inviting my mind’s usual chatter to quiet towards silence…

Right now, if I listen, I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, the distant traffic sounds, an occasional dog bark. And if I listen with imagination, I can extend my attention to the voices of trees, the fast pace of microbes in my gut, the silence (I wonder?) of molecules and atoms with the vast inner space they include, the silence of outer space ("the music of the spheres") ranging from orderly orbiting planets to vast exquisite dances of galaxies…

All these amazing languages open to me, if I listen… I may not understand them, at least at first, but I have had the exhilarating experience of learning human languages, new to me, by immersion, by attentive listening, accompanied by bumbling, courageous, fun attempts to point and speak...

And behind and beneath it all, the "space between two notes” (Rilke), the vast creativity of "In the Beginning was the Word," the original "Ohm," the Tao, that which perhaps exists before the Big Bang, “before the dawn of time" (C.S. Lewis), the mystery of Silence...

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Peaslee DuMont

Peaslee DuMont

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