Randy’s Corner Nov/Dec 2011

Hi! How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was great. We had Mixed Grill instead of turkey which is okay by me. Jane had tofu turkey. Yuck! I don’t know how she can eat that stuff.

Something happened the other day that sent me to the Rule to answer this question –

How much should we try to rearrange things around us if certain things aren’t to our liking?

While I was intent on washing my front left paw, I heard this really odd scraping noise. “Scra-a-ape. Sca-a-a-a-pe.” Turning towards another “Sc-c-c-r-a-a-ape,” I saw Ricky, our youngest community member in age and tenure, with paw curled around the top of a cat bed, pulling the bed across the floor! Not only that – Mickey was in the bed, half asleep and oblivious to his free ride. My guess is that Ricky had been in the bed with Mickey and when John started pumping iron, Ricky had decided that the bed was too close to all this activity and moved it more than a yard!

This is what got me to thinking about how much we should meddle in things – our surroundings, situations that aren’t to our liking, the behaviors or foibles of other cats…or even the foibles of other people.

In the fourth step of humility I found that Benedict asks us to accept things that are difficult or unfavorable and to be patient. He says we are to “endure it without weakening or seeking escape.” (RB 7.35-36) I know that I’m not good at this. If meals don’t come at the appropriate time I get really annoyed and turn up to full volume my “alms for the poor – alms for the poor” mew. Then, in the chapter on the Reception of Visiting Monks, RB 61, Benedict says that a visitor is not to make excessive demands that upset members of the community but is to be “simply content with what she or he finds.” (RB 61.1-3). Good advice for us as we visit friends and family for the holidays, right?

Jane needs to reread these parts of the Rule. When John told her about Ricky’s interior redecorating, she couldn’t believe it. I think that she should be a little less incredulous, however, and assess if she is “simply content with what she finds.” I’ve seen Jane refolding the towels that John has already folded, and turning the flame down when he’s cooking tofu scramble. Then I’ve seen her then turn the flame up when he’s cooking Chinese with the wok. I have it from a good source that on her last train ride she changed her seat three times before settling in on the “right one.” I know these aren’t big things but I know they aren’t the only things. Perhaps a tune-up on humility and accepting things as they are might be in order.

Benedict is not saying that you and I should never make suggestions or try to change things. He explains that a “reasonable criticism or observation” may be shared, but the sharing is to be done “with all humility and love.” As you or I are moved to make a suggestion, we are to be motivated less by wanting to control and more by wanting to be helpful and loving. Jane has barked at me for chasing Marcy. In the great book Why the Rule of St. Benedict is Not Only for Humans, Scholastica Muffin, O.S.B.F. (Order of St. Benedict Feline) quotes Benedictine scholar Terrence Kardong saying, “when it [the truth or the suggestion] is proffered ‘calmly and with loving humility,’ it is more palatable.” It sure would be more palatable to me!

I think too often we go overboard on our drive to “drag the cat bed” somewhere else, literally and figuratively, when it would have been just fine where it was. It takes humility to decide when and how to offer those observations. First and foremost Benedict encourages us to respect one another and to put up with one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior (RB 72.4-5).

When I don’t accept things as they are I’m certainly not peaceful inside. Instead I’m forever plotting and scheming about how to change something. Truth is, Ricky looked pretty agitated as he dragged that bed; and he had to work awfully hard. When we approach life with an intent to rearrange whatever we don’t like we miss opportunities to experience or learn something new through something different. If Ricky had stayed in that bed with Mickey right where it was, he could have used the clank when the barbell was returned to its holder as a reminder to be thankful that he had a cat bed at all and a friendly, warm friend to share it with.

So the next time you want to jump in and rearrange something or even someone else’s life, be a little flexible. Pause before you decide to “drag the cat bed”. Be gentle and kind with your observation. My guess is that you will be a lot happier and more fun to be with, too.

Have a wonderful Christmas and remember to give special treats to your animal friends!

Your feline friend,

 

 

P.S. Sr. Scholastica Muffin cited Terrence Kardong’s book Day By Day with Saint Benedict (Collegeville Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2005).

 

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