Don’t Take It Personally, Or, What I Learned From My Cat

This is the Era of Taking Things Personally. On the news, over the web, in the street, the famous and the ordinary are all taking things personally which they shouldn’t. Instead of reasoned, intelligent discourse, we have insults, name-calling, and a lot of really tacky drama in our personal lives.

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You know what I’m talking about. I’m not the first to mention this, and I know that you know that to divide a family, a community, a nation, a world into churning emotional cauldrons of ill will is not good mojo. I also recognize and acknowledge, however, the deliciously irresistible urge to put that social media troll (formerly a trusted friend like forever ago) who lacks our own discernment and intelligence, in his or her place with a well-directed incisive barb or six. I’ve done it myself a few times. It feels SO GOOD—until they answer back. (They always do. I believe it’s a state law). And then, of course, you “get into it.”

So before we jump on that trolley, let’s take a lesson from my cat.

And then the generalities follow: “You people.” “All of you are alike." And from there, it’s just a short ride to lumping: Liberals, Conservatives, Jews, Right, Left, Foreigners, Muslims, Mexicans, Sikhs, Scientologists, Catholics, Canadians (well, actually, not Canadians: everybody loves Canadians). Lots of lumping. And from lumping, it’s just a few more whistle stops, take a sharp turn at the corner and you’re in Hate-Land.

So before we jump on that trolley, let’s take a lesson from my cat. Yesterday while pursuing her usual research in the pantry she happened upon a moth trap. You know, the kind that have a sticky substance that catches the pesky insects and inflicts upon them the tortuous death they so richly deserve. Only this time it caught my cat, who emitted some distinctly uncatlike sounds, tumbled out of the pantry, engaged in ferocious combat with the gluey thing and finally separated herself from it, the moth trap claiming victory and making off with a few tufts of fur as spoils of war.

Did my cat rail and hiss and cry foul? Did she come bawling to me about that infernal moth trap, and about how all such traps are a blight upon our way of life and that they should be banned forever from her house? Did she take pen in paw and rant out her anti-moth trap venom on Facebook and Twitter? No. She simply trotted off, licked herself a bit and then resumed her research (now targeting my incomplete tax filings as a subject).

My point is she didn’t take it personally. She actually didn’t take it at all. She stayed calm and reasoned and level-headed. My cat has always been that way. She’s loving, but you have to earn her love (cat food and laser pointers help). If she has to engage in something in order to survive or to simply make a point, she will do so, but there’s nothing personal involved. No generalities or lumping needed.

We should all learn from my cat. She seems happy enough.


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