All real enjoyment is as good, from the point of view of energy production and conservation, as suffering. —J.G. Bennett


My place is where I am, and your place is where you are. Not only have I got to bear my own situation, I have to bear your situation also. First of all I have to bear the truth about myself and little by little I have to bear all truths —J.G. Bennett


Waking up to Life

By Isaac Owen Richardson

I wake up late after hitting the snooze button several times, wishing I could sleep longer. I force myself up with a quick motion, literally jumping out of the bed, so I can't be tempted to go back. It's too late to do a full-length morning meditation, so I sit for five minutes.

Swiftly, I go downstairs, make tea in a travel mug, put yoghurt, granola, and sliced banana into a yoghurt container, and carry it all to the car so I can eat on the go. I feel tired, dull, and lifeless. There is no feeling of meaning or a sense of purpose behind any of my morning actions. It's just routine and simply what I have to do.

I'm heading to the elementary school where I teach music. I've procrastinated, yet again, and haven't prepared my lesson plans, so I start to think about each class and what I want to present to them. As I'm driving, and definitely speeding, I see a small and unmoving black figure in the distance, lying in the middle of the road.

At first, I figure it's a dead wild animal—maybe a porcupine or skunk. Unfortunately, that's a pretty common sight on New England back roads. But as I get closer, I see it's not a wild animal at all, but a house cat. And it's dead.

As I drive past it, the first thought that I have is, "That's really unfortunate and I hope someone at least takes it off the road so it doesn't get run over another time and look even more gruesome than it already does."  At the same time I'm also thinking, "I would do it myself if I had more time, but I'm already unprepared and need the extra amount of time at the school before my classes."

I'm not very far away, and that sight is still weighing heavily on my mind. Something makes me turn the car around and head back toward the cat. I'm almost surprised at my sudden decision. I go back and park near the cat and put the car's hazard lights on.

 I knock on the door of the nearest residence to see if it's their cat, but no one answers. There happens to be a shovel leaning up against the wall next to the door, so I take it and walk over to move the cat out of the road.

The cat is all in one piece and it looks to be a healthy cat with a shiny black coat. My first impulse is to check to see if it is still alive but the blood around its head, absence of breathing, and pink tongue sticking out say otherwise. It's difficult to get the shovel to slide under its body, but I finally manage, and I take it to the edge of the lawn on the side of the road.

Just then the door where I had knocked open and a tall middle-aged woman comes out, sees the cat, and asks calmly and sympathetically, "Did you hit her?"

I explain that I had found the cat and just wanted to get her out of the road. I also tell the woman I'm sorry for her loss. Gracefully, and with an air of understanding and sadness, she says, "Don't worry; the same thing happened to a couple of our other cats. It's just a bad area to let cats outdoors."  I give her my condolences and head back to my car. I turn around, drive off, and the whole world is different.

The trees and hills are deeply beautiful. I don't feel the need to automatically check my phone or listen to music. The worries about my classes and lesson plans are gone. I am just there.

My mom also works at the school where I teach. Usually, when I arrive I go straight to my room to prepare my classes. But this time, even with less time to prepare than usual, I find myself going to my mom's office and giving her a great embrace. There is a mutual appreciation that is felt through our connection.

Just then, I realize that she has needs just like me or anyone else. I see that most of the time I'm in my own world and considering my own emotions and needs, and I assume everyone else is doing fine. But this connection reminds me that there is a whole inner world going on inside other people as well, and that existence is infinitely greater and more vibrant when it's bigger than me.  I walk out to go to my music room and meaning has come back into my life.

We are all so lucky. We tend to think we are lucky for a reason, such as our family, friends, or faith. But we are lucky simply to be alive—to be connected to everything that is, ever was, and ever will be, through this force of life.

The question is, Why am I alive, and how can I live a life full of meaning? I have an alarm clock to wake up from sleep, but how do I wake up to life?

I have a hunch that remembering this dead cat is pointing in the right direction.