I have a cat named Golum (Frodo's nemesis from The Lord of the Rings) that I took in as a favor for a professor at the college (allergies). I've written about this cat before, and somewhere on this blog I probably have a picture of him. He's a beautiful cat, agreeable and sweet, but he has his peculiarities. He doesn't want to eat out of the food bowls, for example; he wants to eat out of the container where I store the food, so, at least four times a day, I have to open the pantry and the container and let him eat until he's through. A pain, yes, but each of my cats has his/her own peculiar behaviors, so he fits right in.
He has one other annoying habit--he catches and kills birds. Well, he catches and kills rats, too, but I don't mind that. I always hope I have at least one good mouser/ratter. But killing birds is another thing.
This morning, I woke up around 8:30am and stumbled to the kitchen to start the ritual--make the coffee, fill the food bowls, open the pantry for Golum...but, no! Kill number four was flopping around on my kitchen rug, or, rather, Golum was tossing it around the same way the character Golum slapped the wriggling fish around in the movie. Little fluffy underfeathers flew around the kitchen (took quite a while to sweep them up). I grabbed Golum, who was growling like a dog with a bone, and put him out the back door. I watched the other cats circle him, and, I imagine, Golum continued growling, even as he wolfed down the bird, feet and all.
He hasn't whined for the food container tonight, so he must still be full.
I understand, to some extent, how nature works. Worms eat dirt, birds eat worms, cats eat birds, and, once in a while, a coyote comes on the property and eats a cat, or a stray dog runs a cat to death (not necessarily to eat it). So I'm not naive enough to think my cats won't do what they instinctively know they should.
My cat's behavior, though, makes me wonder how much of human behavior is programmed in--murder, war, love, sex, lying, whatever. Do I do what I do because it's coded into my DNA? I can't count the number of times I've done things without giving a thought to them. But, sometimes, I stop and ask myself, "Why did you just do that?" and I can't give myself an answer. I don't know for sure, but I hope I'm not living by instinct.
I came across a poem by Mary Oliver (one of my favorite modern poets), entitled "When Death Comes," and she reminded me of the importance of conscious living--always approaching the world with amazement and wonder. Here are the last lines of the poem (but find it and read the whole thing!):
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.