It’s not just for Alicia Silverstone, anymore.
Richard Parker lives at the shelter. He is a big, buff-colored boy with a loud purr and bright, wide eyes that stay engaged. They lock on and follow you with a sense of what feels like intense curiosity. I always have the idea he is trying very hard to learn whatever it is he is watching me do. When he looks at you with his pale green eyes, you feel you have been well and truly seen. If no one else notices you all day and all the night and all the next day, if Richard Parker has seen you, you have been fixed in the universe.
Richard Parker was left by his family. Before he was left at the shelter, he was not fed very well and not treated nicely. They even cut off all of his front toes. And just like the book for which he is named, his view seems to be, “You must take life the way it comes to you. And make the best of it.”
You know what Richard Parker does? He purrs. Yep. He leans his head into your hand and rubs with gusto. Pick him up and hold him to your chest. He will push his big orange face against you and purr. Why? God knows. He likes us. Inexplicably, graciously, unfailingly, he likes us.
This creature who has been so badly used by the world has decided to act “as if” he never has any expectation except the world will treat him well.
So I was thinking about acting “as if.”
Maybe one way that looks is not holding grudges.
Buddhist priest Pema Chodron says it like this: The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it. When someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion.
It’s hard not to hold grudges against people who treat animals badly like those who harmed our Richard Parker. But nursing that anger may be wasted energy. Richard Parker has moved on. Maybe we should try.
What if acting “as if” changes things?
It’s a small thing but it is surprisingly energizing and encouraging. And when you think about it, what is everything but a collection of small things?
And it can’t hurt. A cat doesn’t have to be named Schroedinger to get it.
“According to the rules of quantum mechanics, our observations influence the universe at the most fundamental levels. From the quantum perspective, the universe is an extremely interactive place.” So how much does what we bring to the table matter? I don’t think anyone truly knows that. And that’s where acting “as if” it matters comes into play. For Richard Parker, that looks like purring and giving head butts…anyway. It looks like always being up for a game of fetch and even, like his tiger counterpart, loving to play in water.
Maybe for you that looks like not running around in a panic declaring disaster. Maybe it means trying something new–opening your heart to a new human or a new animal companion. It might mean treating whatever makes up your day as if you invited it there. Then see what comes of not pushing against it. Kind of like a surfer must paddle out to a wave to get on top of it, paddle out. It doesn’t mean you may not fall off. But you have to paddle out to be in the game. And the top of the wave is where all the fun is.
What if we radically “Richard Parker” the next week of our lives?
It’s a process.
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”
Assume the best. Think about how the physics of making a choice may be on our side. Set an intention. You really don’t know what you could change. Did Richard Parker’s intention create Friends For Life as he knows it? As he crashes his head into my mouse and purrs right now I think maybe he did. I’d be honored to have been dreamed up by a cat.
If you act as if you welcome every single second of the week as if it were a friend, a funny thing happens after not too much time. It starts to feel like you do welcome more of it. And your days start to feel more like a companion you chose than a “to do list” or a white knuckle extreme challenge.
So there’s a big orange guru here at the shelter. He’s passing out free head butts, soothing purrs and taking a look into our soul every day. He is warmth, patience, hope and forgiveness with a stripey tail. He is a living, moving breath prayer reminding us that we have a choice and maybe… that we have unfathomable power.
Most miraculously, for one of you readers, but only one, he can be the guru who lives with you. And you two can “Richard Parker” the world together.
Yea, he likes dogs, too.