A fascinating study of cat-human relations, with feline tips on how to live the good life.
English philosopher and cat lover John Gray writes that to achieve greater happiness, we should emulate our feline friends. Where humans are restless and never at ease, our inner voices incessant with conflicting thoughts and desires, cats are happy simply being who they are. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal famously wrote, “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly alone in a room”. Cats can achieve this feat with astonishing ease, sitting contentedly in one position for hours on end. We envy cats this ability, says Gray, and that's why we like them so much.
Feline Philosophy is divided into six chapters, each dealing with cat related themes such as human-feline relationships, why cats don't struggle trying to be happy and how cats are wise enough to simply live according to their own nature. An early chapter gives a quick history of cats, their first entering human settlements and protecting grains from rodents, to a shocking Medieval antipathy to cats that saw them killed and tortured. Gray wraps things up with ten feline hints on how to live a good life. Hint four tells the reader, “It is better to be indifferent to others than to feel you have to love them.”
The title of this book may sound too whimsical for some. Rest assured, Gray deals with some weighty themes, such as death, the nature of being, our divided selves and the endless self-torture caused by being a conscious, self-reflecting being, full of tormenting inner voices. The text is filled with in depth analyses of great writers, contemporary and ancient, from Aristotle and Montaigne to Colette and Mary Gaitskill, and at only 110 pages, there is endless food for thought.
A cheerful and stimulating guide to life.
Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life, by John Gray. Allen Lane $39.99.
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books