my teacher

What if an enlightened being lives in a cat?

Unconditional love. That is what I learn from Duster more than anything. Losing the self through caring for the other.

There are many other lessons learned through careful observation of a super human observer, but love beyond bounds is the most liberating.

Curiosity over fear is another powerful lesson. The default nature to explore, inspect, learn, and test. Interacting with the world around you as much as possible, and learning from it all. Liberation from suffering after liberation from fear.

Duster’s earthly body failed him the morning of August 16, 2022. To the extent his essence is recalled, and lived, he can be spoken in present tense. English class informs us characters in stories are always present tense, because the story is always happening. In these stories, he is the cat.

Over a little more than 18 years, I formed my closest friendship ever with a semi wild predator, evolved to roam about 4 acres with precision awareness, whose most recent ancestors survived on the streets of Baltimore. As I connect with the common spirit within, I notice the biggest similarities, and differences between some hardware derived behavior. The cat’s physics engine is super human. Balance, awareness, and physical control are all much better in cats, than humans. General pattern recognition, in terms of understanding sights, sounds, time of day, physical cues, and anticipating what comes next are mostly human level, probably slightly above human. Planning ahead, and solving multi-step problems is what’s really holding back the feline species. Not getting over certain obstacles that would require only one, non obvious intermediary step. Lack of opposable thumbs will forever cloud the answer to why the cat hasn’t unlocked the front door, despite clearly identifying the lock as a necessary step.

Emotional intelligence is where Duster is most human. Someone who experiments on animals might disagree, and say I am projecting, or anthropomorphizing. Duster would say anyone who believes that is covering a guilty conscience. How do any of us understand what anyone is feeling? Careful observation, and pattern recognition is how even though a cat can’t put it into words, a cat can understand you better than some people. If you feel better because you know your cat will know how you feel, is that the observer effect? If your cat shows distress to change your behavior, what is that called?

Observation, and awareness itself is the cat’s constant lesson. What is my teacher aware of? Being completely present. Being the moment. Senses converge to a super awareness beyond the most advanced human weapons systems. The cat knows everything moving in its vicinity, knows what it is, where it is, and if it poses a threat. The cat is inputting probably 10x the situational awareness data, and then devoting at least 10x the brain power to making sense of it vs the typical human out for a stroll. The cat uses cover, and concealment better than the special forces. When moving through unfamiliar territory, the cat will follow the path most concealed, and defensible from larger objects, and spend time scouting from fortresses of opportunity before advancing.

For anyone choosing to entertain the idea of enlightenment, liberation, or reincarnation, this collection of stories will tell the Dharma of Duster. If an enlightened spirit lived as a cat, what might you learn? Can a cat be more enlightened than a person? Does duality always matter? Is choosing what to see in others an expression of enlightenment? Can clear wrong action teach right action?

These stories are written to my eight year old, and eighty year old selves.

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