If you're looking for spiritual guidance -- and you don't happen to be picky about where you find it -- check out "The Dogma of Cats: Feline Philosophies for a Fulfilling Life" by Deb Snyder.
In a news release for her book, Snyder claims genuine value in looking to cats rather than other human beings for the elements of true happiness in life.
She cites as examples of these life-enriching behaviors long naps, affectionate cuddling, finding fun, forgiving easily and taking a dump in a laundry basket.
Note: That last one was my contribution to "catma." Snyder is much more trusting when it comes to the wisdom of cats. She writes: "Would humans be better off if we stopped personifying our beloved pets and began instead to allow ourselves to be 'cat-ified'? How wonderful it would be to teach our children to look with us to our animal companions for guidance on happiness and heart-wisdom!"
Really? Heart-wisdom in cats?
I don't hate cats. I used to belong to one named Bob Valdez. In fact, he wrote my column when I was on vacation. From this experience, here are what I consider to be far more valid cat dogmas for today's selfish and materialistic world:
-- Be suspicious of everything and overreact when anything startles you.
-- Claw someone else's furniture to shreds for the hell of it.
-- Stalk and ruthlessly murder anything smaller than you.
Look, I'm not saying that an animal can never be your spiritual guide or maharishi, only that I've never gotten any guidance from a cat that wasn't a felony.
For my book -- the one I'm never going to write -- other animals have served far better when it came to teaching me how to live in peace and harmony.
Honest Abe, a Tavaputs Ranch mule, taught me an extremely valuable life quality, one I wish I learned a long time ago: to be patient with the intellectually challenged.
Abe taught me that the stupider someone appears to be, the more surprised he'll be when Abe finally gets fed up, knocks him down and drags him down the road.
I didn't allow myself to be "mule-ified" that day. It was Abe's idea. And it worked. I'm much more cautious with large animals now.
From a dog named Elvis, I picked up the dangers of mindless joy. Namely, the happier I'm feeling, the less likely I'm paying sufficient attention.
One day, Elvis was so ecstatic about being let out of the car that he promptly leaped what appeared to be a low fence but was actually a guardrail on a bridge over a river.
He survived. He went in the river a simple-minded dog and came out a guru. It's just amazing how much heart-wisdom there is in vomiting up 5 gallons of spring runoff.
From a rattlesnake named Pike, I learned to be content with what I am because no matter how totally cool you are, someone is always going to hate you for it, especially if they didn't expect to find you in a box under a bed.
In the end, you have to choose your own animal spirit guide, one that best suits the type of life you want to have. Considering how mine's turned out, I should have hung out more with pigs.
(Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)