Cats Can Be Opportunities for Awakening, or They Can Be Annoying

I have two cats, Ingrid and Olivia.  My partner and I adopted them from the San Francisco SFCA last August, when they were only 4 months old.  As can be expected of kittens, they are full of energy and need to explore everything, sometimes repeatedly (such as climbing the curtains).  I also dabble in Zen Buddhism.  I say “dabble” since while I am drawn to Buddhist philosophy, and find a lot in it that makes sense to me and gives me peace, I don’t practice it very often, as I am just too lazy, and not all that disciplined when it comes to meditating.

However, I’m searching for employment in the library profession and have plenty of time on my hands to do so. I’ve found that I can get caught up in the logistics of the job search, and the resulting anxiety.  Does my resume look good? Does my cover letter look good? Did I say the right thing in my email to a potential contact?  Am I doing the right things in searching for a job (i.e., if I’m looking for job postings should I be networking instead, and if I’m networking should I be doing something else)?  The anxiety caused by the logistics feeds upon itself, and if not checked can lead to stress and sleepless nights.  However, anxiety, stress and sleepless nights do not lead to a job.

Grace Cathedral's labyrinth is patterned after the one at Chartres Cathedral.

Today I went to GraceWorks, which is a social ministry run by Grace Cathedral that provides moral support, practical guidance and networking opportunities for job seekers.  The group meets in the cathedral, and afterwards I went upstairs to walk the labyrinth.  There also happened to be a class of middle school students visiting the cathedral, and right after I started walking the labyrinth, some of the students did as well.  While my first thought was “I hope they don’t make any noise”, I told myself to try and focus on walking the labyrinth and let the experience be whatever it turns out to be.  For the most part, they were well-behaved even though they seemed to be walking it as one would walk a maze that doesn’t have any spiritual intention or significance, but I figured that whatever they experienced was up to them.

However, there was one young man who kept cutting across the maze, and this really annoyed me.  There was a part of me that wanted to be the angry grown-up and tell him to behave and show some respect and be aware of his surroundings, but I didn’t, as I remember what it was like being scolded by angry grown-ups when I was young, and I didn’t want to turn into that person.  Pretty soon, some of the other students starting hanging out in the labyrinth and not walking it, which annoyed me even further.  I was most annoyed by the teacher who did not seem to be intervening to tell the kids to “behave”.  In any event, I finished walking the labyrinth and left the cathedral.

Olivia is on the left, Ingrid is on the right. They're both insane.

This brings me back to the cats.  As I mentioned above, I’ve been trying to meditate (two days in a row so far.  Whoo-hoo!).  I have my cushion set up in my bedroom, and today I put a draft-blocker shaped like a cow in front of the door to keep the draft out while I’m sitting.  Of course the cats had to see what was going on, and were greatly concerned with this new thing that they had not previously noticed, and had to see what it was.  Of course I thought, “I hope they don’t bother me while I’m meditating” (can you see a theme building here?).  Ingrid sat very quietly staring at the draft-blocker the whole time, while Olivia proceeded to knock over a waste basket, noisily play with a pencil on the desk and climb the curtains, at which point I had the thought that is the title of this post.  However, I also thought, “they’re only cats, they don’t know any better”.  But I also thought, “maybe this can be applied to those kids in the labyrinth today.”

Admittedly, this is where I get stuck.  It’s easy to forgive a cat who does not have the potential for learning, personal growth or increased awareness.  It takes a lot more patience to forgive a young person who is still growing. I guess I get frustrated as I know these young people have the potential for learning, personal growth and increased awareness, but I forget that they are still growing and haven’t achieved it yet.  More importantly, I am anxious that they won’t.

This is what led me into librarianship.  I love the idea that I can have a positive influence on a person’s potential growth by the act of connecting them to sources of information.  When I did my internship at USF Gleeson Library, I worked at the reference desk.  One student came up to the desk and said, “I bet you don’t have any books on Hawaiian pidgin”.  I said, “Well, let’s find out”.  I did a search for “Hawaiian pidgin” and lo and behold, we had it.  He was happily surprised, and I learned something new and was able to help someone in the process. I wholeheartedly believe that people can be empowered by knowing not only how to find information, but how to evaluate it, and make use of it in such a way that their perspective and worldview is expanded and enhanced.

Similarly, we who have chosen the path of the information professional can use each encounter with a patron as an opportunity to expand our own world view.  As I learned in library school, and as was reinforced during my internship, the best learning practice is not one in which the librarian imparts knowledge from on high, but one in which both parties learn from each other and learn together.  This act of shared learning creates a new collective intelligence that can be shared with others in turn, and can be spread far and wide, and potentially have a positive influence on people whom neither the information seeker nor information professional will ever meet. If one is awake to this, then the librarian can see him or herself as a guide and partner on the path of discovery.  I am happy that I can be one node in the web of learning.