I never thought much about how many senses a cat normally has. I suppose they’d be about like other mammals in that regard, but Dusty wasn’t like other mammals. Dusty could sense, for instance, when humans were enjoying a moment of pleasant, peaceful inactivity, and it irritated him. He was especially sensitive to the arrival of that semi-dreamy, not-totally-awake, but not-really-asleep state that precedes the alarm clock’s rude intrusion in the morning. Somehow Dusty knew. He could sense it immediately from any other room in the house, and within seconds, he’d pounce his fat self on the bed and be on top of me, prodding at me with his paws and purring like a feline Harley Davidson. Half-awake human beings pretending to be asleep were simply intolerable to him. I don’t know if he didn’t like half-way things or just hated pretense generally, but whatever it was, it managed to wipe out any benefit that might be gained from having a snooze button on my alarm clock.
Apparently I’m not the only one who ever feigned sleep. Others do it, too, and some without the involvement of a cat at all, much less one with extra-sensory perception. There’s even an article giving step by step instructions in the most effective ways to pretend to be asleep. That at least affirms that it’s not an uncommon practice. Why anyone would want to hone their skills in this area may not be the deepest philosophical conundrum we’ll ever face, but we can’t let it go totally unexplored.
A cursory investigation reveals that the common objective targeted by practitioners of ‘faux slumber’ is avoidance. No surprises there. Acquiring a state of non-functional detachment while being personally present is appealing to them. Many ‘church people’ especially like it. They may be content with being in the room, but want no more involvement than that. Circumstantial motivations may vary, but the end result is the same. Sleep fakers, spiritually or otherwise, want to announce with their behavior that they prefer not to be bothered without having to say so directly.
One guy confessed to doing it because his wife likes to talk too much during TV movies. “Why can’t she just watch the movie?” he says. “Why does she have to run her mouth and ask me questions?” To avoid such torture, he slumps down, shuts his eyes, and peeks out at the TV through a little slit in the eye farthest away from her. On the female side, many prefer the phony sleep trick over dealing with certain personal interactions that they find, at least for the moment, much less appealing. The message in every case is clear, “I may look like I’m here, but I’m really not, so don’t ask me to do anything.” That state may be comforting to those engaging in the deception, but it’s frustrating to those who need or want them to be awake and involved, and who are left shut out and ignored. Sleep fakers often seek to ensure their comfort at the expense of others, and elevate it to a higher priority than may be warranted. If the things being ignored happen actually to be trivial, then it’s no big deal, but if serious things are in play, it presents a different picture.
Any human behavior as universally practiced as sleep is ripe for metaphorical application, as Paul has demonstrated.
“…Knowing the time,” he said to the Romans, “that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” Romans 13:11 (NKJV).
Two things are obvious here. Physical sleep is not God’s concern in this passage, and secondly, if we’re ‘asleep’ spiritually when we should be awake, it’s unacceptable. Excessive, self-indulgent sleep is problematic on a physical plane, but its potential impact on a spiritual plane is even more significant. The problem deepens even more if we’re morally awake enough to know what’s going on, but choose to shut our eyes and pretend otherwise. When those who are followers of Jesus selfishly withdraw, and shut their eyes to a crisis-ridden world that so desperately needs all of us, the implications can be catastrophic.
So, you’re thinking, “Aha! Another guy lobbing ‘guilt bombs’ at the disengaged.” That’s not really what I’m after. Well… not directly, anyway. I’m thinking that it might be helpful if we who are awake were more like Dusty. Let me explain. Dusty was hamstrung by my disengagement, and wanted involvement from me that I didn’t want to give, and he seemed to know that some kind of prodding would be required to get it. To his credit, not to mention the preservation of all nine of his lives, he didn’t come in and try to claw my face off. Dusty developed what I’d call the ‘purr and stir’ method and used it in place of the quick but risky ‘slash and dash’. He became impossible to ignore by simply being persistent. He couldn’t force my eyes open, but he managed to strip away any potential for enjoyment from my fake slumber—along with any latitude for laziness offered by the snooze button. His message may have been screaming, “Quit faking and get up; I need you!”, but it was delivered in softer tones, and without the painful claws that were available to him. While his purring was annoying and always seemed louder than it really was, it was less offensive than the raucous noise he could have made. Pushing too hard would have gotten him kicked out and locked out, and he always stopped short of that point. Sometimes when he was being annoying, I’d look at Dusty and think, “Stupid cat.” Determination and soft persistence got the ‘stupid cat’ exactly what he wanted. Imagine that.
Now – excuse me while I take a few minutes to go practice my purring . . .
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
To follow this blog for more ‘Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World’, sign up just below the ‘Search box’ in the upper right sidebar for regular email notifications of new posts.