Cats are known for their solitary tendency, yet during the pandemic they have proved to be loyal companions in times of solitude or loneliness.
What is the difference between solitude and loneliness, and where does the borderline stand between the two?
Solitude is the state of one being alone engaged with oneself, away from other humans beings, in isolation either by choice or by circumstances. Solitude limits outside distractions which can lead to more time for contemplation, self-discovery, introspection, personal and spiritual growth.
Solitude enhances creativity as it frees the mind from everyday diversions, noise and redundant input. The brain can focus on silence, expand and explore lateral thinking and problem solving out of the box.
As the poet William Wordsworth said ‘the bliss of solitude’: the quiet contemplation that allows a person to reflect upon and understand one’s emotions especially if this emotional response is lived in the beauty of Nature, which can lead to transcendent experiences.
Wordsworth famous sentence within his poem Daffodils reflects the author’s message that Nature and its beauty make humankind happy when sad, therefore overcoming feelings of sadness.
In this poem of solitude and loneliness, Nature cleanses our souls. The poet is lonely but when he thinks back to the daffodils ‘dancing’ as depicted in Nature’s beauty, he finds himself to be happy.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is a feeling of sadness or anxiety when one is alone but one wants company. Loneliness can shape one’s personality, and when it becomes chronic, loneliness affects overall health and mental health.
An invisible barrier between a person and his/her need for interaction starts lifting when the experience of loneliness is prolonged, as the need for rewarding social relationships is not met. Yet, even in relationships or active social contexts one can feel lonely especially when not cared for or understood. A lonely person in a busy crowd.
It becomes a vicious circle. Feeling lonely affects mental health, mental health makes someone lonely. Affirmations often heard: ‘I feel lonely’.- ‘I am lonely’. The difficulty to engage in everyday activities involving people can lead to a lack of meaningful social contact… ‘Better only than badly accompanied’… gives weight to the importance of meaningful company.
And here come our feline friends, their meows and their purrs.
Bastet is the Egyptian Goddess with the head of a cat and a slender female body. She is the goddess of the home, domesticity, women’s secret, pleasure, fertility, childbirth and cats. Bastet ferocious nature due to her originally being a wild lioness, was ameliorated after the domestication of the cat around 1500 bce, which saw her appearance changed to a domesticated cat. Bastet was believed to be able to vanquish all threats from evil spirits and contagious diseases.
The veneration of Bastet as one of the most honoured deity in ancient Egypts evolved through the dynasties, and to nowadays. Tell Basta in Egypt is an archeological site where the large Temple of Bastet is dedicated to her.
Through history cats have been believed to be more attuned to certain auras than other animals. Cats react to people and behave in circumstances surprisingly and unusually. They sense presences. They infuse the home with tranquility and a sense of peace when they are around, reducing stress in humans. They have healing powers, which correlation with tissue regeneration has been scientifically studied as cats purr at a frequency of 26 Herts, which is also the frequency used in vibrational therapies by scientists to promote tissue regeneration. Cats are healers.
All the above will please our cat lovers readers… but what about the others who through folklore agree that cat bring misfortune, especially the black ones? As per grey cats, the most famous one - Grimalkin - is featured in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where he helps the three witches to look into Macbeth’s future. Sorry - but in my books - this is more fame and fortune than misfortune, as being part of one the most celebrated literary works in history, is certainly worthy. Although I am partial, as I am a big fan of literature, and an equally big fan of cats!
Mystical and cats go hand in hand, spiritualism and the depth of their eyes went from being celebrated to being persecuted in early Christianity. Black cats, women with a black long mane… all in the same cauldron of witchcraft. Alas! I have had a black cat with bright yellow eyes for eighteen years of my life, and have been ‘blessed’ by nature with a long dark mane of hair…
Witchcraft or no witchcraft, I have enjoyed cats companionship all my life. I have observed them and learnt much about their Zen approach to life. They eat when they are hungry. They rest when they are tired. They can hold prolonged focus. Their purring spreads calmness in the surrounding. Cats are always aware of what is going on, even when sleeping with one eye open… they live in the present. Cats independence is well known and celebrated, which goes hand in hand with their low ego having no problem to turn up at your door step for food and shelter. Perhaps, us humans ought to take a closer look at a cat’s life.
Cats ability to sense energy and any shift in it makes them powerful meditation companions. We have heard much - especially through these times of pandemic - about the great help one can derive from mindfulness and living in the present. During this past year we have all lived a situation in which the words ‘future plans’ have taken another dimension. We have been forced - either we like it or not - to live in the present. But we have also been forced to live homebound, within a family, a couple, or as a single in solitude and/or loneliness depending of the individual experience.
Deep and constant loneliness that comes from within, utilising defence mechanisms like compartmentalisation to survive, locking away fears, anxiety, owns emotions only to focus on urgent needs to survive, or the shutting out emotions letting rationalisation to prevail, in order to solve urgent matters. This is living in the moment with a survival (if not negative) twist. The cat lives in the moment with awareness of itself and the surroundings.
Battling against the psychological co-dependency of having to be in a relationship, or with friends, in order to avoid feeling lonely has been another emerged pandemic issue. Some people cannot be alone. Although, people may want to take this opportunity as a moment to dig down into their deepest inner sources however scarce they may be, take stock of them, and try their own best to nourish them, reinforce them also through the healing power of silence. The longer one practices, the more one becomes tuned. Even attuned to the animals who live with us, which start sensing our ‘animal’ energy more attuned with the natural flow. Less distractions, less noise, less “outward” and more ‘inward’, and hopefully more at peace with ourselves.
I am looking up, above the screen and I see the cat staring at me like a sphinx, in that way that only cat can do… I wonder what she is making of me…