A cat’s view of time

Project deadlines, meetings, and appointments can be a major source of stress in our lives. This is because in many parts of the western world, we live in a clock-based society, where our lives revolve around when the next meeting begins and ends.

In the mean time, your dog or cat isn’t the slightest bit stressed about what’s coming up next. Feeling tired? Let’s nap. Feeling hungry? Let’s eat. They simply respond to events.

Mo Gawdat is the Chief Business Officer at Google X. In his excellent book – Solve for Happy, he explains how he’s been in high level meetings in the United States where everyone is focussed on getting ready to leave as the end of the meeting approaches, even if just a few more minutes might lead to a big breakthrough. In contrast, events in the Middle East and Latin America tend to have a loosely defined start time and continue for as long as they seem worthwhile.

In social situations, events-based cultures (which incidentally are more common globally that clock-based cultures) have a similar format. Friends agree to meet up after work, and some will show up at 7:00, some at 8:00 and some at 11:00. No-one gets upset because everyone will enjoy the company of whoever turns up for as long as they are there. Kind of like cats.

Mo’s observations aren’t meant to suggest that we should all suddenly start turning up late to meetings, ignoring deadlines, and being generally slack. Certainly there has to be merit though, to paying more attention to the task at hand, and less to being a slave to the clock.

Our attachment to time is such that much of our suffering extends from ruminating on events from our past, or on imaginary events in our future. In doing so, we tend to miss the event that we are part of right now.

Rather than being in the moment, we instead make judgements or comparisons to one from our past, or we may become bored by longing for some other event, or we may even feel ashamed by re-creating an event that no longer exists.

So for today, imagine being your cat or dog for a while. Take a pause, and pay close attention to the here and now.