On Cows

It would be nice to know for certain that every day in every way one is getting better and better, but it’s hard to keep track of how much one changes over time. I feel like we ought to keep some kind of record like the yardstick on the wall so we can go back and see how we measure up to last year. Like some document every Rosh Hashana detailing our defining characteristics, goals, ideas, top list of things to work on, etc, to be reviewed annually for signs of progress.

Of course, that would require being able to pinpoint everything of interest that could change. It never really works that way. I was thinking about this while toodling through the Alleghenies with a friend one lovely afternoon. She was driving and I was sitting back and admiring the scenery – the rolling green hills spotted with the occasional tree jutting into the azure sky, etc, not to mention the red barns and so on.

I was thinking how, when I was younger and we were on road trips, the parents would point out the mountains rising in the distance or the colors of the foliage and urge us kids to appreciate the scenery. I would nod with minimal politeness and ask if we were there yet. My obsession with knowing if we were at our destination could only be mitigated by something truly exciting, such as a cow. It didn’t matter that, in the course of the time it takes to drive past a pasture, a cow does nothing more exciting than a tree. Cows were interesting. Trees were not.

And now, here I was admiring trees. Like my parents had. It seemed a sign that I’d reached some sort of benchmark. I was adult because I appreciated pretty things that weren’t furry. Like scenery. I could enjoy a drive just because of the scenery. Why, I bet if we passed a cow right now I wouldn’t more than give it an indulgent glance–

“Look! Cows!” my friend said.

“Where? Where?” I jerked out of my reverie and craned around to catch the field of bovines.

Okay, scratch the second half of the theory. I still like cows. But I also like scenery. Can I be a grown up with an inner child?

Does one ever grow out of liking cows?

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13 thoughts on “On Cows

  1. Why would you want to grow out of it- being a grown up with an inner child is as close as you can get to perfection. Embrace it!

  2. “It would be nice to know for certain that every day in every way one is getting better and better, but it’s hard to keep track of how much one changes over time.”

    Good point. A good way to know you have changed is if someone who hasnt seen you in a while meets you and comments on your maturity….

    Anyways, about looking at trees, I live in Brooklyn and it is fall now, the trees are truly magnificent to look at. So many different colors and shades and hues.

    I walked home from shul alone Shabbos day and while admiring the trees, I thought, “why do I and most others take nature for granted, why dont we generally appreciate a tree…” I know the answer of course. Its because humans get used to things they seee all the time so the novelty wears off.

    What I tried to do was close my eyes for a second and imagine as if I was Chas Vshalom blind my whole life and just at that second Hashem had healed me and given me the power to see and I tried to look at everything as though it was the first time. I cant say I succeeded 100% but I definitely appreciated the trees and houses and everything else a lot more after that “exercise.”

    Give it a try and let me know how it went for you.

  3. I recently relocated from D.C. to the eastern shore of Maryland where I have — yup, you guessed it — cows right across the road! I like them a lot, but I’m also enamored of the soaring hawks and, right now, the geese flying through.

    Jody
    author of THE RABBI’S MOTHER

  4. As someone who is still fascinated by all sorts of creatures, cows included, I will say that it never goes away – and why should it? I still try to catch all the lizards, frogs, toads, and turtles (among other reptiles and amphibians) I encounter when I’m back in my hometown, with some attempts more succesful than others. When I do catch one, I immediately have to run inside and show off my newest capture to anyone present, just like I did when I was little. My mother still comments to this day with wonder why I don’t pursue a career as a veterinarian…

    It’s healthy to maintain a degree of child-like wonder at the amazing things we find in the world around us. Rather than just say “oh, that’s so cool!” like I did when I was younger, I usually say (or think) “Ma rabu ma’asecha HaShem,” which we should all be able to think when we come across something fascinating in the natural world.

  5. Consider the classification of דומם, צומח, חי, מדבר. Babies first focus only on human faces and as we get older we learn to appreciate more of the world. As humans, we are naturally inclined to pay attention to those most similar to us, for whatever psychological, biological, emotional, kabbalistic, etc reason. Admittedly, a cow is more similar to a human than a tree is. Perhaps children feel some kind of kinship with the cows. For some children I’ve met, this is not a ridiculous assertion.

  6. Come on B4S, give us something good. You haven’t gotten close to getting anyone riled up since November 8th.

  7. anon – if you want to be riled up, go to other blogs. That’s not the point of this blog and never has been.

  8. Well I’ve worked in a slaughterhouse for a long time, so cows don’t impress me quite as much. Anyway, about the theory of writing where one “is” spiritually in contrast to the past and to the future, I think it should be mentioned that this idea appears in an early chapter of Messilat Yesharim, where the Ramchal states that keeping (written) records is the true means of fulfilling Cheshbon HaNefesh…

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