Let Age, not Envy, draw Wrinkles on thy Cheeks. — Sir Thomas Browne
Those few men who have been blessed to enter my abode know that it functions under one main rule. At no point will a television or cable or the internet ever enter. I have written about this extensively elsewhere and wish not to belabor the moral. I do wish, before I get into what I’m actually going to discuss, to state that it is entirely possible (and even recommended for one’s spiritual and psychological health) to live without a T.V., cable, or the internet. I don’t even keep my computer here because computers are the very essence of evil. Now, to my point. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be cat-sitting for my neighbor. I’ve gotten to know this cat over the past half year or so, and I must say he is growing on me. In fact, I used to be very much against cats in general until I met him. But his natural cat characteristics are very intriguing. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, I was cat-sitting a neighbor’s cat. Never mind the fact that she came home to find her cat dehydrated and possibly anorexic; mind that I endeavored and succeeded in keeping that cat entertained for nearly fifteen minutes. On one of those nights that week, I was sitting at home, watching the majestic tabby cat sit like a king in my rocker, as if he was the rightful owner of the place. Recently, I have been attempting to live a life that is more rounded in the sense that I do things other than read and write. As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, there is nothing worse than that class of people who call themselves writers or readers just for the sake of being a labeled a “writer” or “reader.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with being either. In fact, men should be active in both as mere hobbies or practices. But writing and reading are not ends; they are means. And the man who believes he’s doing the world a favor by being a writer for the sake of the title should probably stop writing and go find something to write about.
It certainly is not difficult. If you’re a miserable modern who finds every aspect of life depressing because “all is detached from meaning,” then you may be hard-pressed to write. But as I was saying, and I seem to keep distracting myself, I sought to do something that evening besides finish The Secret Garden, and so I stood up on my two feet and began exploring the room for things to fix. I was nearly to the point of breaking something so that I had an excuse to use my toolbox when the cat, who had been napping, perked up and started watching me. I’ve never quite understood why cats are so interested when we change activities, but this one surely was that night. Finally, I remembered that my old alarm clock had been broken, and grabbing it, I began the attempt at fixing it.
There were no electrical issues with the clock, but strangely enough the button used to turn off the alarm had been pushed so many times, and with such vigor and force, that it was lodged deep into the clock. Now, I was under the impression that I could simply unscrew the bottom of the radio, pull the button out, and reassemble it. So I grabbed a screwdriver and began the task. As with most tasks that look easy when more capable men do them, this one gave me no small vexation. The screws couldn’t come out so easily as expected, and after they finally did, I found that actually detaching the bottom of the clock was nigh impossible. Many a “crack!” and “snap!” was sent into the room as I placed the screwdriver between the upper and lower portions of the clock, trying to pry it apart. And all this alerted the cat, and he flew off his rocker, staring at my actions as if I was committing a murder. However, not wanting to snap the plastic completely, I soon gave up the whole notion of fixing the clock after about twenty minutes, and the cat stared on throughout the episode.
But then I stared at my half-destroyed clock, sitting there, not put together, not entirely broken. And the scene of my mangled clock intrigued me.
For as I and the cat stared at this clock, I began to have an odd moment. That particular clock had been with me for probably the last ten years. It was the first thing I heard many a morning, and though this is unfortunate, it is no less significant. But then it occurred to me that it all ended so very quickly. One day I’m using the clock as I had been for years, the next day it lay mutilated, soon to be placed in the trash. It is certainly not in any materialistic sense that I found I was attached to my clock. But in a more metaphysical vein, I thought about how easily it often is to discard our material items. I wonder if this is how it ought to be. If each item we own is mere utility and not some interesting object we can’t explain, I fear we’ll remain the modern materialists we are. That is, each object we own is not a bad knife or a comfortable chair. Nay the knife that won’t cut is the knife of the house; it is the knife that gives us both vexation and food. The chair we fall asleep in may not go with the couch; it may be old and tattered, needing to be replaced; but it is still the chair we used for this period of our lives. And to treat it with mere utility is to do it a grave disservice and is more grounds for being labeled a materialist than even buying a new one.
So it was that I began to say goodbye to my clock; yet the entire time I took it apart, the cat watched with eager expectation. Having jumped off his rocker, the cat looked with wide eyes as I tried t fix what I was only further destroying. Perhaps this is why cats are growing on me. For a cat does not cease from it’s ability to wonder at new things. The slightest sound will cause it to perk up its ears; movement from its master must be found out; if the man happens to be writing, the cat must lay on the papers.
But what gets me is how cats can be equally intrigued with the routine and old. Of course, a cat has no ability to think about such things as routine or old, but it is still refreshing to know that some of the things that rouse a cat’s attention are not the new things so much as the old, those that are done each day. It is unfortunate; indeed, it is the disaster of man’s state that he grows bored so easily. If anything should be exciting, it should not be the new and extraordinary, for that seems almost too obvious and ordinary a thing to find exciting. What should surprise and excite is that which continues to happen over and over again. If a cat were to jump off his rocker and suspend in the air for thirty seconds before landing, I would be very surprised and even possibly terrified. But then I would quickly chalk the instance to mere random chance if it never happened again. However, if every cat in the country began floating in the air after jumping out of rockers, and if this peculiarity continued for twenty years, I would have to assess the possibilities. It may be reasoned that some mastermind is behind a cat conspiracy, in which case I must wonder at the complexity of cats and their god. Or I may still cling to the theory that the floating cats themselves are still operating by mere chance. Of course, if I chose the latter, I must explain why none of the cats does not take flight completely by mere chance. I think that over the years, I would either have to wonder at the phenomenon every time it happened or began to believe that it was only I who was off my rocker.
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
A tabby cat watching,
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Transcribed by the author,
With much stress,
Monday, January 19, 2015
Painting: “Tabby Cat”
Charles Edward Stuart,
Oil on canvas, 1901