Cat Philosophy 101: "Good morning, Tony, are you being good?"
Tony, in his delight at having been sought for wisdom and affection, steps on the power button for my computer.
"Mama, tell me about BEING first. What is BEING?"
A familiar brief whistling sounds and then my screen is black with nothingness.
|Art Postcard Tarot|
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
I work from home so that computer is my lifeline to well-being and existence. It is something like the oxygen tank for the scuba diver, something other than optional. It is, at least, the beginning of the day and my brief absence is likely not to be noticed.
I quickly resuscitate the work laptop and resume my online presence with my company, answering questions, joining meetings.
Tony gazes at me, demonstrating BEING. We have not yet discussed it as he wished. He takes a brief break from BEING and assists me with my yogurt, acknowledging that cherry is not his favorite flavor. He prefers blueberry. Some sticks to his chin and he dutifully dispatches it.
Tony is a good listener. He doesn’t talk much, except to note the status of the food bowl, to express displeasure at the BEING that is Louie the Dog, to hide under the day bed until Derek the Housekeeper has completed his work and to escape the possibility that large trucks like the trash truck with air breaks and many-geared transmissions might someday make their way to the second floor of my house to hunt down and…he is not ready to verbalize this.
He likes a hug now and again, especially after a long weekend when I have been away from my desk in The Office where he lives. He prefers my left shoulder always. If he should accidentally start out with a tight embrace with barely-flexed claws upon my right shoulder, he will realize his error, no matter what room we are in, and switch to the obviously better left shoulder. He leans tightly into my head and neck, preferring his back legs tucked under his ample kitty girth, his tail free to speak its mind. He places his chin against me, communing with BEING and TOGETHERNESS.
He stays there a while, sometimes falling asleep. He will sometimes set about rearranging my hair, especially if it is freshly washed, as that is his vocation. Smearing his cheeks upon my head, licking my scalp, breathing in the scent of NOBODY BUT US, he leaves his mark. MY Mama, he says. We were made for each other.
But what about BEING?
I can type and talk with a 17-lb. cat on my shoulder if he does not exercise his claws too deeply or luxuriate to his sharp teeth in my hair or swish his tail in response to the speaker phone requests for software testing, documentation, solutions to problems, business compromises, win-win scenarios. I can BE with him and do what I need to do.
What is BEING?
Why would he ask me these questions, I wonder, and why would he think I know? I am that I am? I am that I imagine myself to be? I am, beyond my own imagination? I am, beyond the physical world of fur and stripes and cat drool and purrs, of claws in tender skin, just deep enough to be felt and not so deep to draw blood. I am that I feel, that I dream of houses I never lived in and never will, that I sense lives not my own, a past too distant for this time, a future that might have been and another that might be yet.
What is BEING?
Tony disengages his claws and paws and purrs and fur, his bulk no longer braced by my neck. He licks my hand and steps to the desk, settling in like B. Kliban’s meatloaf upon papers and books and decks of cards beneath a lamp that has not been plugged into electricity for at least ten years. He regards me in peace and understanding as only the Hierophant can, with the knowledge of BEING and NOTHINGNESS, with a foot in this world and one in the next.
So many people have trouble with the Hierophant, the card that teaches, that presumes to know what we do not know and seeks to impart its truth, so often in a language misunderstood, where words have meaning but meaning is elusive.
I am re-reading Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, perhaps my favorite book of all time. The main character is a linguist, a good-hearted Jesuit, who travels afar to places never known before, studies language and culture, seeks understanding and comes away with the greatest of understandings: The smallest thing can be misunderstood on the most fundamental level with direst of consequences, even by brilliant, well-meaning, alert, eager and thoughtful minds.
A friend laughed to tell me often, “Why do you hate me? I haven’t even tried to help you yet.”
What is BEING? Tony asks me, not to find out the answer, but to teach the student. I am CAT, he smiles and closes his eyes as a book is closed after the lesson.