The Enduring Mystery of Cat

We rescued our cat “Indie” from an animal shelter on 110th Street about a year ago.  Recently he ruined an inkjet printer by attacking the paper (as it printed) so often that the paper advance gears became misaligned. The printer is gone–Indie stays.

Indie has an alert, owlish look about him and we like to believe he is quite intelligent. He enjoys splashing in water, is quite affectionate, has been known to be aggressive at times, and has a meek, squeaky voice that does not sound like it belongs to such a well-formed, agile animal. I find it very easy to believe that the Egyptians of yore, a culture clearly steeped in the occult and the mysterious, would have revered cats above other creatures.

I have nothing against dogs of course (or fish or gerbils for that matter). But dogs are, companionable and true as they may be, entirely lacking in the qualities exhibited by what you might call a “muse”. They are slobbering, needy and really awfully predictable as a group (I have loved certain dogs, so I’ll not debate their “value” in the scheme of things).

Cats seem to care only peripherally that humans are present, and I believe they view us somewhat as serviceable companions. They respect those who feed them. They allow themselves to be handled–until they don’t. They are unsentimental and if you have ever seen a cat toy with its prey, you will know they can be coldly cruel and entirely without remorse. They suit the postmodern sensibility in that they are essentially amoral.

That is about all I can glean about cats from watching them. They seem to hold much in reserve, and this is exhibited when suddenly they make fantastic leaps across open space to reach a desired spot whence they simply curl up to sleep. They can hide in impossibly small spaces as if their bodies are made of something less solid than bone and gristle.

Unlike the warm, loving gaze of a dog, the gaze of the cat is flat and apparently an act of surmise, as if at any moment they may decide you are friend, provider or prey. It is quite obvious why domestic cats are never grown larger than a human can throw them. A cat the size of a golden retriever would be a bone-chillingly dangerous beast.

Cats and humans have come to an understanding that we are mutually pleasing but for entirely different reasons (it seems). We do not (or I do not) “understand” cats any more than I understand the moon. They are not like us, nor like any other creature sharing terra firma. They are an ancient race, highly evolved, cunning, sufficiently endowed for their own purposes, and offer little but warm fur, a steady gaze and for me at any rate, constant fascination.

If you have the chance, offer kindness to one of these special creatures, as they are favored in the pantheon of sentient beings.

None Escape Blame

“What do the oil catastrophe and the Wall Street collapse have in common? In both cases, a powerful, politically protected industry invented something that could not easily be repaired when it broke.”– Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect

I agree.

But why’d they do it?

In a market, sellers do things because of what buyers want them to do.

In the case of the Wall Street meltdown, every TomDickandSally wanted their stock to go up and they might even sue if it didn’t. Greed wasn’t imposed from on-high, but it was exploited and then suddenly John McCain had to rush to Washington by way of Katie Couric’s make-up room.

In the case of the BP gusher, every HarryAbdulandLaQuonna wanted cheap driving, cheap plastic, cheap heat, and every what-all petroleum is used for, and wanted it now and threatened to vote you out of office if you told them it might cost more and feel a colder and smaller world if you didn’t deliver now now now. Environmental disaster wasn’t the goal of BP nor anyone else, but it was a perhaps unavoidable consequence of the modern thirst for all things oil-based (and that includes everything you know in this world except maybe that antique wooden coffee-grinder you bought at the flea market, and that’s only if you pretend it got to the flea market in a horse-drawn carriage).

So we have by common consent contracted with these major, politically connected interests to systematize what they do and not tell us the details but just satisfy our hunger for universal comfort in a world where every day is necessarily a roll of the dice and where we each, personally, need to try and load the dice as heavily as we dare in our favor.

Much as the fate of every system, the complex interlocked units that drive such enterprise work well for a time; until they don’t.

And now they just don’t any more.

We have two signal disasters to let us know we have loaded one too many blocks onto the Jenga tower–first on Wall Street and then 50 miles out in the water south of the Big Easy–and in each case, with a single block pulled out, the tower comes down and the game is all but over.

Of course its not really over. There will be shouts and murmurs for a long time about both derivative finance and easy oil, but for all intents and purposes the era that grew these and enabled a certain fat and stupid attitude on the part of pretty much every non-impoverished person in the West, is now drawing to an ignominious close.

“Greed is good”? “Drill Baby Drill?”

What’s that you say?

Have not heard those in a while.