Monday, February 28, 2011

Luco & Instant Messaging

The dog and I recently had an IM conversation. I will faithfully reproduce our transcript below. Please note his aggressive stance (head tilted forward, feet close together), and you cannot see it here, but the dog's eyes were brimming with bloodlust - he thought to humble me with his "gr8 intellect." I shall allow you, reader, to be the judge of who among us has the greater intellect.

SadCat001: Do u ever feel the pressing weight of mortality?
SlipDogg888: The what of the what?
SadCat001: The pressing weight of mortality.
SlipDogg888: I don't know wut that means.
SadCat001: Which part? 
SlipDogg888: The hole thing, kitty littah.
SadCat001: Are you referencing the "hole argument?"
SlipDogg888: nah
SadCat001: Because I can nearly see how that applies, I also have trouble with spacetime substantivalism.
SlipDogg888: wtf
SadCat001: Oh, is that not what you were referencing? I see. Was it simply that you misspelled "whole?"

SlipDogg888: Yo! Doc Slippy in da hoooooouse! The answer for u, Lulu my dude, is u need 2 lighten up! 
SadCat001: So you are suggesting that if I were to "lighten up" then I would be happy and at peace and all would be love and light?
SlipDogg888: i dunno 4 sure, but yah, prolly. Look, u just totally trippin! Like, live lyfe 2 da fullest n crap. Lyfe's short. Also! A penny saved is a penny earned n two hens n da hand r worth 2 n da bush.
SadCat001: Pardon me? Are you just randomly quoting clich├ęs right now?
SlipDogg888: Y?
SadCat001: I hate u.
SadCat001: *you

SlipDogg888: Ur 2 boring. Effing carpe diem n crap. Right?
SadCat001: You want me to seize the day?
SlipDogg888: Yah! N make sumthing of ur lyfe!
SadCat001: How do you know Latin?
SlipDogg888: Took 4 years of latin n skool LOL y? lol

SadCat001: I h8 you, dog.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Luco is Lonely

Here I sit at the dinner table, alone, waiting for my prison guard and her husband, or maybe one of my prison-mates, to join me. Alone. Do you not notice there is no food on this table? There is no tablecloth. No vase of flowers. But wait.

Here are the flowers; they are with Mingus. Please do not act surprised. He is given many gifts, countless!, while I am ignored, and while I wait patiently for someone to take notice of me (if only for the briefest moment).

Perhaps you are wondering why I care, when these flowers are such transient manifestations of love (which is itself such a transitory intangibility).... It seems that even cynical, realistic, despondent,  possibly caustic, sardonic, hopeless, sad (oh, etcetera!) creatures such as myself would like flowers every now and again.

And regard exhibit the second if you will! The dog, curled on the prison guard's lap, with a squeak toy, and a sweater. I do not have the words to describe my horror, my utter incomprehension at this. What do they see in this animal? Where are my flowers? Where is my sweater? My squeak toy? 

This picture chills my heart. Here they rest. With the prison guard. While I wait and wait at the dinner table for someone to join me. For someone to pet me. For someone to notice me.

There are days when I wish I was Mingus, or (and I cannot believe I am even saying this) the dog; at a fundamental level these creatures possess a patience I do not, a desire for companionship I feel but rarely (oh but how I ache so when I do feel it - perhaps I feel it all the more intensely for its rarity), and an asinine happiness I am incapable of feeling.

Ursula K. Le Guin in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" writes: "The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain."

I am treasonous, banal, and so alone.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Luco & New Experiences

I have often looked out this window into the shining Outside, allowing dreams to effervesce to the surface of my mind. Sometimes I wonder what to do with my life. Sometimes I imagine myself free - free of this prison, mortality, suffering. But I know this cannot ever be.

And I must confess to you that even if I could slip Outside (perhaps when the prison guard lets the dog out, or maybe as she retrieves the mail), I would not want to, and not only because, as I have said before, the Outside pulls around me more tightly the fetters of mortality. No, it is greater than this problem.

I do not want go Outside because I also never want to have to come back in. Each day I strive to avoid new experiences as they will ultimately fill me with disappointment. Once a new experience is begun, it is also ending.

My heart would break at the beauty and novelty of the Outside, and then break yet again at its end. There are more than one endings to novelty; there is the expected ending, the one where my prison guard swoops down and snatches me away to the Inside, and then there is the one where I've been Outside long enough for it to feel old, grey, normal.

It is that great metamorphosis with which I want no part. Let the Outside always be to me a source of  mystery. I know not why Mingus darts out at any opportunity; he makes too clear his naivete. 

I believe it is better to avoid all novelty and rest safely in the light of the known, if only when it comes to experiencing life. Leaving my prison would be the ultimate imprisonment because I would have nothing left to yearn for, nothing left to call beautiful.

Freedom is death.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Get to Work, Luco

Welcome to my office. I should be working, grading these papers (did you not know that I teach? Well, I do not, but I try to help my prison guard sometimes, I extend her this mercy even though she would never do this for me), but a line of poetry is repeating in my mind. Maybe you know it. It is from the poem "Esse" by Czeslaw Milosz. It is the last line:

"A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees."

Why does this line so disturb me? It is because it gets at something I know deeply. Every living being is formed with the capacity for suffering, each has within them a lack of something (and at least a dim awareness of this); even the most basic life forms, then, feel this loss within them - a pulsing ache, a shiver of knowledge of paucity, and whether or not they resign themselves to this (and perhaps thus embrace [and therefore salve?] it), this lack, this capacity for suffering, persists.

There is a paucity in my life; a paucity of recognition.

I work so arduously to help the prison guard with these papers, and does she ever even notice? The only kind of response I have gotten from her is that she will sometimes shoo me off the table.

The indignity! Why she shoos me, I do not know. Perhaps she is intimidated by my expert handling of grammar. Perhaps she feels inadequate when she sees the work I have accomplished. There is no way of knowing because every time I attempt to communicate with her, we end up staring into each other's eyes and nothing more. She feels the deep rumbling of my purr and does not recognize it for awkwardness or embarrassment; she believes me happy and fulfilled. 

I am not in a hurry to disabuse her of this thought. If it allows her some naive happiness, then so be it. What ill does it cause? Although she is my tormentor, she is also my kin in suffering; I will grant her that. Have you read Milosz's poem "Be Like Others?" It reminds me a bit of our situation. 

The poem begins with the idea that you should "consider yourself lucky if your life followed the pattern of life of your neighbors.... and [you] could meet peacefully the darkening days of old age." The poem continues in the second stanza with this:

"Think of those who were refused a blessed resemblance to their fellow men. Of those who tried hard to act correctly, so that they would be spoken of no worse than their kin, but who did not succeed in anything, for whom everything would go wrong because of some invisible flaw. And who at last for that undeserved affliction would receive the punishment of loneliness, and who did not even try to hide their fate."

And it continues: "They, a nation of the excluded, whose day begins and ends with the awareness of failure." I can only assume that the prison guard does not count herself among this nation. She seems so often happy, and so completely ignorant of my true nature.

I should be president of this nation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, Love Luco

The other cats in the house got me Valentine's Day gifts (or at least I think they got them for me. I found them on the place on the table I like to lie down). They got me chocolate I cannot open by myself, that will not be opened for me, and that I do not even like. Do they not know I view this holiday with the highest contempt? Have they not been living with me for at least six years?

And it is rather foolish of me, but this asinine holiday fills me with sadness. Maybe they do not know this. It is the chalky conversation hearts that no one likes, but everyone eats anyway. The lace doiles glued to red construction paper and covered with a desperate sprinkling of glitter. The endless waste created by wanton consumerism posing as adoration. The chocolates which melt on the tongue - reminding us how all love must eventually melt away, dispersing in angry telephone calls, yelling, disappointment, divorce, death.

Because Valentine's Day so vehemently represents Love (capital, proud, true, supposedly unfaltering, eternal), it cannot help but also represent Love's shadow, and it is that shadow I see clouding the surface of this UR GR8 box of chocolates. It is this shadow I see when my prison-mates give me their sincerest wishes for a happy day. It is this shadow I see when my prison guard and her husband kiss, oblivious, over a glass of champagne.

Love can only end in loss.

Something else about the holiday irritates and saddens me: these infernal boxes of chocolate. If the manufacturers deign to tell you what each chocolate is, then there is no surprise, and each bite into cherry or orange or mango nougat is both disgusting and expected, but if they do not tell you what each chocolate is, then each bite into whatever mysterious fruity nougat you choose is a disgusting surprise. Either way, choosing chocolates is not a way to bring joy into one's heart.

Nothing about the holiday brings any joy to my heart.

It is a holiday that reminds me I am an outcast.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Luco & the Superbowl

Some of my acquaintances have inquired of me whether or not I was satisfied with the outcome of the Superbowl this past Sunday. They seemed perplexed that I had yet to mention it, as my great love of football is widely known (football and ballet are, I believe, the two most graceful systems of movement for the otherwise rather awkward human body).

And in truth, my team is the Packers, so it would have been quite gratifying to watch. However, my prison guard is enamored of a certain reality TV show, and that is what we watched last Sunday night. 

If you recognize this man, I feel sorrow for you as you surely must suffer the same affliction as my prison guard. Instead of the Superbowl, I was forced to watch Top Chef. Season Two. An episode that had already aired, and one she could watch at any time.

This man is named Marcel. Throughout the series, he acts the villain, perpetually self-interested and self-aggrandizing, his aim is to win at all costs. He is not interested in how others perceive him. For this I must grudgingly feel some respect, for what do friendships matter, when those friends will someday die? But then, I would argue that winning this television show also matters not, as it is as electronic dust lining the periphery of our vision. Something people like the prison guard care deeply about for a moment and then forget forever.

Would that I had hands with thumbs to wrest the remote from the prison guard so that together we could watch as the Packers threw and tackled and danced their way to victory. 

Although it would be disingenuous if I were to fail to mention this now: football is absurd (as is everything). These beefy men with their brain trauma and extramarital affairs, their million dollar contracts, Gucci everything, and their beautiful, bored wives. We watch them wrestle and fall and call it agony. We watch them triumph and call it a triumph of the human spirit.

This is foolishness. At least in my enjoyment of this sport I can admit to myself that it means nothing. That no trumpets of angels will sing down on their wrecked bodies. That there is no greater meaning inherent in my team's victory. It is, as is Top Chef, I suppose, simply a way to pass the time as we wait to die; something to distract us from that fact.

But I enjoy this distraction. And instead of watching the Superbowl, I watched this man named Marcel as he acted the antagonist on a prerecorded episode of a television show about food where the contestants never even make the most succulent, luscious, delicious, perfect food that there is.

Tuna, more specifically, tuna water - straight from the can, poured into three small bowls so that my fellow prisoners and I can imbibe without fighting each other for each scintillating drop. 

In summary: no Superbowl, no intelligent "top chef" who knows how to cook, and a prison guard entirely indifferent to my needs - a typical Sunday. Although there is one thing this Marcel and I hold in common.

I am not here to make friends.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Luco & the Sink

This is my sink. Is not it lovely? You can see the prison guard has left the water on for me (I do not know why she deigns to do me this favor; I can only be thankful for the brief respite from her habitual tyranny).

It is an amusement of mine to drink this water and then look out the window, dreaming of the Outside (and even to dream of an Outside free of mortality, disease, torment, etcetera) where I am certain countless faucets like this exist. Where I am sure there are very many hands to turn the water on and softly pet my head.

But I must make myself content. Envying the dog his freedom (Oh, were you unaware? That creature is allowed Outside at will, sans leash. Something about a fence being patched. Patch my heart, please, prison guard, instead) is a waste of my time and intellect.

I will sing out, instead, my sorrow and my delight. Sorrow that I am trapped forevermore, delight that the prison guard has left this water running. The feeling of cool water sliding across my tongue and down my throat is immensely pleasurable. I am an animal, I endure, I thirst and yet that thirst is sometimes quenched in the most satisfying of ways.

And then she turns the water off.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Luco Contemplates Suicide

Perhaps some of you are wondering why I do not simply end my life. Why, if I am so convinced that the most fundamental aspect of life is agony, do I continue to wake up each morning, stare without emotion into my prison guard's eyes, and eat my fishy cat food? Why do I persist?

Hamlet said, "But that the dread of something after death, the undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveler returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all." 

For me it is not so much that I fear what might happen after death. It is more that I cannot bring myself to end my own life. This is partially because I am filled with a certain kind of morbid curiosity. What myriad tragedies will I encounter? What assortment of ill fortunes will befall me? How deeply will I come to understand the veracity of the old chestnut "life is suffering?" 

And furthermore, no matter how I struggle, I will inevitably die one day - and why hasten to this day? Why rush to oblivion? If I am, perhaps, being punished, then do I not deserve to live out this wretchedness I call my life? 

Suicide is too easy. It is ignoble. It is an act the dog might consider if the dog could become aware of his own existence in any meaningful sort of  way.

It is nobler to suffer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Luco & the Spinny Cat Toy Thingy

The prison guard got me this toy, perhaps in a vain attempt to bring me a small amount of joy, I do not know what prompts her to act. This toy used to have a cardboard scratching insert, but she took it away, and I do not know why. Perhaps she took it out of spite. Perhaps to exert her authority. I cannot say. Life is complicated.

Inside the track of this toy, there lives a small, plastic ball. It is fascinating. I watch it spin around and around and around and around, but never can I clasp it in my mouth. Never can I taste its cool plastic exterior which would, I am sure, crinkle deliciously between my teeth.

We are in motion together - we move through time as though through water - indistinct blurs smeared across an electronic horizon - nothing more than fragments of dust, of moments - nothing more than a momentary desire which burns and burns and will not be satiated. 

I am compelled to set the ball spinning even though I will never catch it. Even though it slices through my lungs and I cannot breath each time I fail to hold it in my mouth. Even though it must delight the prison guard to observe my suffering. Even though I become a slave to an inanimate construct which nevertheless seems constantly to be laughing in my face as I send it around yet one more time, and one more time, and then once more again. Is it possible this wild abandon is a kind of joy?

If it is, then to experience joy is to suffer greatly.