A cat has been sitting on a chair on our deck these last few days, napping midday. I like having it around. Deck chair cat. Classes are going well. After a full day of teaching (a pretty magical performance, I must say), I hang out with colleagues at a department party. Once home again, I splash water under my arms and rinse my feet. I spent the day talking with students, dialoguing about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where the freed prisoner ascends toward sight of the sun, much as the philosopher ascends toward knowledge of the good, and by evening, I’m attending a show by the band Sunwatchers. Life assembles into these weird coincidences, these synchronicities. I share Gabriel Marcel’s view: “Hope is a memory of the future.” As Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox note, “Memories of primal pleasure are alive and well in the unconscious; all we need to do is call them forth.”
Among the patterns swirled into the stucco ceiling of my office appears the face of a small terrier — happy, excited to be here. In it I sense a correspondence. A cat has also taken to visiting Sarah and I on our back deck, a grey one with black stripes, dozing in a chair midday. Butterflies have come to visit as well — beautiful swallowtails, and out on the sidewalk, a “red-spotted purple” with blue stripes and orange dots on its wings. A white plastic tape dispenser on top of my file cabinet resembles a white whale. The world appears blessed with a multitude of entities and beings. And much the same is true here in the home. Sarah and I are expecting a daughter. From the two of us has come a third. Thus begins our life together as a family. With great respect and reverence, ears attuned to our many co-creating friends and neighbors, we set out on our way.
I love when neighborhood cats approach me on the sidewalk and show me love, rub against me. I tap trees, I observe grass. And when teaching, I perform a narrative to help students test — in the classroom, in lived practice — the prescriptions of the texts that serve as our objects of study. “What would it mean to live out, here and now,” I ask them, “the utopian teachings of our authors?” The classroom as “safe space,” the classroom as “floating zendo.” Wish well all things. Intuit a way toward collective emancipation and equality — Person and Nature balanced and centered. Through discussion and interpretation, we arrive at a shared, contemplative way of being. Hippie modernist literature guides readers toward precisely this end: “seeing the systems we live by,” and then centering. Beginning with self-study so as to set things right in the fullness of each of our collective spheres of influence. By studying this literature, we bring a child’s innocence and trust and enthusiasm. We birth a child: a new person, a new society! In so doing, we “lay the ground,” as M.C. Richards says, “for the ordeals of self-examination and transformation that lie ahead” (Centering, p. 124).
Cats are higher-dimensional beings who come and go as they please. The ones featured in the movie Kedi are like people, only nobler. Humans in Istanbul have developed a collective co-evolutionary dialogue with an alien species. Whereas my own country prefers to destroy all that is wild and free. We fail still to realize that interacting with people is not enough. We have our parks, our birds, our wildlife, certainly, but from them we extract cruel ideologies of territoriality, manifest destiny, kill or be killed. From Huxley, I’m led down a rabbit hole, the rabbit at the bottom (in a sense, my destination) being none other than Thomas Carlyle and his parody of German Idealism, the 1836 novel Sartor Resartus. While monstrous in many ways (as the author, for instance, of the dismal essay “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question”), Carlyle nevertheless remains an author whose work intrigues me. Book tucked into my knapsack, I fix my gaze on the trail ahead. Somewhere in the distance stands Mdou Moctar, a singer-songwriter from Niger who plays Tuareg rock.
Tinariwen came to mind as I watched Moctar perform last night at a nearby bar in town. Dead arcade cabinets lined the walls, where in other times might have stood taxidermied bears and ancient suits of armor. I regard hunters and warriors, with their camouflage and their automatic weapons, as the most repulsive members of my species. All would be well but for them. That show last night, though: that was quite an experience! Hypnotic, like waves of heat at the point where a desert highway meets the horizon. We must charm the snake that has taken residence in the heart of the Western subject. Filling out the bill were Brooklyn’s premiere California Raisin snake charmers, Drunken Foreigner Band.
What can I say? A few days out from fall break, and already the world is conspiring to lift my spirits and/or get me high! I’ll take it.