Monday, November 28, 2011


I confess, I'm a dog person at heart.  But since I've been about 18, through a variety of circumstances, I've almost always had cats too.  Cats are infuriating creatures.

Have you ever noticed that cats are intent upon loving people, whether the people want them to or not?  They twirl and rub in and out of your feet while you're walking.  They do that weird kitty head-butting thing to your face while you're trying to watch a show.  They lick you with that creepy sandpaper tongue that gives any human with nerve-endings instant shivers. They come to wake you up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday by lying down on your chest and purring out an absolutely crazy-making declaration of affection/demand for attention.  Often, it seems, cats will become more intent on loving someone if that person doesn't like them.  My mother, for example, is totally creeped out by cats.  Every cat I've ever had has made a bee-line to her to love on her whenever she visited.  It was like they all knew that she disliked them, and so it was a challenge they couldn't turn down to love her in spite of her antipathy.  Cats are affirmatively, stubbornly, annoyingly, loving.

Another notable thing about cats is their complete refusal to be compliant.  Hence the lament, "It's like herding cats."   You can teach a dog just about anything with consistency, praise and food.  Cats, not so much.  It's not that cats are dumb--they understand perfectly and they'll do what you ask--if they want to.   Otherwise, you're toast.  You can bat a cat halfway across the room each and every time it tries to jump on the counter for two decades, and it will still stride into the room right in front of you and jump on the counter if it feels like it.  I know; I've done it.   

Cats have a way of defying you right to your face, without malice so much as a genuine conviction that you should be on their side anyway, and so it's ok.  I had a cat years ago who loved little balls of tinfoil to play with.  I showed him a game once where he would lie on his side and I would toss him a ball of tinfoil and he'd bat it back to me--right at me, in the numbers every time.  He loved this game.  I thought it mildly amusing for the first 3 or 4 thousand repetitions.   Any time he felt like playing, he'd go find a ball of tinfoil somewhere around the house, and he'd bring it and drop it right in front of me.  Then he'd stare at me.  If I didn't go for the staring, then he'd try sidling up to me, rubbing on my leg.  If that wasn't sufficient to start the playful juices, he'd try meowing loudly, head-butting, licking, biting my hands, or lying down on my book or keyboard or whatever was taking my full attention away from tinfoil tennis.   This could go on forever and no matter how hard I tried, I never got that cat to give up his plea for tinfoil tennis without incarcerating him in another distant room where I couldn't hear his beating on the door and his yowling.  He never gave up.  Ever.

So, here's the reason I'm talking today about cats.  We need to learn a lesson from them.  For quite a while now, I've talked about things that are wrong in our world.  Corruption, greed, inequity, violence, prejudice, etc. etc. etc.   Those of us who aren't 'bad' people sometimes feel overwhelmed by how much has gone awry.   Sometimes it's hard to know what to do.  Every day, there seems to be another disclosure of how terribly broken our society is.  But, last night, I hit upon the answer.  We need to behave like cats.

First, we need to demand what we want.    We need to drop our tinfoil ball at the feet of the powers that be and dare them to ignore us.  If they don't listen, we need to systematically ratchet up our demands.   If necessary, we need to keep yowling until they lock us in a distant room, and then we need to beat on the door and yowl some more.  Never give up.  Ever.

Second, we need to stop being compliant with the things we see in the world that we know are wrong.  We need to start refusing to be herded--into the fear-mongering games, into the us-vs.-them mentality, into hatred of anyone who sees things differently, into wars we know are pointless and stupid.  We need to get where we're going like cats.  Don't believe them when they tell you no--they'll come around.   Start toward your goal, and if someone opposes you, go there FASTER.   Zig and zag if you must, but . . . Get. . . Onto. . . That . . .Counter.

And finally, we need to affirmatively, stubbornly, annoyingly love.   And not just the people who love you back.  Love the ones with antipathy for you especially.  You know why?  Well, there's that whole religious thing--love your enemies, and all that.  It's cool. It's evolved.   It's even a good idea.

Maybe just as importantly,  it works.  Why do you suppose that Jesus has gotten such high billing in the spiritual world for the last couple millenia?    He wasn't some celebrity or high roller; he was just some scruffy peasant from the sticks.   And it wasn't because he died, either--for peoples' sins or otherwise.  Think about it--it wasn't uncommon for people to get executed by the Roman Empire. It wasn't even uncommon for it to happen by crucifixion.  Dying was pretty easy to do back then.   What made Jesus a legend, whether you're a Christian or not--what makes pretty much everyone acknowledge Jesus' influence was that he did something amazing-- he loved.  He not only didn't fight the Romans or the Sadduces or the Pharisees--he forgave them.  And in doing so, he won even though at the time it might have looked like he was overwhelmed by the darkness he faced.

Remember the iconic image of the young man who marched out in front of the tanks at Tianamen Square?  He didn't walk out there with a suicide bomb or an AK47.  He chose the path of peace in an insanely violent circumstance.  No one has reported conclusively who that man was or what happened to him.  It's possible that the Chinese government took him out of public view and killed him.  But he won.  No one who watched what he did can ever forget it, and oddly enough, China began to change, not so very long later.

Besides Jesus and the Tank Man, there are lots of examples of people who won by loving like cats--Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, and so many others. They all just refused to buy the idea, popular in their surroundings, that someone else was in control of the matter.  They became people who changed stuff not by shooting or bombing or burning or even screaming, but by just patiently continuing to 'purr' their message of love, justice, equality, or fairness until the other side started to give up and love them back.
So I've decided.  We need more cats.


  1. What a fabulously written post :) I found you via the Being Liberal facebook page, but this is so incredible. I just adore it and am going to share the heck out of it. Thank YOU for writing it!

  2. We can spray mark their tires too! Cough up hairballs on their office desks. That is too funny to think about. You are making your point to them, they aren't listening, order you out, and suddenly you grab your throat, begin a dry deep hacking. The person behind the desk is at first concerned, then horrified, then disgusted as you honk out a six inch long impressive hairball, onto his desk papers.

  3. Wow, wonderful post, I'm so glad I read it.

  4. Awesome, it is nice to know others think like me!

  5. I've saved this to my Philosophy folder under the heading: How to Win with Love.