We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to tell you: there is no regularly scheduled programming.
Everyone who’s ever been handed a stiff program in Goudy Old Style font needs to re-learn how to make paper airplanes.
And anyone who tells you to “get with the program” needs to remember how to shimmy their Hips.
There are as many programs in this world as there are perplexities. We don’t know what the morning or the market or the mist in our minds will bring, so we trade our twirling for lockstep.
We take the exams. We take the measure of our worth and take notes on all the ways we are wanting. We take the tutus to Goodwill and take ourselves kicking and screaming to Chico’s. We take down the fairy lights and hang portraits of serious-looking Dutch persons. We take a sledgehammer to the dreams of playing professional Tetris, or getting a PhD at 63, or adopting diabetic cats.
We press our Play-Doh into the program, until the neon has gone pale and we forget the dancers we once were. Marionettes, after all, don’t really dance; they just follow the program.
They forget they have hips.
We, on the other hand, cannot possibly forget we have Hips. And this may just save us from the program.
A hundred stories ago, Hips was writing his own code for a game where everyone would win. Tearing through the streets of Beirut at the speed of bliss, the lean white cat lived life from the one command center that counts: his hippopotamus-sized heart.
He ran for meats. He ran for companions. He ran for other meats. He ran to understand. He ran for prime minister, on the platform of Hungry Hungry Hips Leaves No Meat Behind. (This did not receive sufficient coverage on CNN.)
He ran so as to imagine himself as a pegasus. He ran for the sheer joy of high-fiving the sky and scratching the secrets of fur and flight.
You might say that he was following his instincts, his biology, his “program.” You might, but you would underestimate the heart of the Hips.
Meanwhile, he ran without a plan.
And eventually, he ran into something that tore the program to unsavory shreds. Which is to say, a car.
You know this old story so well, you could recite it in your sleep: cat is struck; cat is paralyzed; heaven-hearted people do what they can; legs and tail and future fail to get with the program.
And then — when the stars align and all the saints and angels sing — program gets pitched into bonfire.
Heaven-hearted people move heaven and earth. Calls are made; prayers are prayed; miracles are meted out like the molecules that constitute our hips and hearts. Improbably, incomprehensibly, an inimitable cat comes roaring across the ocean. And the next thing we know, Tabby’s Place is one Hips richer.
He’s been getting “without” the program ever since.
First, there was this paralyzed business. He punched holes in this part of the program before he even let Lebanon (using one of those really cool die-cut hole-punchers — except instead of stars, the holes are shaped like chicken nuggets). Hips could walk and wiggle and wrest himself free from prognoses and predictions.
But that was just the start. Moving is essential, if you mean to be more than a target for the program. Moving the world, well, that takes panache, and impulse, and a pinch of poor planning.
And Hips, the winged exclamation point of a cat, would move the world and sun and stars. He would move us by sheer force of his wonder. “YOU! GUYS! THIS! WORLD! CONTAINS! LOVE! And! The! Color! Yellow! And! Chenille! Blankets! And! People! With! Kind! Eyes! AND! ALSO! BUTTER!”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
To be continued…