It’s inevitable that you will, in certain moments, be insufferable.
When you’re honest with yourself, you know you’re incomprehensible.
But if the rumor is true that you’re fashioned from the same stuff as orangutans and orange groves and Oram, you are, first and foremost, ineffable.
Ineffable: too great or extreme to be described in words.
Ineffable: causing so much emotion, especially joy, that it cannot be expressed.
Ineffable: as far from “ineffective” as “disgruntled” is from “gruntled.” (Let the record show that Oram wanted me to replace “ineffective” with “effable,” but for a multitude of obvious reasons, as well as secret reasons, I decline.)
When it comes to creatures confident in their ability to exude ineffability, Oram is our owl-eyed king. With an invisible thirty-story crown atop his head, he arrived in a state of astonishment and bafflement and a thousand related forms of wisdom.
His curiosity was white-hot, in the manner of stars, in the manner of flames, in the manner of the tip of his own snowy tail. His relish was dilly and daffy and shamelessly delighted, causing him to rub his own face ragged on the bars of life. His art form was Exuberance, as ancient as cave paintings, as new as breath, giddily inelegant and gloriously…ineffable.
His excitement poked holes in the lid of the shoe box where more forgetful mammals spend our hours hiding.
He had absolutely no idea what was going on, and he loved every minute of it. (OK, except the brief but unforgivable minutes in which we restrained him for medical ministrations. But ineffable individuals understand that bad minutes don’t make for bad days, and at the other side of every doctor visit is a lollipop, or a dinosaur eraser, or a paper dish of gelatinized poultry, which one can pretend is velociraptor meat.)
Oram had been adored at a north Jersey shelter, but dental issues and drama issues meant he carried too much strange fire for any hearth but Tabby’s Place. And so his torch thundered down the highway to our roost, which he has ruled ere that day.
Ruled, but not unraveled.
Oram was not unraveled by the ragged wrongs that walloped him: not the medical ministrations, not the denial of his appeal for unlimited mozzarella, not the news that he has feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
Where other orangutans might be hobbled by such a hailstorm, ineffable Oram chose to view the falling rocks of Surprise as a thousand free Whoppers dressed up as falling stars. He would wish on every single one. He would taste the sweet. He would not be undone by the unexpected.
But neither did Oram feel the fatal urge (and it is fatal to any sense of wonder) to unravel all the quirks and quarks and questions.
Life is malted with mystery.
Why does one cat develop FeLV or heart disease or terrible musical taste at the dawn of life, while another lives free of any medical diagnosis whatsoever ’til age 21? Within the fireplace of FeLV itself, why do some cats thrive and conquer for several presidential administrations, while others succumb to the first flames?
What’s the use of kindness and stubbornness and confidence when we can’t even control which way the crinkle-ball rolls?
Isn’t it safer and smarter, purpose-driven and prudent, to keep the lid on the shoe box, keep the orangutans behind bars, limit our love to the “lovable” and the easy and the understandable?
It’s easy to get wrapped up as tight as orange peels.
All the while, Oram is asking the better questions. (Whilst engaging in a tumbling run. Whilst whipping his wand toy against an invisible, yet entirely real, herd of broncos, who are his Best Imaginary Friends. Whilst wheedling for another dish of velociraptor puree.)
“Isn’t it a fiery thing just to breathe air and have a heart that makes music with or without your own permission?”
“Aren’t we ridiculously rich to be surrounded by creatures and ideas, beards and ballads and hamburgers and holidays and stuffed animals and stuffed peppers and scrunchies and smooches?”
“Why haven’t more books been written about Philoxenus of Mabbug?”
“Did you know there are maple-flavored Kit-Kats in Japan?”
“Where will you stand in the showdown between the weak and the strong?”
“How did we get so lucky, so blessed, so star-kissed as to be here at all?”
“Will you please pick me up and kiss me repeatedly, from my astonishing head to my custom-spangled tail?”
But Oram has a few answers, too.
“Don’t trust anyone who claims to understand the book of Revelation or ‘the way things are’ or the end of Inception.”
“Do trust more freely than you probably ‘should.'”
“Don’t underestimate the world of worth that is whirling within your chest, even if your teeth are twonky and your diagnosis is dastardly and your heart is beating fast and feary. Especially then.”
“Do estimate that you will be astonished several thousand times before your head hits the pillow tonight. (Do express gratitude for the existence of pillows. Do put Kit-Kats on your friends’ and neighbors’ pillows.)”
“Don’t take a break from being astonished.”
“Do break loose from your cage or your shoe box or your self-loathing.”
“Do remember that you’re inescapably ineffable.”
You, ineffable: like Oram. Like orangutans. Like orange sherbet. Like a moment when your inner eye sees the face of everyone who was ever kind to you, all at once. Like the brightness of the summer colors when you were ten. (Why did they change? Can they change back? You bet eight thousand orangutans they can.)
You, ineffable: like fire. Like freedom. Like fear’s worst enemies.
Maybe fear is inevitable for flammable creatures like you and me.
Maybe that’s why we’ve been given cats in the first place.
Surely that’s what one ineffable Oram will do his dangdest to fix. He’ll foist his fire and his fun and his full-orbed exuberance on our cardboard bunkers, until we’re all out in the open together, laughing in the field beyond answers.
The flame of love will en-kind-le our hearts, making us kind when we forget.
The mysteries will keep their secrets, even as the mercies keep us safe.
And somehow, through diagnoses and hailstorms and denials of our appeals for the things we thought we wanted, our most impossible dreams will come true.
Just look at Quinn’s Corner.
Just look at Oram.
Just look at me.
Just look at you.
Ineffable? Indubitably. Blaze forth, kittens.