This is essentially a blog by, for and about cats.
Which is why I’m here today to talk about terrorism.We sometimes throw that ice-cold-water word around casually at Tabby’s Place. “Oh, don’t let Olive in the Community Room — she becomes a terrorist in there.” Or, “McNulty is the sweetest cat ever, unless another cat weirds him out — then he goes all terroristic.”
But then something happens like Brussels happened, and we feel foolish and blasphemous and frightened all at once. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why we use such a terrible word for sub-terrible things; maybe it takes its teeth out, at least for a few hours, killing the fear with comedy.
Or maybe the cats just bring us back to the immediate: if Olive is beating Mario in the noggin, I can’t stew in my scaredness. I must be here, now, in this real-but-survivable drama of cat squeals.
Sometimes this world is terrifying. The cats don’t help us know what to do with the terrors of the world. But they do help us survive.
Take Wesley. Before he ever emerged from adolescence, this little slip of a silver tabby was skinned alive — at least, one of his legs was. I declined the opportunity to photograph Wesley’s wound, and I don’t regret it. It’s seared into my memory, and I’d just as soon spare you that sight.
We don’t believe there was any malice behind Wes’ pain — unlike Amos’ agonies, this was just an innocent incident of a cat getting caught somewhere catastrophic, no human cruelty involved.
But that made little difference to the scared silver baby. At least, not at first.
Like Amos, Wesley was so shaken his spleen was shivering.* Like Amos, Wes had weeks of fear-inflaming treatments and bandage changes ahead.
Like Amos, like you, like me, Wesley was afraid.
But, over the last week, something behind Wesley’s worldly-wise eyes has changed. He does not love us, yet; he doesn’t feel much of anything other than fear towards us, yet. But it’s as though he’s made the decision not to let fear make his decisions.
And that’s a decision that might do us all good. Especially now.
These are the hours and days when the worst and the best do their dueling dance right before our eyes, and right behind our eyes.
The terror is out there, yes. But that terror would like nothing better than to become an inside job, making us hard and cold and quick to write off people and goodness and hope. Terror wins when we forget that love conquers fear. Terror wins when we fight the darkness with anything other than swords beaten into plowshares, sorrow welded into courage, the warfare of mercy and love.
For wise, weary little Wes’ sake, let’s battle the bad with relentless good. You and I are unlikely to run into terrorists or torturers of cats at ShopRite tonight. But we’ve all got our pet pockets of “terrible people,” the ones who irk and outrage and nauseate us, the ones we’ve chosen to stop seeing, hearing, welcoming, loving.
We can choose to let fear call the shots. We can pull the curtains tight, circle the wagons, sneer at each other with leery eyes that trust few and love less.
But tell me, now; when did you last make a wise decision based on fear?**
Take it from Wesley: trust is worth all our chips. We find our better safety in the feisty, fearless good that needs no echo.
Sometimes that looks heroic, like saving a war criminal from wild dingoes*** or medicating a cat who hates you. More often, though, it’s the quiet choice to stay in relationship…
…even though those people are going to bandage your hurty leg again.
…even though that suitemate insists on licking your head in the solarium all the live long day.
…even though that neighbor keeps blasting “Just A Gigolo” from the upstairs apartment all night.
…even though that friend supports Hillary or Donald or vegan cheese or foie gras.****
It means the willful remembering that we’re all dirt and dreams, dust and stars, ashes and glory, far from perfect but much in need of each other.
The terrors inside and outside remind us of this, jolt us back arm-in-arm for dear life. Against our wills, we — maybe, someday soon, even Wesley — find ourselves singing that the only chain that we can stand is the chain of hand in hand.
Feel the fear, but taste Wesley’s wisdom: fear-fueled fighting is overrated. Let’s let each other love each other. Perfect love, you know, casts out all fear.
*No, not literally. Do not go Google “shaken spleen syndrome.”
**If you were the real-life inspiration for that guy in The Revenant, this question does not apply to you.
***If you have actually done this, please email me; I’d like to ask you to write a guest blog post. Or something. Good heavens.
****Making the effort to cover all bases here, kittens. Far be it from me that this blog should ever become politicized. Rest assured that, should a tiny cat-toy effigy of Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz or Angela Townsend or even Marcus Mumford should appear face-down in the incontinent suite, I’ll post that for your laughing enjoyment, too. We need us all so very much.