Everything is connected.
The future is today. (No, really.)
And we’re only really “us” when we’re with “them.”
I am, of course, talking about cats.
As you know, recently the planets have been twirling quickly at Tabby’s Place. Great ones have left us, one after another after another after another. The very ground beneath our feet has gone wobbly. If there’s some great axis poised just below Ringoes, NJ, it’s just discovered the Whip/Nae Nae dance.
And we’ve been a little bit whipped.
Cats are usually immune to such shaking. But, being humans and therefore incorrigible, we’ve found ways to share the crazy. (Don’t go stealing that phrase, Hallmark.) We mean well, but being the sort of creatures we are, we can’t help but make a mess of things.
And so we’ve taken this opportunity to move all the cats around the building.
And somehow, instead of crazy, ubuntu abounds.
You may have heard of this Southern African philosophy, popularized by Bishop Desmond Tutu. While it’s defined in various ways, the one that strikes closest to the heart of cats is simply this: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
We tend to forget this, we fragile human egos. Especially in our culture of lonely heroes and “self-made” successes, we wriggle around at the thought that we’re anything but entirely our own.
But we are not our own. And for that, we are so friggin’ lucky.
The cats remind us, in their elegant way, that the thing that’s “me” changes, watercolor-like, depending on the hues and hearts around me. “I” am not some static object, sitting stony as the world swirls. I can change. I will grow. Like it or not.
Consider Piper. We’ve already heard her songs and her silence on this blog. Left alone, Piper howled. Surrounded by strangers, Piper cowered. But today, in a void left by Hobbes, Piper is finding a calling. She spent her first few hours in Jonathan’s office sitting behind the door, in a shy sliver of light. As before, the equation held: Piper + New = NOOOOOOOO.
But then the cast began to dance, and Piper was made to move.
During a meeting in Jon’s office, Danielle reached down and scooped Piper onto her lap — no stress, no fanfare, just a simple gesture. There was the call. Then came the response: Piper butted her head against Danielle.
Again. Again. Again. And again.
She was now the Butter of the Millennium, the gregarious love muffin to toast them all. Piper was never more herself.
In the days since, the story has swirled on. Photographer Mark plunked down on the floor, never too proud or too human to take a cat’s-eye view, and again Piper changed. As Mark lay on the tile with his lens and heart open, Piper sashayed out, belly swaying, squinty eyes wide, love radiating in all directions.
Call and response.
She was because he was.
Of course, ubuntu touches everyone. Piper’s roommate, the Hobbes-bereaved Knox, has never been one for conflict. More accurately, Knox has never been one for moving, stretching, or expending one crumb of energy beyond what is utterly necessary to eat 400 pounds of wet food a day.
But Knox is what he is today because Piper is present. And Knox…is playing.
Or at least popping Piper on the head. (Lightly.)
There’s music in his enormous eyes, something approaching fun. A flame of youth has shot straight up from this erstwhile-cowardly cat.
The new Knox? Or just the true-to-today Knox?
A few feet away, Anneke has sea lion-ed into the lobby. Back in Adoption Room #3, she lived for food and food. But now — oh! — there’s a wild frenzy of motion around her. There’s Boots, in that ab-fab magenta-piped collar. There’s Tinkerbell, trotting at 95 mph despite being 95 years of age and weighing 95 grams. There’s Jackie. (‘Nuff said.)
And suddenly, Anneke is a whirl of motion. For Anneke, “whirl of motion” translates to “slogging approximately 5 yards per day.” But when she’d previously covered this much territory in a year…the girl is on fire.
And the girl is hanging out with Jackie, who is hanging out right back. You’ll see the two of them, great globular gargoyles, poised in stereo around the fountains. It may or may not be girl talk (“Girrrrrrrl, have you seen Boots in that collar? Natty!”). But it is definitely hanging out, which isn’t mutual murder, and which is entirely new.
They are because they are.
There’s collateral ubuntu here, too. Since Anneke’s appearance, Divya — once the house-hider — has taken to sleeping and staring from the top of the copy machine. This would not seem directly related to Anneke’s arrival, but that’s just my puny human brain speaking.
There’s a greater warmth on that printer, and there is — unquestionably — a greater happiness in the lobby. Something missing has been stitched in.
It’s all connected.
And if this all sounds a little too commune-y, there’s a scrap for stubborn individualists, too. If you or I or Piper or Anneke or Orion were to stay in our same safe circle forever, we’d never know our full muchness. By being nudged or pushed or forcefully foisted into communities beyond our choice, we each become more of what we are — not less.
That human treasure Tutu put it this way:
“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
We make each other better. You make me me. We need us all.
And together, we heal.