We don’t generally want to need each other.
Fortunately, we’re not in control.
I am, of course, talking exclusively about humans here.
Cats are not only in complete control; they are also keenly aware of their needs…and keenly, serenely, utterly unashamed.
You could say that cats are “naked and unashamed,” and you wouldn’t be wrong in either a literal or metaphorical sense.*
Go to The Kitten Room, nee Adoption Room #2, for a study in naked shamelessness. As you enter, you’ll be engulfed in the tiniest, shrillest screams this side of a One Direction concert. Just as you start to swoon from the higher-than-recommended level of cuteness, whiskered paratroopers will land on your legs from above and beneath and all corners.
Tabbies upon tabbies upon tabbies.
Feed us. Amuse us. Love us. Love us. Love us.
The kittens’ spirit animal is Bill Murray’s lovably demented title character in What About Bob?. Quoth he, “I want, I want, I need, I need, I neeeeeeed!”
Funny how the “crazies” and the children of all species speak truth.
Leaving that room of need and nuzzles may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, as twenty-six misty blue eyes gaze out at you in confusion. You don’t need our love? You don’t exist to meet our needs? We no can immolate you with our adorable?
But don’t worry about the needy needy kittens. Because they’ve learned the secret of loud needs: they get met.
No sooner has the door clicked in the latch behind you, than the naked, needy, resourceful kittens have found what they’re looking for elsewhere. Into a hairy heap of happiness they’ll pile, smashing each other with love and comfort.
They need, loudly, proudly. They know, in that deep, wordless sense, that they are not able to make it on their own.
And, as a result, they never have to try.
This wailing wisdom is not limited to the young, of course. Meander into Solarium B for a grown-up version of guiltless neediness.
Whether the sun is shining or stars are falling from heaven, three cats will reliably meet you. Life itself is solarium season for Steve, LaFawnduh and Rangpurr.
Enter their realm and hear their pleas. Steven shall squeal. LaFawnduh shall circle. Rangpurr shall bore into your being with brownie-gold eyes that seem to have sounded out the very roots of the world.
They need your attention. They will have your love. And if you delay delivering their victory, they will just amp up the volume.
And they will have their needs met…abundantly.
Squeals and saunters aren’t the only way to make needs known. After your love has been greedily consumed by kittens and solariumites, you’ll probably want to just go collapse in the lobby.
It may appear, to the
naked human eye, that the lobby cats are in a permanent, collective stupor/coma/fugue. This is only a mirage. They are entirely aware of what they are doing.
And they are calling out to you.
As your posterior plunks into the sofa, an alarm is triggered that only cats can hear. You’ll see Toya‘s wise golden eye crack open. You’ve come at last. With little more than a stretch and a stare, she’ll get you.
And once she’s got you, they’ve all got you.
Love is, in fact, all around.
And all because the cats are courageous enough to know they need you…and to make it known.
Would that we should be so self-aware. If anything, we’re needier and nakeder than the cats. None of us would make it five minutes — nay, seconds, nay, femtoseconds — without each other, holding us up in visible and invisible ways.
But we forget, or we choose to forget. We’re proud. We’re self-sufficient. We’re a world of wandering John Waynes, an archipelago of sad little self-sufficient islands.
So we tell ourselves. And so we are impoverished.
I often think we’d do well to surrender to the cats’ wilder honesty here. Imagine if, on an ordinary Tuesday, if your heart were lonely, you’d meow and circle your colleagues in truth. Instead of chirping “fine!”, you’d answer their “how are ya?”s with “hungry and heartsick and a little constipated.”
OK, maybe not that honest.
But what if we asked each other for hugs? For comfort? What if I could say to you, “Hey, I’m feeling a little craptacular today. Could you remind me something awesome about myself and the future?”
What if you could say to me, “I had a really bad night. Would you make me a cup of tea and let me blast Pitbull songs in the office? I need chamomile and Mr. Worldwide and kindness.”
What if we could both stop what we’re doing, the ultra-urgencies of the emergent moment, to walk in the grass and laugh just because we need it?
I think we’d actually get more done.
We’d be more like cats.
And we’d be enriched by our own honest poverty.
Blessed — so very blessed — are the poor in spirit.
I’ll close with a quote from Wendell Berry, that rock star of a farmer-poet-theologian-sage-saint, who I think must be at least part feline:
Community “answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members – among them the need to need one another.”
Kittens “get” community. Solarium cats “get” community.
Community’s ours to be gotten, darlings. We need us all.
*In fact, the only cats I’ve seen displaying a hint of shame are those forced to wear clothing. But that’s a shameful story for another time.
Photo credits from de top: ATx3, Heather, Jess B, Mark.