If nobody liked what you did, are you likable?
If nobody knows you did it, did it happen?
Ours is a strange age. (Also: The sky is blue. Oxygen is good for breathing. New Jersey is a state. Thus ends today’s Theater Of The Obvious.)
Cruise over to any social medium, and you’ll summon a ceaseless stream of photos and posts and enchantments and oddities of all kinds.
Selfies. Us-ies. Sunsets. Dinner plates. Nights in Venice. Nights in Ringoes. Cats. (SO VERY MANY cats.)
Ten billion ways of saying “I WAS HERE AND THIS HAPPENED.”
I’m not mocking this phenomenon. I’m not even just observing it. I’m entirely enmeshed in it myself. As both a writer and a “Millennial,” I find it doubly impossible to shake the sense that, if I don’t share it, somehow, it isn’t real. Or, at least, I’m not doing justice to it…and it demands justice.
I suppose there’s a certain truth to this. If something heals your soul, odds are good that it will soothe someone else, too. If something’s speaking to you on a deep level, why not pass it on? I wouldn’t have notebooks strategically located throughout my world if I didn’t fervently believe in capturing inspiration as it hits.
But. This can create a certain compulsion. You can’t really enjoy the moment if you’re scrambling to document it or to filter it or to distill it down to mere words. (Or, for that matter, to catch the Pokemon in it.)
What if some epiphanies, some miracles, some moments are meant just to be pondered up in our hearts? What if the best way to honor an instant is to let it do its silent, secret work on you?
I am, of course, talking about cats.
Cats, you will notice, have absolutely no need to tell you what they did last weekend. They can experience astounding things — they can and they do, on the regular — and they are perfectly okay not telling you about them. That astounding thing was then; it shaped them, changed them, bettered them, sure. But now is the now, and now they are completely invested in this astounding thing. (Even if it’s their neighbor’s posterior. Perhaps especially then.)
Consider Gherkin. Frankly, not many people consider Gherkin. Our round-headed little tabby crawls below the radar consistently, sweet as a yam but stubbornly timid around most humans. (He does not, will not, “show well.”)
But Gherkin sees astounding things.
We actually have proof that Gherkin sees astounding things, because we see the astounding things Gherkin sees. Gherkin shares a suite with poor, brain-beleaguered Bacon, so Gherkin unintentionally gets screen time on the Bacon Cam. Gherkin has seen Bacon’s seizures, terrible and terrifying.
But Gherkin has also seen heights of joy he’d never tell us. Gherkin has seen Kaycee take a flying leap from the top of the suite crates into — well, the camera doesn’t show the whole room, so honestly we’re not sure where she landed. (My money’s on Finland.)
Gherkin has seen something so delightful it makes him scamper through his room like a round tabby pixie, all giddy and gleeful.
Gherkin has seen after-midnight marvels that clearly make him very, very happy. All of this has been caught on camera.
But come morning, and Gherkin’s got no need to trumpet his observations. The night was long and awesome, but that’s between Gherkin and the night.
Let’s be honest: if you or I had the kind of nights Gherkin has, we’d be Instagramming the stardust straight out of them. We’d be trending topics. Buzzfeed would have a list of the Top 11 Ways To Be More Gherkinly.
But maybe Gherkin’s got it right.
There have been times — usually in the night, when Gherkin is seeing astounding things, but I’m just sleepy enough to forget to grab my notebook — that I’ve had thoughts and micro-epiphanies so profound, I simply must share them WITH THE WORLD because THEY HAPPENED and MY THOUGHTS ARE LUMINOUS.
Which is precisely why, in the mercies of God, they don’t get documented or shared or “liked” at all.
We struggle with this at Tabby’s Place. In an era when people post 400 pictures of their baby’s first experience with strained corn, we feel the pressure to update everyone on everything at all times.
Should you keep a camera at the ready while socializing Amos, just in case he lets you pet him, so you can tweet it immediately…so everyone can see how amazingly awesomely loving you are?
Should I carry my notebook into the Suite FIV solarium, in case Adelaide‘s affection inspires something brilliant…so everyone can read how inspiringly extraordinarily splendorous she is?
Or should we just be, trusting that what’s meant to be told will find its way through us? Perhaps what’s meant to be seen will find its eyes, its right eyes, the very eyes that are meant to experience it.
Maybe some hours and days are meant to be experienced — simply lived, no more.
Maybe some moments, some revelations, are too wonderful to capture.
Maybe even mundane moments are perfectly wonderful even if unshared. Especially if unshared.
It happened. It’s happening right now, kittens. It’s life.
Let’s live Gherkinly. There is no FOGO.*
*Fear Of Gherking Out, obviously.
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
– Lao Tzu, who felt no need to Snapchat the music of his soul