It has come to my attention that certain individuals believe in the existence of excessive levity.
None of these individuals happen to be cats.
Even if you should find some feline suspicious of merriment, jollity, and/or mirth, he would have no place in Suite FIV. More accurately, his dour demeanor would have no place, and no chance of survival.
Suite FIV at Tabby’s Place has a long history of hosting the rambunctious and rotund, the jocular and jovial, the immune-suppressed who exude success, if success is defined as “perpetual silliness,” as it should be.
If every cat has a Ph.D. in joy, the FIV+ zealbeasts are Ivy League professors, with tenure and tenacious ridiculousness and the tumbling, torrential ability to get you giggling yourself stupid.
You might think it should be otherwise. These are, after all, the hardest-luck cats in a hard-luck habitat. Every resident of Suite FIV has been infected, by bite wound or birth or some other bodily-fluid-incident, with feline immunodeficiency virus. This isn’t a death sentence or, in most cases, even a medium-sized deal. But neither should it inspire the general attitude of “Everything Is Hee Hee And Also Ha Ha.”
Or should it?
Ponder Spaghetti, who wouldn’t know solemnity if it dumped a pot of pasta over his head. Where other beings step through life systematically, seeking methods to muzzle the madness, Spaghetti’s strands shimmy forth like streamers. He thrills to see you; he thrills to greet the dawn; he gazes hard and gallops in your train and guffaws at everything he sees, because everything is ridiculous and wonderful and more than slightly absurd. Life itself is so soaked in silly-sauce, Spaghetti can’t get enough.
Or how about Pluto, Spaghetti’s fellow raven ripsnorter? If Spaghetti is shoutingly silly, Pluto pretends to be the straight-man, composed and bemused until the time is right. Big-cheeked and buzzing with an endless eternal monologue, Pluto is funny on an intergalactic scale. Apparent grouchiness is just a front for vast viaducts of ridiculousness beneath the surface.
Lester, Suite FIV’s longest-time laugh riot, needs no introduction. With a decade of Tabby’s Place time under his belt, and a self-image somewhere between “UN High Commissioner,” “giant iridescent squid,” and “every single Disney prince combined, except handsomer, and also I would beat all them guys up,” Lester is a cacophony of confidence, languid Brooklyn cool, and funk-conquering festivity. Improv is Lester’s love language, and every day is showtime. Laughing at or laughing with? Lester doesn’t care.
Even the seemingly grim contingent in Suite FIV comes carrying saddlebags of silliness. Everest‘s extended stay in the ceiling tube is the most committed comedic trope in the hemisphere. Don’t tell me this orange oddity isn’t willing you to giggle as he gazes down at you, all squished feet and orange-crushed belly and owlish eyes oogling you with all their might. (That is “oogling,” not “ogling.” Everest made me type that.)
When Everest feels his flair for comedy faltering, all he needs to do is call for neighbor Humphrey, who will ride an invisible Slip ‘n Slide straight into the tube, making for a multi-cat crash that would make even warlords and tenured professors laugh. (No word from the warladies. They are a tougher crowd.)
All this comedy might seem excessive for cats or humans or giant iridescent squids with Real Concerns. Come, now, and let us reason together; isn’t seriousness the proper state of being, when life is being what life can be, confusing and maddening and saddening and dark? Isn’t life always all of the above? Are we not most honest when we are most grim?
Or is silliness our secret weapon, against which no darkness can prevail?
Light-filled folks through the ages have seen laughter as one of the quickest bullet trains to the sacred. St. Philip Neri used to show up at people’s houses with his beard shaved half off, just to get giggles. Mavis Staples got the nickname “Bubbles” for her unsquashable effervescence. St. Teresa of Avila prayed, “From sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!” Thomas Merton once laughed himself onto the floor over a very solemn visitor’s very stinky feet. St. Ignatius said, “Laugh and grow strong.” Pope Francis warmly welcomed Spider Man to the Vatican.
They all had it on good authority that the One who made cats and people and sea monsters actually delights in each of those creatures — even you, even me, even Spaghetti when he’s biting your arm like an overcooked piece of penne. If we are so loved, even and especially in our infuriating, inescapable “us”-ness, how dare we not laugh?
Maybe that’s where the cats outrun us yet again. They know themselves to be buffoons even as they believe themselves to be kings and queens. These titles are not unrelated. And so they laugh at themselves with the kind of howling happiness we’re scared to want, even as they carry themselves with a confidence that makes Lizzo look shy.
They’re on a holy roll.
And maybe, in their flawed, phenomenal, FIV+ tomfoolery, they’ll remind us: we can laugh at ourselves. It’s the only appropriate response to ourselves.
If we must err, may it be on the side of excessive levity.
PS: Between my writing and your reading, Lester has left the building for a glorious forever home, on which more soon. Yes, this seems to happen a lot. Yes, this means I should blog about Olive.