Dickens me this: are these the best of times?
Are these the worst of times?
Or are these, simply, the times of our particular, prosaic, miraculous lives?
It is no secret that 2015 is not the epicenter of a cotton-candy golden age. I need not rehearse the sorrows that slink around our days: Charleston in mourning. New York in fear. Persecution in every pocket. The thousand tiny disappointments like a choir of evil kazoos. The big, breaking ones like ghouls’ gongs.
Hurting cats. Hateful people. Haunted hearts clear across creation.
Things upon Things upon Things.
So I can’t blame the people who sigh to me that Things are getting worse. In their day, such Things were unthought of. A few sparkly decades back, no one would do such Things.
So the people lament. The people cry. The people say, in word and deed, that the last Thing they will do in the face of such Things is…dance.
Dancing would be frivolous. Rejoicing would be disrespectful. Jubilation would be an abomination.
I must note that not a single cat agrees with this line of thought.
And neither, most of the time, do I.
Things have, in fact, always happened. Back in them olden days, the emperor of the entire known world was covering people in wax and setting them on fire for failure to worship himself. In slightly less olden days, people got stuck in the stocks and pelted with produce for gossiping. Even Ozzie and Harriet were so black-and-white that they overlooked the complicated celebration of color that makes life whole.
Creatures died and lived and chose to rage or chose to love.
Some despaired. Some danced. Quoth Taylor Goldsmith, who is right, “Things happen; that’s all they ever do.”
This side of the Kingdom of God, there’s no golden age.
It’s up to us whether there will be dancing.
And I am, of course, talking about cats.
Cats are not thinking about hate crimes or hard times or the soul’s solitary walk through the abyss. They are not thinking about monstrosities like Hot Dog Bites Pizza* or the fact that Kim Kardashian is giving a lecture on the objectification of women. Not that they couldn’t — they just aren’t.
Not that they wouldn’t be justified, in a sense, in doing so. They just…don’t.
Exhibit A: Sienna, the featured dancer of Tabby’s Place. In the last several months, Sienna has turned thirteen, lost her human to death, and lost everything she’s ever known to a strange new world in Ringoes, NJ.
The weird green cherry on top of that excrement sundae: Sienna has moved into Suite A.
Suite A, you may recall, is the epicenter of insanity at Tabby’s Place. It’s bedlam. It’s one road runner short of looney tunes. It’s American Ninja Warrior meets Adventure Time meets Times Square (except in this square, everyone is that belligerent, drunk Elmo).
If she were a human, Sienna might do the pity thing.
If she were a human, Sienna might wave her fist and curse the Things she cannot change.
But whatever Things tumble onto them, cats don’t do pity.
They do dance.
With wild, woolly abandon.
And so she does.
Walk past the window to Suite A, and you’ll see many things, none of which can be unseen. American Ninja Adam is excreting enthusiastically whilst beating Boom. Boom is beating him back whilst screaming. Everyone else is doing some variation of swinging from the chandelier.
And Sienna is dancing for you.
As sure as the sunrise, Sienna hears human footfall and she flies to that window. She’s your private dancer. She’s so excited. She can dance if she wants to, but there’s nothing safe about a dance that’s survived the flames.
It may look like Sienna’s just frantically pawing at the glass. But you know, kittens, that there’s more to her moves than that.
She is thumbing her long nose at loss. She’s giving the finger to heartache.
She’s choosing to keep on living, and moving, and thriving over Things.
And that sort of dance has a way of drawing love and laughter and healing in an ever-wider circle.
We cannot, this side of things, prevent all Things. We can — we must — fight like hell for the good we can do. Let’s never forget we can do a lot of good, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against us — not in the end, not in the last.
But in these small skirmishes along the way, we can — we must — refuse the descent into despair. The cats deserve better. The people deserve better.
When you’re slumping, I’ll dance you back towards deliverance. When my spirit sighs, will you do the same for me?
When we’re both tired of fighting, we’ll just let the cats jolt us back to rebel joy.
*OK, that’s a lie. They are absolutely thinking about Hot Dog Bites Pizza, all the time.