My immediate family consists of one human and three cats. Of the three cats, Elvis is the most adventurous. Observing the ways in which he adventures is a real lesson from nature. In this essay, let’s take a look at what happens when Elvis decides to sneak out of the house and Oscar, not so adventurous, returns from the vet.
Elvis is a house cat. All three are, actually, and before living in this what must feel like a gargantuan estate in Hawaii, they were apartment cats in cramped Brooklyn quarters. What happens when they escape to the outside earth they’ve never set foot on? For Elvis, the few times he made it to the great out of doors, he ran under the house and hid. He was shaking, scared. And it’s the same with our other cat, Oscar, who has seen the outside world. He has no want to walk out the door, but twice we took him to the vet and it was horribly frightening for him. I can only imagine how they, along with Gracie, the third kitty, felt, alone on the belly of the airplane that brought us here. Abandoned in hell comes to mind.
But there is an upside to their living in a bubble, venturing out, and cowering in fear: because they live through it, they feel like kings romping around the house again. Tails up. Meowing with great pride. They sniff each other to hear the story of where they’ve been and what they had to overcome. It’s delightful for them to survive and tell their tales of the outside world and of surviving terror.
We often hear (and make the case) that space-time is an illusion and in that are tempted to forget that it’s also not. It’s also very real for us. “Us” includes all life. The illusions of territory and safety and imaginary property lines that we often suppose are the inventions of Westernized mind are, in fact, concepts embedded in nature. And we see it in cats. Cats who feel accomplished. Cats who survey the perimeter for invading bugs and lizards.
We are they and they are we on many levels. While it is tempting to argue that this is because we’ve domesticated the wild out of animals, it is not so. Cats in the wild also have territories. They mark their property with urine. They fight over what’s theirs. If we are to make sense of these behaviors that transcend organisms, we must look deeper than the culture. Deeper, still, than the brain. Deeper, even, than the genes. We must ask, Which came first: the behavior or the organism wrapped around the behavior? Or is it a simultaneous affair?
And we must realize that when we talk about people who have blinders on, people who are trapped in their own little bubble, their illusory definitions, their own little world, their own reality tunnel, we’re talking about all of us. All who are alive in space-time. All who are alive and the alive all.
If there is another way of being in space-time it will not come from space-time. When one wonders what lies beyond our preordained behaviors without formulating an answer, perhaps then and only then does the answer reveal.
And that revelation is its own aliveness.