Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Importance of Being Decorative

I have a cat named Sasha, but I never call her anything but Kitty--perhaps because she is so haughty that, like YHWH himself, she seems to require generic nomenclature.

Because I spend long hours alone in the house with Kitty, I find that I talk to her a lot and, when she invariably fails to respond, I tend to furnish her side of the dialogue as well.

Sometimes we talk about how much we are alike. For one thing--like me--Kitty is getting on in years (though her exact age is something of a mystery, since she came to us full-grown, having spent her youth locked up in a meth head's laundry room). Secondly, also like me, Kitty is a biological dead end: she has been "fixed" by the vet and I have been "fixed" by nature--so neither of us is going to make any contributions (useful or otherwise) to the genetic pool. Finally, both Kitty and I are completely defenseless: her claws have been removed and I am a Democrat. It would appear, then, that my cat and I have absolutely no redeeming social value. We are both apparently useless.

And yet, it often occurs to me that this ridiculous cat might indeed be a "good thing" (and I admit to sloppy subjectivity here): Kitty is decorative! She embellishes the couch, the living room, the foot of the bed. When she feels like it, she nestles in the crook of my arm and purrs. She makes me feel better about things--even as she makes my arm feel worse and worse until, finally, it falls asleep and I have to wriggle out of her embrace. Is being decorative a legitimate reason for living?

If so, perhaps I can learn a lesson from my cat. I confess that, neither before nor since retirement, have I worked very hard at being decorative. I just don't embellish the world. Someone who does--someone who does a wonderful job of adorning, enhancing and beautifying the lives of others--is my friend Brian.

Brian, like Kitty, is a "good thing"--much sought after by people all over the world who badly need the enrichment he brings to their couches and living rooms (I'm not sure about the foots/feet of their beds). Like some grand Puss in Boots, Brian moves about the world--Wisconsin, Texas, New Hampshire, France, Morocco, Germany, Thailand--being, like Kitty, entirely useless (in the Darwinian sense)...and yet, and yet, so very funny, so very kind, so very articulate, so very outrageous, so very fulfilling of that empty crook in one's arm of life. He has found a way to give meaning to retirement--by focusing on others more than on himself.  I'm very much looking forward to the next time he comes to visit me. Maybe he can teach me to spend less time brooding and more time, well, purring.

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