The Transfiguration

everything is sacred

Underbelly of the Day #1691

with one comment

Underbelly of the Day #1691

The space beneath beds is linked to a certain memory for me.

When I was very young – three and four years old – I was rather mean to our cats. Only a few memories regarding this are still with me, but I can still glean from them some understanding of my character back then.

I tried to cover Gracie’s head with a plastic bag (perhaps imagining it was a space helmet for her?), only thwarted at the last moment by my very concerned mother. I forced Tom Cat to sit in my lap when I played Sega, trapped as an unwilling gaming buddy. Both cats would flee from me by running under my mom’s bed. There was a hole in the fabric on the underside of the box-spring, and the two of them often leapt inside – one of the few places in the house where I couldn’t reach them directly. Their weight on the cloth made sagging lumps in the bed’s underbelly, and I would lie there beneath them, pushing on the lumps until the cats grew sick of the abuse and ran away.

Throughout all of this I am fairly certain that I was oblivious to how uncomfortable I was making the cats. I imagined them as friends but treated them like toys, not yet able to understand the perspective of another creature.

Tom Cat eventually became fed up with my nonsense, and one day snuck up on me from behind, claws bared. I had scratches all over my back – perhaps the worst I’d been hurt so far in my life. At the moment the attack seemed unprovoked, but I had certainly treated the cats poorly enough to deserve it. I may have learned that day to give them a little more respect – out of fear, if nothing else.

The point of this story isn’t about Tom Cat’s capacity to develop a grudge and wait for his revenge – though that may be a worthwhile line of thought as well. Rather, I want to underline the fact that innocence does not equate to kindness or empathy. It takes time for us to understand that other people and other creatures live rich mental lives like we do, and that they deserve respect and fair treatment. Selfishness is, from biological necessity, the default – everything else is learned.

Childlike innocence is real, but so is the cruelty of children, and both come from ignorance of how the world works.

I don’t treat cats poorly anymore, and now I can actually be friends with them. It’s been good to grow up.

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Written by Umbrella Man

May 10, 2013 at 2:22 am

Posted in Miscellany

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One Response

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  1. There’s parts of this that are serious that I don’t want to laugh at, but I laughed anyways.

    Martha Reilly

    May 11, 2013 at 8:39 am


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