Friday, 15 April 2011

Purpose: Joy

I sit at my computer, watching an inspirational vlog from one of my mentors, with my cat sitting in my lap.  I absent-mindedly stroke his back as I soak in the information from my computer.  As the vlog comes to a close, I realize that he's quietly purring like mad, and probably has been the whole time.  I wasn't even thinking about the exchange we were doing: him comforting me by warming my lap and keeping me company while I worked; me comforting him through stroking his soft fur.  The experience was a simple exchange of love between animal and human - two beings who have found themselves together, found themselves in love with one another, and easily enjoying each other's comfort.  Few relationships in my life have existed like this until now, so it is important for me to reflect on the simplicity of it all.

Jito (heat-o, short for "Naranjito," meaning "little orange one" in spanish)
finds a new place to sleep, on an empty shelf in my closet.
Why do cats have soft fur?  Biologically speaking - as a non-biologist - there is no good reason for a cat to have soft fur.  Logically speaking, it is because they groom themselves whenever they have a chance, and their saliva makes their fur softer.  But why?  What purpose does it serve?

Having studied the history of sexuality and sexology, I have come across several sexologist experiments trying to explain this very thing in relation to orgasms, pleasure and sexual acts.  About a hundred to fifty years ago, modern sexologists were preoccupied with explaining female orgasms.  On a reproductive matter, it doesn't matter; although, for centuries, the people who we would now call sexologists - and society as a whole - believed female orgasm was necessary for conception.  After the Victorian period, and the making innocent of female sexuality (which began prior to the Victorians), female pleasure became less important, but babies were still born!  How could this be?!? dead scholars would have thought.  Once people began to recognize, once again, that women could enjoy sex as much as men, the real pursuit of trying to understand this began.  At least, as far as the modern history is concerned. (I'm not trying to deny that people were probably puzzled by many of the same things that puzzle us now, I'm just not sure of the extent of preoccupation that less modern individuals concerned themselves with these things as I have not look as indepthly into the area of history of sexuality, which is a shame in itself.)

Do we really need to have a reason for joy, though?  Or pleasure?  Do we have to understand the benefits of happiness more than the fact that it is a great emotion?  I know that I pursue happiness, pleasure, joy, and all those other positive emotions on a daily basis.  I pursue them to the extent that my greatest grievance is pessimistic people. (If you are pessimistic, at least be sarcastic, so that I can continue to enjoy your presence, please.)  Does this make me a better person than those who do not?  Maybe.  I don't really care, any more.  You can call me selfish if that makes you feel better about my apathy towards being measured successful based on popularity, wealth, or even health.  I know that those three are also important things to have in your life, but all of them mean nothing if I'm not first of all happy with who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing.  Who needs wealth if you're miserable all of the time?

Jito's favourite box to hide in for a few months was my laptop case. 
I'll never really understand why...

So, why do I live with a cat?  He doesn't catch the mice in my building, as I live on the eighteenth floor. (And, as our last adventure outside proved, I'm pretty sure he can't catch something unless it comes from a can, anyways.) He won't protect me from house invaders, although he does attack the feet of the dates I bring home that turn out to not be worth my time nor energy. His version of helping me prepare meals involves hiding in the cupboards whose doors I acidentally leave open.  And he likes to think of cleaning as a game of "catch the broom" rather than a chore that must be done weekly (or monthly as it has become - I know: disgusting!).  His mere presence in my life is to bring joy to it, and this stumps many people.  My veganism tends to stump the same people, though.

Jito's attempt at "gardening" when I left him alone all day. 
Needless to say, we don't try to grow cat nip anymore....

As a vegan for animal rights issues, I struggled at first with the notion of "owning" a pet.  To appease myself, I never refer to myself as his owner, because I am not.  He was never purchased, nor bred, for my amusement. I care for him and provide for his food, healthcare and housing.  He pays me back with cuddles, when he wants to cuddle, games of "chase me" or "chase the laser" when I feel I should be working, and the constant reminder of why I could never eat another animal again.  He is my constant reminder of why I devote my life to activism to animals and not humans.  He has no voice that other people hear.  He communicates to me in ways that even other animal lovers think are strange, but which I understand.  We have a special bond, and nobody could ever come between that.  You can call me the "crazy cat lady" if you want; I can handle it.  If I had to spend the rest of my life only with him, I won't deny that I would be lonely, but I would still be happy.  He brings me joy.  And that's all I need.  That, and undying love.

I remember the first day I met home and held me in his arms.  He cried at first because this was a new experience.  Within five minutes, though, he had snuggled into my belly and made himself at home.  We fight and argue about the most insignificant of things (like biting my ankles, cleaning out the kitty litter, biting my books, or feeding him the good food), but we always go back to that first day, and the first cuddle, and I know exactly why he's here.  Some people search for the perfect breed, the cutest kitten, or the animal they'll most save.  I didn't search for Jito, but we were always meant to be together.  Like a parent with their child, my love is undying and my obsession with him baffling to those who have never been in the same situation.  Unlike a parent with the child, our life spans differ, and I know this fact every single day.  And the saddest thing to ever think about is the day he'll die before me...

Jito, as a kitten, tiring of the photo session and just wanting to cuddle...
That's a lot of pessimism, though, so I'll hide it under the bed.  For now, I plan to just enjoy our time together - the good, the bad, and the ugly cuts he makes on my arm.  Yes, I live with a cat; and I think radical thoughts about the relationship I have with another species.  That's who I am.  It means I have a huge capacity for love, a great openness to ideas outside of the box, and a wonderful understanding of the simple pleasures of joy.  If only every one could live with the purpose of finding that joy, we might all be a little bit happier.

Also, I think cats have soft fur merely so that humans will enjoy petting them more.  They are companion animals, aren't they?
Watching the world go by from the top of his penthouse, overlooking my living room window. 
From here he watches the "ants" of students on their way to school, work, or just out for a casual stroll. 
He likes watching the world go by in front of him...

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