Sitting at a picnic table reading Sartre
Waianae Beach, Hawaii
A cat had walked out from beneath a parked car, and I stopped writing in my journal. I watched as the cat moved from the shaded underside of the parked car, nose in the air, attracted to the smell of garbage. As the cat jumped to the rim, it slipped and fell to the ground. It was not the typical cat landing, though. The cat hit the ground on its side. Slowly, very slowly, it moved back to the shaded security of the underside of the car, turned, and crouched next to the front tire as its bulging eyes looked in my direction.
The cat, skin and bone, was sick. Its ribs appeared to be bursting
through its skin. White mucus drained from its eyes, which looked to be about ready to fall out of their sockets. The mucus ran all the way down the cat’s nostrils. All feline prowess had left the animal; a
hungry ghost remained. It sniffed the air. It could still smell the
food, but the heat of the afternoon sun had sucked from its body
whatever energy it had. The whole scene was over in less than a minute.
I felt a knot in my stomach. My head sank to my journal, as I hid my eyes from view. I tried to swallow but couldn’t. I found some release in the blackness of my cupped hands. How could a cat, the most self-sufficient of animals, deteriorate to such a decrepit condition? Why? What purpose could be served by all this suffering? Accepted realities, logical systems, and concrete facts, the stuff that made the world sane, couldn’t make sense out of the scene before me. I was screaming inside, and then, above the decibels, I heard a voice, “But haven’t you been here before?” it said. “Come on; what’s new about all this?” I knew immediately it was MV.
“Who among us has had a role in making creation sacrosanct? Who among us has not felt the torment of unasked for needs? Who among us can see what tomorrow brings? You of all people,” he said, “should know this. Stop faking it. Stop venting, and get on with it.”
“Get on with what?” I said. “There’s a soon to be dead, dying cat under that car, and you are intruding on what had been a very solemn moment for me. So, I repeat myself, what’s to get on with?”
“You call this a solemn moment? You slay me,” replied MV. “You see death, and immediately think `boogieman.’ You see death, and recoil in fear and loathing. Death is a gift, but I wouldn’t expect you to understand that.”
“Stop that,” I said, “the last thing I need is to hear my own
voice praising death.”
“You’re right,” said MV, “what’s to praise? I misspoke myself. I meant to say death should be a constant reminder that life should be lived well. Comprende!”
“Haven’t you any compassion, man. Don’t you see the agony on that
cat’s face,” I said.
“Well, actually, no, I don’t,” replied MV. “I see resolve; that is
all. Animals’ know more about death than you do. Ever wonder why that is? And compassion! Its way too overrated if you ask me. If people stopped feeling sorry for themselves and others, maybe more would get done to prevent the `need for compassion.’ Like right now, what actually do you see, a flaw in Mother Nature, or just a dying cat? Let’s say, for instance, that you were that cat. Would you feel compassion for the guy feeling sorry for you because you didn’t have enough to eat? No, I think not. So what’s all this about anyway? An `exercise in nothingness?’ You know what I mean, eh?”