Posted in book review, Miscellany

Samuel Johnson Rambles on the practicality of knowledge – essay

Ignorance is the timorous and indolent plight from fear because knowledge is considered to be remotely extensive and inscrutable to be comprehended. It retards the progress of the mind and numbs the sense. Samuel Johnson avers in his weekly essay ‘The Rambler, No. 137’ avers that one remains unenlightened unless he is diligent to search for the origin of wonder with a pause of reason, a sudden cessation of mental progress when confronting the unknown to him. The need for general knowledge, the knowledge that confers Citizenship of the World, is an essential element of human characteristics, and an easy task to fulfill in search of meaning in life.

Johnson’s idea of knowledge is simplicity. It is jettisoned from a concatenation of needless abstrusely sophisticated theories and ideologies. It also chimes the bell with the Renaissance virtuoso Leonard da Vinci’s adage that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication in all principles. However intimidating or formidable the unknown is, the essential feature is simple to understand by way of ‘Divide and Conquer,” a principle that complication is a confederacy of the abstruse that can be broken into parts marked by the gradations from the first agent to the last consequence. The force that breaks the shackle of fear for conquering the unknown huddle is patient diligence armored in confidence. The labor of inquiry for wonder follows natural curiosity and confidence that eclipses the soul’s darkness. It comes to fruition by ceaseless efforts to ascertain the origin of the wonder in simple ways. The English philosopher who also advocated democratic pedagogy, John Locke, affirms that the surest way of thorough comprehension knowledge is to attempt little by way of repetition. For the widest excursions of the mind result from short flights of mental imagery and instant thoughts triggered by neurons fired in our cerebral cortex, which can be transformed into an organization of ideas firmly engraved in the mind.

However, knowledge loses its purpose if it dissipates into the possessor’s cerebral ether or is locked in the mind’s cabinet. It becomes useful and purposeful when put into practice. That is why Johnson gives heed to those who pride themselves in the impressive educational backgrounds and belittle others whose mental capacities they arbitrarily judge ignorable or even ordinary. Knowledge is for share, and it is a duty of a scholar who has a wider variety of knowledge through years of academic endeavors for the common benefits of the world he lives in. As Francis Bacon fittingly concurs, books can never teach the use of books. Generally speaking, it is common for intellectuals, despite their ostensible calls for democracy and justice for all, to live out of touch with the practical realities of life and often regard such matters as trifles. But what is worthy of their glorious learning if it does not accommodate the purpose of life? Johnson criticizes such lofty arrogance of the rarified subset of the general population because they lose their days in unsocial silence and live in the crowd of life without a touch of humanity. It also reminds me of Bacon’s utterance of loneliness in a group as such: “Magna Civitas, Magna solitudo.” In this regard, George Orwell is together with Johnson because they saw the educated’s superciliousness, the intellectuals, who often conferred their knowledge to their honor in the voluntary seclusion.

Upon reading Johnson’s essay, I could not help but wholeheartedly agree with the purpose of knowledge and the idea of sharing it with others for the world’s common good. I was also glad to learn that I was not the only one who thought that people with academic credentials were frequently dismissive of the opinions of what they regarded as the mortals of the ordinary among whom I am. Therefore, I hope that the reader who reads this essay of mine should not belittle the soul attempting to obtain the sunshine of the light of letters to understand the world in a perspicuous way to declare to the world that I also can think and express it cogently. That is my essay on knowledge for the purpose of life.

Posted in Miscellany

A perfect cat owner?: confession of a novice

I remember watching the cat guru Jackson Galaxy’s post on YouTube about a prison where a group of inmates is assigned each cat for mental and a behavioral correctional program. The inmates seemed calm and content just as their foster feline friends reflected and talked of the amazing effects on their hearts hardened by the world never kind to them. The images of a condemned man in a cell and a homeless cat from a shelter became a beautiful impressionist painting with an air of serenity wrapped up in the soft sweet twilight colored by the warm hues of pleasantness that filled the canvass and stayed in the heart of the beholder – forever. The loneliness cut in halves transformed into togetherness, and there was nothing else but the mutual need for love and care. With the picturesque imagery engraved in my heart’s shrine, I cannot help but question the generic prerequisites for being an ideal cat owner indoctrinated by those professing to know things about pets. The doctrines of a perfect cat owner are as follows: you have to live in a space wide enough for her to exercise her natural hunting instinct, to have another cat to prevent anxiety, aggression, and loneliness, and most of all, to be a near-perfect human full of love and understanding blessed with material means to satisfy the need of a cat to the extent possible. The protocols remind me of eugenics elements by which only the best males and females can produce offspring desirable for humankind. Only the superhuman race can fall in love, beget children, and raise them to be perfect in physical and mental attributes to continue the Superhumanity. On the same token, being an ideal cat owner is to be an ideal person who deserves love from nature because of his ideally perfect being—quite the Nietzschean idea of Superhumanity. 

An ideal cat owner’s doctrines align against the condemned man’s images and the homeless cat in a cell. Then I also look at my 4-month old tabby cat Toro, whom I adopted from a shelter three months ago. Is he unhappy with me in this tiny apartment room? Is it because of boredom and separation anxiety doubled with a significant change of environment from pastoral life to city life that has driven him to a sudden pulsing and biting my hands and feet? Does he hate me because I leave him at home all day long with a mother who hates him when I go to work? Does he want to leave me and be adopted to a loving, perfect new owner because of my imperfection? Am I less qualified than the inmate to have a cat altogether? The thoughts smothered under the ineffective veil of forced positivism have reached the point where they can no more bear the suffocation and begun to erupt the lavas in the fiery magnitude.


As a first-time pet owner, I like to think that it is not a coincidence but Providence that Toro has come to my life because he was the only kitten who came to me and my brother bunting his little flurry head against our hands through the cold metals of the cage in the shelter. Toro and I are much alike in many aspects: leisured time in seclusion, uncompromising individuality, insatiable curiosity, innate sensitivity, and unfailing feistiness. We also instinctively know each other’s mood because when I am dejected, Toro studies my facial movements and comes nearer to me with those adorable eyes filled with liquid warmth. Then I look at the cute little Toro before me and think that genuine love and care transcends the high walls of a grim prison and eclipses the roof of a perfect happy house. There is a home sweet home for me and Toro in my tiny apartment.

Posted in Miscellany

Our Mutual Friends

Some say animals do not have a faculty of mind that translates the sense into meaning.  I always find it ironic that educated people can sometimes be heartlessly benighted, belittling a simplicity of nature. That they do not have the emotional spectrums, ranging from guilty to remorseful, and to resentful, gives free rein on arbitrarily judging animal behaviors according to human rational thinking that supersedes instincts common to all living creatures. Nor does it sound sane to cosset pets with outpourings of maudlin sentiments out of anthropomorphism for our convenience. We are fortunate to live in the age of the Brilliance of Science. Still, the overflux of information sometimes begets counterproductive results. Amid the deluge of information on animal behaviorism available on the Internet, I am often doubtful, if not fearful, of the way I am raising my cat.

I observe how my 14-week old tabby Toro behaves from defecating in the litterbox to drinking from the water fountain, playing with his toys, and to watching his new finned friend, Hope, a Betta fish. Although they do not have the faculty to produce physiologically-driven emotional effects as complex as humans, my observation has yielded that cats exhibit a feline version of a continuum from pleasantness to unpleasantness. For instance, when I discipline Toro for not behaving, he does about-face and hides under the bed or goes to a corner of the room, sitting there like a mini sphinx statue, sulking and avoiding my eyes. Then in about 10 minutes or so, he slowly (and stealthily) approaches where I am while still keeping his feline pride in a way he doesn’t want to ingratiate himself with my favor. When finally arriving at his destination of Me, he announces his arrival with the unmissable “Meow,” with his eyes pleading for my petting. Cats may not have the same kind of grudge that we humans secretly harbor as in William Blakes’ ‘Poison Tree.” Yet, they possess the tactile feelings at the primary level, which can be akin to those exhibited by infants. Also, I don’t think raising a single cat will prevent her from socialization or emotional well-being. Most cats do not like to be with other cats unless they are littermates from birth.

My a posteriori opinion about a myriad of scientific theories and expert dos and dont’s about raising cats happy and healthy is an intelligent hypothesis of feline nature. It attempts to explain why they act the way they do so that we, as caretakers, should take care of them better and more effectively. From my personal experience thus far, it is really up to individuals’ discretion to respond to their cats (or other pets) because each animal has different characters with particular likes and dislikes. So I try not to read more than I need in terms of feline care. (i.g., Toro likes no cat tree, no chasing ball but likes to climb on chairs, shelves, and tables that humans use.) Cats are solitary and egoistic, but that is why they are so affectionate toward us.  As the Victorian British writer George Eliot said, “Animals are such agreeable friends, they ask no questions, pass no criticisms.” Therefore, I would treat my furry little friend as he is, rather than turn him into an obsequious, listless pet whose existence depends on the mercy of his master.

 

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Pets are not of a fad but for life.

I read the Guardian article “A dog is for life, not Just lockdown” by Donna Ferguson (September 13, 2020 issue) with intimately acquainted feeling shared by our understanding of pets as family members with care, not as luxurious commodities treated with whims and caprice. Her search for a Poochon puppy for her daughter reminds me of my own story of the recent adoption of a tabby kitten from a shelter.

As I was going to move into a pet-friendly apartment, I was excited to bring a dog into my new home to share companionship. However, during my search for a canine company, I became aware of the ugly reality of “pet business” intent on swindling and ripping off naïve would-be pet owners. Ferguson’s experience of encountering sellers of puppies suspected of scamming or deceiving chimed the bell of my experience in which a dubious welsh corgi breeder insisted on “shipping out” a puppy to me in the convenient pretext of Covid-19 protocol. Even legitimate ones are not exempt from my continued disappointment: Shiba breeders in Southern California had their waiting lists closed. One pet shop owner on the phone revealed to me that since the outbreak of the Covid-19 and California state made it difficult to sell and buy a pet at a pet shop. Hence the supply and demand for pets have become disproportionately unbalanced, skyrocketing the price of dogs immensely. Worse, the procedure of adopting dogs from shelters makes it excessively challenging and disheartening for bona fide would-be owners disappointed with the requirements of a near-perfection environment for dogs.

Maybe all the disappointments and disillusion of having a dog meant to lead me to the world of cats because now I have a 12-week old brown male tabby named “Toro,” a masculine form of Tora, meaning in a little tiger in Japanese. I brought him from Ventura Animal Services three weeks ago. He is a smart, capricious kitten charged with a sudden pop of energy to stalk and play with the toy rat and anything moving from the frills of my skirts to dangling straps of my iPhone cover. Watching Toro peacefully cuddle up on my laps or my desk when I read or write, I can’t agree more with Ferguson that our cat and dog are not for our pandemic solace but our wish to share our homes with the lovely creatures.

Posted in Miscellany

I say Meow.

I am a dog person. I like their playful innocence and adorable artlessness. And I still believe all dogs go to heaven because of their innate goodness that brings joy to our overtly complexed human life. Also, dogs and humans have been living together for about 15,000 years as family members. Remember Argos, the loyal dog of Odyssey, who was the only one who recognized his old master in rags and tatters? Also, there were the dogs who saved the lives of soldiers during historical manmade wars in the expanse of their own lives. So, if the circumstances give me the green light, I would love to have a dog at home. Who wouldn’t anyway?


Then, given the express affection toward the canine race, how could my living with a cat be explained? The truth is still a mystery as  I still can’t believe I have Toro, an 11-week old male tabby I adopted from a shelter two weeks ago, at home with me all the time except when I am at work. Toro, which is a masculine form of ‘Tora”, meaning a tiger in Japanese, is a curious paradox of a beast; he is a little cutie with lovely big green eyes but shows all the characteristics of a predator just like his wild cousins. Toro shows he will grow into a formidable hunter contrary to his small and thin body with acute audibility and olfaction. Watching Toro playing with toys and the frills at the bottom of my skirts fluttering underneath the chairs, I wonder if Toro will turn out to be a Gremlin one day when I wake up in the morning. But his cuteness dominates fear, and he likes to sit on my laps when he feels like it. Toro seems to have crafted Ovid’s the Art of Love with innately feline caprice and whims turning it into an irresistible magic spell. What a kitty.

Toro and I moved from the pastoral Ventura County to the heart of Los Angeles during the inferno heatwave of the labor weekend. We both suffered a sense of vertigo in new urban surroundings and a little bit quizzical about how we should adopt to smaller spaces in an apartment. Maybe Toro doesn’t like our new den because he does not wake me up by climbing on my back and meowing in the morning any longer. Besides, he seems to suddenly develop attention deficiency by frequently stalking, jumping, scratching, and biting. Worse still, Toro hissed a lot and aloud for the last two days. Although I force myself to think that it’s due to the diabolical heatwave, I cannot stitch up a little hole in my heart to the immaculate condition.

Freud said the time spent with cats is never wasted. I want to believe it even if these days I spend most of the time tending Toro, instead of reading and writing. Certainly, unconditional love toward a living thing is noble and esteemed. Yet the Bard sums my state of mind thus: “Love sought is good but love unsought is better.” Still, there is a long way ahead of us to live according to the natures of our different species. Our inclinations are contralateral as our needs are egotistical for our own ends of the survival of the species. If so, then let it be – with pleasure.

Maybe, I am more feline than my kitten. Who knows? Meow.