Life’s meaning is not from distant, lofty examples of public recognition of personal achievements. It can be found in everyday life; however, it may seem trifle or prosaic. For me, I see my mom in her old, invalid self whose back is arched like a bow and her left knee immobile and think she has reached the stage of the Old Woman as presented by Shakespeare’s poetic view of human life composed of Seven Stages of Man. Gone are the days of parental tyranny built on tirades, a rant of frustration, ire of a disappointed expectation, and a delusion of estrangement. Without the queen’s mighty power, she is now approaching the age of oblivion with one foot in the threshold of the last stage of a play called life.
I have recently read Samuel Johnson’s essay on authoritarian parenting. Johnson must have written it out of his childhood experience or observation from others. Johnson follows the Aristotelian definition of parenting as being naturally tyrannical. He admonishes the dysfunctional effects on the child’s mind and body, subject to the illogical rants of inordinate temper and crude ignorance on the part of the parent. To be a good parent requires no occasion for the assistance of high education or social standing of recognition, but unconditional love and understanding springing from the parent’s heart. A good parent encourages, nourishes, and loves the child who will return the jewels of parentship at the Latter Stages of Man. Therefore, it is all over but the shouting that a parent whose intermittent bouts of uncontrolled tantrum inflict pain and exact terror on the child will live in malignity of the disaffected child who mistreats now the old, infirm parent without the presence of love and warmth. What a pity.
Upon reading the essay, I saw the images of a young mom, mature mom, and old mom screened in a phantasmagorial display of the ancient time on a mind’s theater. From childhood until now, mom I have known is lonely, living in her castle where no one would bother or scare her fragile sensitivity that feels too much to confront life’s realities, including parenthood. How I will think of her as a parent is a foregone conclusion not with spite but with sympathy. With her left knee immovable by the osteoporosis combined with calcification in tibial arteries, I now only see an older woman on the verge of extreme pathos about the life she did not like much, among which her regret of not being an ideal mother. Although Johnson had a point in admonishing harsh parentship without love producing revengeful quid pro quo consequences, I cannot turn my shoulders away from my mom, who has none but me to take care of her in this world. I remember Mother Teresa pleading to all of us that charity begins right at home. That’s what I feel when I see my mom asleep like a baby. And thereby hangs a tale.
The Bard must have been punctual like me in doing his business as an actor, a writer, and an entrepreneur, not least because of his perspicuous witty aphorism that “Better three hours too soon than one minute too late.” Yes, the Bard and I are connected, among others, by the number three (3) because when I went to Little Tokyo for Toro’s follow-up appointment with a vet, it was thirty minutes earlier than the appointed time. It seems too pat that gave me a mental jolt, while Toro was trying to get out of a new pet carrying tote I had bought from Amazon. The popular tote failed to serve the purpose of being a portable carriage of the ever Curious Cat preferring his humanoid sister as a moving tall cat tree. In fact, Toro always likes to climb on my back and shoulders, which I wish to be wider and firmer so that he can securely sit on either side of them. My wish was father to the thought unless I saved a fairy who would grant me the wish as a quid pro quo in bona fide.
Since coffee is my morning elixir, I wended my direction toward a nearby Starbucks with the Curious Cat on my right shoulder, making me look curiouser and curiouser. Maybe I should not have gone to the Starbucks but instead to the Seven-Eleven, where they also sold excellent cheap coffee. Or is it just my innately high-strung sensibilities that detect the vibe? Notwithstanding the famous green mermaid’s angelic presence, it was the surprise unwelcome reception at the mermaid’s coffeehouse. My Curious Cat Toro was sitting on my shoulder while I was entering the store, and the two lady barristers looked at us as though they were looking at freaks from a defunct circus closed due to the pandemic. One of them at the register began with a slight grimace: “Miss, you can’t bring a cat here.” I was surprised to hear such an announcement because having seen dogs at other stores; it was more than a mind blow akin to heartbreak. So I remonstrated as softly as possible with my futilely pitiful reference to the dogs at Starbucks stores near my work. Then the other woman who appeared to be senior in staff hierarchy explained: “Dogs are allowed, but not cats. Our district manager is very strict about that. But I will serve you coffee because you seemed to not to know of it.” What a mercy. Yes, I got the coffee, I took Toro to the vet, and at least all was fine. Yet, the incident made me feel sorry about Toro, a de facto discrimination subject, per se.
Thankfully, Toro didn’t know of the episode performed in human language, but my heart sank when I looked at his large green eyes innocently looking into my eyes from a backpack I carried him into. So I showered him with new feather toys and cans of chicken pumpkin soup from a Petco in the afternoon. The district manager’s policy of not allowing cats to enter the premise makes my head swivel in 360 degrees of wonderment. Whether or not such policy is personally motivated under the particular feline nature’s pretext is a mystery, but cats’ exclusion is hard to swallow. Certainly, Toro and his feline kind will be welcome in the coffee houses of Teheran, where their wild ancestors were an integral part of arts and religions. Is that why cats were burned with alleged witches in Europe? No? It makes me couriouser and couriouser.
The period of four months can be long or short, depending upon how you feel it, and to me, it amounts to a long time that has changed my life in every possible way akin to an epoch of revolution. My life with an orphaned kitten named Toro has become a fugue of meows and voices in multiple strands of more meows and voices that has no coda.
During the four months, Toro and I had anfractuous moments made of frequent visits to different veterinarians, displays of whims and caprice on both sides, tears and smiles, frustration and understanding, doubts and hopes, wishes and disappointments, all of which are crystallized into a virtue of acceptance. I still cannot believe that I have a cat when I still have a weakness for more domesticated, more trainable, and more approachable canine breeds. This doubt develops into a sense of guilt, a whirlpool of self-criticism of not being good enough to be a loving owner of Toro, who is particularly in need of love and kindness due to his sensitive nature and suspected traumatic postnatal experience. Those educative textual and visual information on raising cats dissipates into a gray area of reality and stay there amid my trials and errors in the course of being a terrific guardian whom Toro wishes to live with. Does Toro want to live with another owner who can make him happy in a bigger house where he can run like his wild ancestors or cousins in nature with his new playmates? I ask Toro, but he returns me with that pensive glance and grooms himself like nothing more is necessary than licking his legs and rectum.
My mother still wants me to return Toro to the shelter because his burst of pep and temper is unprecedentedly unbridled and insurmountable to be caught up with. Then I read other cat owners’ stories and watch their YouTube channels only to make parallels to their blissful lives with their cats and to descend to the labyrinth of gloom and sorrow without an exit. My previous post about my precipitated proclamation of a mutually beneficiary feeling of dependency becomes a public humiliation, a textual pillory of an incompetent cat owner who has no idea about the animal that does not like to be with her the first place. Or so it seems. Alas, woe to the one whose head is whirled like a potter’s wheel in the vortex of confusion, illusion, and discord in a da capo.
Notwithstanding all of the above, one thing is sure that Toro’s wellbeing, both mentally and physically, is what I care about the most. I have taken him to three different vets so far due to his frequent diarrhea, constipation, and anal pain repeating like Bach’s Toccata. Even if Toro may indeed secretly entertains a wish to meet a new ideal owner, I want to take care of him as much as I can to the fullest extent within my capabilities because I care about him and want to be happy together. His little heartbeat I feel in my hand and when he sleeps at my feet is the most precious thing I treasure that empowers me with a sense of purpose that I have a life depending on me.
Reading the history of ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Western Civilization, in general, gives me mental refreshment. It connects me to the people who lived before me, crossing over the boundaries of time and territories. So, it was a pleasant present after a day’s work when Mom handed over to me a Christmas issue of the BBC History Revealed magazine that had arrived at home. To my delight, I saw in the magazine my letter to the editor about my questions on the hypothetical consequence of the successful gunpowder plot, which is best known for the Guy Fawkes Day in the U.K. The following is the transcription of my published letter, which is titled “Food for Thought.” In fact, this is the 6th time that the magazine has published my letters! Wow!
“The interesting scenario about what might have happened had the gunpowder plot been successful in England in 1605 made me think of its hypothetical impacts on the birth of the United States of America and its culture.
The conjecture that the restoration of Catholicity in England would have resulted in the earlier flux of protestant immigration to the States was particularly intriguing and eye-opening in a religious and cultural context.
It also led me to wonder about the following questions: what would Catholic England’s policy have been toward its Spanish ally in the expedition of the New World, principally, including America? Could the New World have been the only choice of the exodus of the English protestants? Could Spanish have become the official language of the States?”
Suppose a brownie or a leprechaun I happen to rescue from a Gargamel lookalike wizard insists what my three wishes are as a quid pro quo (depending upon how friendly the fairy is). In that case, I will say forthwith one of them is the Marvel of Writing, which I have lost somewhere in the course of life. I can turn myself into a great writer with the magical pyramid of power from a hodge-podge reality of indigested letters of reality as black as Persian Night.
Johnson’s essay on the role of the scholar evolves from Francis Bacon’s adage: “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” It rings a bell with the Nietzschean idea of Superhuman, superseding any mortals known for their erudition perennially enshrined in the history of human civilizations. A truly knowledgeable person I principally associate with a great writer can digest what he reads, explain it to others in facile terms, and substantialize it in writing, a mental Osmotic process that nourishes the mind and invigorates the body.
Although I agree with Bacon as Johnson did, I am more with their ancient Greek teacher Socrates. Socrates warned his pupils about regurgitating what they heard from his lectures without putting it in their own words. That was one reason why the great philosopher disapproved of writing practice that had just emerged in his time. Copying letters of others without understanding them on his own would stun the cognitive powers rather than promote a broader and deeper range of cognition. Reading was not as popular in Socrates’ time as in ours because it was at the beginning of the new intellectual dawn of Greek Civilization. So, Socrates was a thinker, neither a reader of texts, nor a writer of tablets. Does this make him less of his students Plato and Aristotle?
Does the amount of reading necessitate that of writing? Wouldn’t too many words go undigested inside and clog the pipes of thoughts when writing? For example, an ambitious amateur writer wants to write as if she were possessed by the spirit of Patience Worth, who transformed an ordinary homemaker into a brilliant writer. She adheres to a writer’s gospel of “Read a lot. Write a lot,” but it is easy to be said than to be done. The more she reads, the worse she writes. She wants to reason the perplexing reason with frustration and disappointment. She feels lost in the middle of midtown Manhattan where there are many streets and avenues but nowhere is her niche. Yet once she gets out of town, the state, the coast, her mind becomes clear, imbued with a fresh breath of inspiration that moves her hands on the keyboards automatically. Contrary to Johnson’s opinion that grandstands with all other established writers and academics, the amateur writer feels liberated from a siege of letters that intimidated her army of thoughts equipped in her design of armors and shields with her coat of arms sovereign and beautiful. Her reasoning power was buried under a chaos of indigested learning.
Although Johnson’s magnanimous advice of the equilibrium of reading, writing, and speaking on a writer’s continuum is respectful and worth reading, its reality is subject to the individual aptitudes of learning, ways of reasoning, and natural dispositions. One may write better because of reading more, while the other has the opposite consequence. A hermit – let us say more realistically, an introvert – is not always an incompetent, anti-social, sullen loner whose airy petulance barricades against others whose intelligence may seem intimidating to be dealt with. I think to write more is far better critical than to read more because writing is a sovereign act of expressing an individual mind and spirit, free from the comparison of the florid words of others with the writer’s own that would dispirit the vivacity of the creative spirit. To conclude, I thank Thomas Mann for his affirmative saying:” Solitude produces originality, bold and astonishing beauty, poetry.” Truth is truth to the end of reckoning. Then it is yet another truth of others, not necessarily yours.