Are spirits in the material world

8 08 2010

I don’t believe in life after death.

There is life, here, in this world, and death both is and signals the end of life.

Now, is there something else, after life? That, I don’t know.

If there is something else, it doesn’t seem that it would conform to notions of Christian or Muslim heaven; those seem so earth-bound, so reflective of what we already have here, only someone’s version of better.  (A multitude of virgins or streets paved with gold? Really?) If there would be something else, wouldn’t it be. . . something else?

Backing up: I think of life as bounded by this earth, but I’m fudging on the whole existence thing, that is, we exist in life, here, and if our existence continues, then it would be in some other way.

Furthermore, that there could be something else doesn’t mean it’s supernatural. I don’t believe in the supernatural; I think everything—everything—is natural, and that that which is called ‘supernatural’ is simply something for which we lack understanding.

(And woo? Woo is a cover, a con: obfuscation masquerading as understanding.)

This isn’t rank materialism. I also don’t believe the (natural or social) sciences are sufficient to make sense of all worldly—universal—phenomenon; I’m not arguing that understanding necessitates a reduction of all things to the latest brand of physics. It’s simply that, if there is nothing beyond nature, then we’ll need new ways of understanding—new sciences—to make sense of that which current scientific methods cannot.

Does this tend toward a Theory of Everything? Perhaps, but since TOE is conceptualized in contemporary terms, it may be inadequate to describe all that there is.

And ‘is’ itself may be—hell, already is—called into question, along with ‘all’ and ‘that’.

*Sigh* It’s late and I”m not making sense.

I’m wondering about death because a little over a week ago Bean died and a little over a year ago Chelsea died.  I don’t think they’re in pet heaven or regular heaven or whatever. I don’t know if they’ve gone some place after death, if their existence continues, or what relationship that existence has to any worldly one. Maybe there’s nothing, maybe there’s something. I know they’re not with me.

But I would like to think, that if there is something, that they neither forget nor are constrained by life. This existence on earth, this life, is powerful, and if there is something else, I’d like to think it offers us more without taking away what we already were. Perhaps there is no full understanding on this earth, no way for us to comprehend all there is; perhaps life is to get us started, but it’s not enough, not enough for us to know.

I don’t know this, of course. And maybe this is it, and this life which is not enough is it. Perhaps this life is enough.

My methods are insufficient to determine one way or the other.





Bean-a-lee-a-lea, Bean-a-lee-a-lou. . . .

31 07 2010

Bean loved to do two things, eat, and:

Sleep

And sleep some more

She slept on the floor, on rugs, in chairs, on tables, on my desk, in my closet, and, of course, in bed:

Whaddya mean, move?

As Chelsea and Bean got older, I set a low chest near the bed to make it easier for them to get up and down. In one apartment, however, I didn’t have room for the chest, so set this stool next to the bed, instead:

Chelsea would step lightly up, but Bean never quite mastered that. Instead, she’d climb partly on to the lower step, then stick her paw into the notch on top and haul herself up and over; made me smile every time. Shoulda gotten a shot of that.

When I had a proper kitchen set-up—i.e., a table and chairs—Bean liked to jump into the chair. She then expected me to tip it back and rub her belly. She’d squeak and squeak until I’d stop, then look at me like ‘You’re stopping? Is there a problem?’

Even without the tip-and-rub, however, she liked to reign from the chair.

This became a point of contention between her and Jasper, as he, too, liked to loll on the chair. Bean would chase him off if he dared slip on to her perch, but at some point this past winter, she ceded the spot to him. It was a concession both sad and inevitable.

Still, she never gave in fully to Jasper, never let him get too familiar. Tolerance, however, she could do.

Early detente

I did see them sleeping together—actually touching—once or twice, but Jasper could never get the hang of how to hang without chomping on Bean. And then he wondered why she wanted nothing to do with him.

Chelsea was the same way, initially, with Bean, although because they were much closer in age, they had more time together to learn how to live together.

Unfathomable in the early years, constant later on

Chelsea, as I may have mentioned, was a marvelous jumper, able to leap from the floor to the top of five-foot bookshelves with little more preparation than a look and a butt-wriggle. This was how she most often escaped the Bean-kitten, as the young Bean had neither the strength nor, frankly, the chops, to follow her.

But oh, how Bean tried. One night, when my roommate P. and I were sitting on the couch, Bean chased Chelsea down the hall and into the living room. Chelsea skipped on to the nearby desk, then hopped on to the bookshelves.

Bean, determined to follow, didn’t bother first scrawling up the couch to get to the desk (a board slung across two file cabinets), and instead tried to conquer the desk in one leap.

She managed to get half her tiny body up, but her back didn’t quite make it. She bicycled her back legs, to no avail, and her front half slowly slid back off, until all that remained on top were her paws, the claws dug into the plywood.

She hung there for a moment, her little body swinging, before she finally let go.

Bean never attained the grace so natural to Chelsea, but she had her own dignity.

And she was sweet and lovable, who pipped and squeaked and purred and purred and purred.

Bean was a good cat. I don’t know if there’s anything after life in this world, but if there is, I hope she and Chelsea are together.

They were good cats.

If there is something else, I hope they’re happy.





The lion sleeps tonight: one year later

2 05 2010

Chelsea. It’s a year to the day.

1991-2009

The mourning has not gone well. I’ve grieved, and not. I’ve handled it, and not.

I can think of her without tears, but only rarely; because of this, I only rarely think of her.

She does help me with Bean, in trying to do better in recognizing and responding to her needs. I’m patient with Bean in a way I was not always with Chelsea.

I couldn’t see that she was dying, couldn’t see her.

I still can’t, in so many ways.

My sweet Chelsea still has something more to teach me. Perhaps by next year, I can finally let her rest.





I watch you sleeping on the bed

9 03 2010

My beautiful Bean is sick.

Not desperately so, and perhaps not-imminently-fatally so, but she is ill, and it likely that this illness will at some point result in her death.

It pains me to say this, because I do not want my sweet old kitten to die, but I cannot ignore her decline.

Cannot. Will not.

I did ignore what was happening to Chelsea. It’s so clear, in retrospect, that she was sick for years, dying for months, and almost gone by the time I saw that gone was the best place for her. I spent money I didn’t have on a delusion that at 18 what little life she had in her was enough for a few more years.

It made the ending harder than it had to be for both of us.

So I won’t do that with Bean. I will see her, as she is, an old and sick cat. Oh, I’m doing what I can, within reason, to slow that decline, but at 15 1/2, ‘within reason’ amounts to home care and wishes.

Whether that decline is weeks or months or even a year, I have no idea.

But I’ll be ready, or readier, this time. Chelsea taught me that. Wishes or no, I have to see Bean clear.





The year of the cat

31 12 2009

My attitude toward 2009?

Don’t let the calendar hit your ass on the way out the clock.

I don’t usually care much one way or the other for end of year/beginning of year ruminations; my biggest issue is remember to write the correct year on any documents I have to date.

But two things happened this year which affected the absurd household.

One (tho’ the second thing, if you insist on chronological correctness):

Yes, the Odd Boy, Mr. Jasper himself, came to live with Bean and me. He’s been a sweet pain in the ass and a darling demon. I’m glad he’s here.

Bean continues to withhold judgment on the issue.

The second, of course, is the first:

My beautiful Chelsea died.

It was time. She’d been in a slow decline for years, but the end came quickly. She was in no obvious pain, and she purred to the last.

Still, even a good death is a death, and this was the end of a remarkable creature.

I miss you, Sweet Pea.

~~~

There would be no Jasper without Chelsea, of course, no entrance without the exit.

It’s not that Jasper replaces her (duh), but that the space left by Chelsea opened a space for another.

Would I rather have Chelsea than Jasper? I’d rather that Chelsea had stayed healthy for a few more years, that she had continued to fill her own space. Had she done so, I’d have never gone to Animal Control, never met that smelly little critter chomping on my fingers (shoulda been a clue) through the cage bars.

In other words, there’s no comparison between the two. One departed, the other entered. What was Chelsea’s will remain so; Jasper is creating his own way.

My sorrow at Chelsea’s death coexists with my pleasure at Jasper’s presence.

Time falls away, and leaves Chelsea, Bean, and Jasper. They all came, they will all go; they are all here, always.





What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?

3 11 2009

Things will be different this winter.

Hard.

Not the weather—sleeping. Without Chelsea.

You see, Chelsea was incredibly fucking annoying to sleep with once the weather turned cold.

She’d jump up on the bed (not annoying), walk over my body or head (slightly annoying), then sit near my shoulder (not annoying).

Waiting.

Waiting for me to lift the covers that she perfectly well could have burrowed under herself—but no, Herself had wait for me to lift the covers.

If I didn’t immediately do so upon her arrival near my shoulder, she’d make a few pigeon noises (low coos), then again, at a slightly higher volume.

Still nothing? She’d paw at the blankets, lightly at first, then with some vigor.

Still nothing? The paw to the nose. And if still no reaction, she’d push out her claws ever so slightly and softly—no scratches, no marks—rake them across my cheek and nose.

At which point I’d lift my arm and create a proper entrance for La Chelsea.

This is not the really fucking annoying part.  No, what was r.f.a. was her pause.

Yes, after all that, she’d take a step, then pause for a few seconds, as if wondering Hm, do I really want to go under the covers after all? before deigning to duck down and under.

Jesus, she had me so well trained.

Then, of course, she’d turn around and around and around before settling into the same damned spot she always did, curled into my belly as I lay on my side, wrapping herself into a warm ball of purr.

That, I admit, was never annoying.





Pass in time

31 08 2009

It’s been almost 4 months.

I teared up when I typed that.

You see, while I can talk about her life, I cannot talk about her death without tears.

I know she’s no longer here, but it is an outer knowledge, something I keep away from me.

I have to make room for her, all of her, in me. Life and death and everything.

If I want to be able to remember without tears, then I have to bring her back in, even with the tears.

‘Just a cat’, I know.

But oh, how I miss that cat!





Everybody do like a monkey

25 07 2009

Jasper is a-growin’ along, getting into the plants and such:

And, of course, he has to chew everything he can get his mouth around:

I love his little pink tongue slipping out amongst the black.

Wait. What? These photos don’t really look like Jasper?

Oh, but they do! They do look like Jasper. They’re just. . .  not, mm, him.

Yes, it occurred to me this past week how much the Vampire Kitty looks like a lemur. Especially when he’s all riled up and his eyes are wide and round:

(Sorry, it’s a lousy shot: I was futzing with the exposure. And he’s tough to shoot when he’s riled up.)

Well, take my word for it, he does look like a lemur.

It’s only fitting: I used to call Chelsea (among other things) my monkey kitty. She was agile in her leaps and incredibly dexterous with both her paws and her mouth.

Bean, well, Bean is not so dexterous. She gets called Panda Bean with some regularity, along with all the other varieties of bean: lima Bean, navy Bean, kidney Bean, garbanzo Bean. . . .

Anyway, since one of Chelsea’s other names was Sweet Pea, I had a whole legume theme going.

How will Jasper fit in all of this? Well, his paw-pads do look like black beans, but, given his temprement, I think I’ll go with a bastardized ‘Gonzo bean’.

(And yeah, that’s Gonzo from The Gone-Away World. What, you haven’t read it yet? Why not? Go, go now! Read that book! And if you can’t find it at the library and you don’t want to shell out for the hardcover, it’s coming out in paperback in August or September. You’ll have no excuses, then!)

Christ, where was I? Oh, yeah, in need of a life.

Okay, I’ll go take a bike ride now. Get out of the house, do me some good. . . .

(Top photo by Jaromir Kaderabek, found thru Bing. Here’s the post from his website; Polish, I’d guess. Wait: maybe Czech. Anyway. The second photo was also found thru Bing, and was taken from a post at k-punk.)

(By the way, I’m finding Bing a hell of a lot easier to use than Google. Yeah, I know it’s Microsoft, a big-bad-corporation, but I think Google is a big-bad-corporation, too.  Anyway, using Bing fits my motto of ‘No brand loyalty!’, i.e., always be willing to switch to something better.)

Bike. Yeah. Okay, then.





No more words

24 07 2009

I think I shocked my bioethics students tonight: A number of them visibly started when I referred to the process of selective reduction as ‘killing’ fetuses.

No one said anything one way or the other, and the discussion (on multiple births) continued on its merry way.

Why would I do that, talk about killing, I mean? There’s a perfectly fine term for the procedure whereby the number of fetuses in a woman’s uterus is reduced to a more manageable (for her, and for the remaining fetuses) number, so no need to bring up the distasteful associations of ‘killing.’

Except, of course, that’s what happens during a selective reduction: After examination and evaluation of the fetuses, a needle is slid through the woman’s abdominal wall and into the heart of the fetus. A potassium chloride solution is then injected into its heart, and the fetus dies, after which it is reabsorbed into the surrounding tissue.

It is not, strictly speaking, an abortion, which involves the evacuation of the uterus.

And the situation is utterly unlike that of an abortion. When a woman gets an abortion, it’s because she does not want to be pregnant, does not want to be a mother. When a woman undergoes selective reduction, it is precisely because she wants to continue the pregnancy, because she wants to be a mother.

How awful, I said, to be in that situation: She has to kill her potential offspring in order to save her potential offspring.

I understand why people want to refer to this as selective reduction, especially those who perform and undergo the procedure. About the only thing worse than the situation itself is not having this as an option.

And the term itself is accurate enough: fetuses are selected and the number is reduced.

Still, I think it’s a form of moral cowardice for those of us who support the ability of women to decide on this option not to speak honestly about what’s involved, i.e., killing.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts on abortion the necessity of recognizing that abortion involves killing—not as a means of decrying the so-called tragedy of abortion—but as a recognition of the morality of the decision to abort, and, most importantly, of the moral capabilities of the woman who makes the decision.

We’re not a bunch of weak sisters who must be shielded from the consequences of our own actions. We may be sad or relieved or numb or any number of other emotions, and our feelings about it may change over time, but we can handle it. Really.

I’ve become even more adamant about avoiding euphemisms since Chelsea’s death. I killed my cat, I kept saying to myself, and told C. over beer and whiskey.

C., thankfully, did not correct me, but another friend admonished me when I told her I ‘mercy-killed’ Chelsea. Don’t say that, she said. You put her to sleep.

My friend was trying to be kind, but, no, I did not put her to sleep. I lay her on the table and put one hand on her chest and another on her ears and talked to her as the vet shaved her leg, soothed her as she cried a bit as he slid the needle in, felt one, maybe two breaths, then watched as her eyes dilated and she stilled.

I didn’t need the vet to tell me she was gone.

She wasn’t sleeping. No, Chelsea sleeping was curled up, tail nestled along her body or wrapped around her nose. Chelsea sleeping was her face tucked into her paws or her head twisted upside down, her body corkscrewed.

Chelsea sleeping was her soft purr into my ear as she propped herself on my shoulder or beside my pillow, her breath steady puffs in, out, in, out.

No, I know what I did to my beloved kitty, and it wasn’t putting her to sleep.





She came in through the bathroom window. . .

3 07 2009

. . . well, no. Through the front door, actually, in a cat carrier. And she’s a he, Jasper, the newest member of this absurd household:

He’s about 10 weeks old, 2.1 lbs, found wandering around Jackson Heights and brought to Brooklyn Animal Control.

(He’s propped up on my wrist pad watching me type this right now, which is preferable to having him rolling over the keyboard.)

Jasper’s shelter-given name was Felicia—but, as much as I like cross-gender names, Felicia didn’t cut it.

He is, as you can see, all black, with gold eyes. Feisty, given to chewing on my toes, ankles, and knees, and perhaps more adventurous than a kitten who just got his balls lopped off should be. He’s also a bit stinky, but, due to the aforementioned lopping, can’t be bathed for awhile.

Bean is thoroughly unimpressed.

I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t ready for another cat. I still tear up when I think about Chelsea’s last days, and Bean and I had settled into a comfortable routine. Why mess with that?

But I think that admission nudged my thinking along and toward a new kitten: It made me realize that I would miss Chelsea no matter what, and that I shouldn’t use her as an excuse for not bringing a  kitten into the household.

Yes, a kitten is disruptive, and that’s all right. That’s what I tell Bean, anyway.








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