Monthly Archives: December 2011

Just Don’t Scratch the Furniture

Posted by Mike

Does it happen to everyone. Do you just fall into things – like acquiring cats? I suspect in some matters, yes, and in others, no. It’s really irrelevant to my discussion. When something has happened, one can philosophize all you want, but once an event occurs – or events in most cases – we can’t turn back time and do a redo. In life, daily, we have to deal with what is, not what we would like it to be, or what we might have done or chosen had we been better informed, or thought more wisely, or….This brings up another issue that is very important for us Americans: We tend to believe that we must make most personal decisions by ourselves, that seeking advice and wisdom from others is somehow lessening to our independence and self-worth. Women, of course, are better at seeking advice from others than men. Perhaps it’s mainly us males who have the problem. It’s nonsense, of course. Why didn’t we let others talk us out of it?

The cats, as you might have surmised, are the problem. You feel sorry for the feral cat and her kittens. One day you see her with three kittens following her; the next day, only two; and a little later, only one, virtually a carbon copy of the mother, who herself looked like little more than a kitten. We have really big owls where we live; I suspect that the owls made away with the other two kittens. So you let the poor mother and child in, give them a home. Oh! And it’s necessary to buy a litter box, and litter, and cat food. And to be responsible, they must be neutered. And the injections for various feline diseases come next. And a tower so they can scratch it rather than the blankets, and bedspreads, and furniture. And lots of other accoutrements.

Soon one has (one in this case is Linda and myself) a cat-oriented household. It becomes like having children again: When “Big Cat” doesn’t come in before dark I begin to get panicky, like maybe my daughter missing her 11 p.m. deadline twenty-odd years ago. EEEEAAAAGGAADDDDH!

I’m getting use to it. Night before last I didn’t fully close the hall door. At 4 a.m. there was heavy breathing, purring, and licking on my ear, and little feet walking down my torso and legs. I even discovered a cat mole crawling through the dark area between sheet and blanket. The last cat we befriended was expert at destroying blankets with a few well-placed rips from her front claws. Remarkably, these cats are being reasonably considerate; they haven’t destroyed anything yet. I’m waiting!

All of this is to say that I thought I was over the period in life when you are raising things, like mainly children, but also cats and dogs and other various animals. I’m sure that cat lovers, if they have gotten through this tirade will say, “They are so lovable. They’ll be wonderful companions and you’ll love having them.” I’m waiting; I’m waiting!

Let’s not kid ourselves, cats are wild animals; other appearances are just that. Maybe it’s time for a dog?

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Ship of Fools?

Posted by Mike

It was Sarah Palin, then Donald Trump, Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain. How could any reasonably intelligent person actually think any of these people

Childe Hassam Flags on the Waldorf detail Amon Carter Museum.jpgwould make (or would have made) a satisfactory President? Is this country filled with ignorant people who are unable to discriminate competence? The remaining candidates, thank goodness, all have some credibility, and hopefully some might make adequate Presidents. I have no complaints about people who might be supporting Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, John Huntsman, or Mitt Romney, though I wouldn’t agree with any of them regarding their choice of candidate.

The answer to my question above is two-fold. First, I don’t think this country is filled with ignorant people. The people I interact with every day, at work, at the grocery, at home, seem very bright and competent. And I think that people in general, in this country, are very bright and competent, at least in the areas of their expertise. But secondly, I think the problem is that in some areas – and I think politics and religion are the two prime suspects – we just don’t learn to discriminate very well, to put on our “thinking caps” and apply reason and logic, seek information, and perhaps more than anything else, be willing to challenge accepted notions. I fault religion with having the most influence in this area. Religious beliefs and doctrines are handed down from one generation to another and there is a generally unexpressed assumption that these basic beliefs are not to be challenged, that somehow, just because a belief, doctrine, or institution has survived essentially the same for 200 or 500 or a thousand or two thousand years it is sacrosanct and not to be challenged. I’ll just bore you with one issue I have with our religious beliefs. One denomination on its website reports that, “Our beliefs all stem from a full commitment to the authority of the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God.” If you think like these folks, no challenge is possible. I wonder what they say to the occasional questioning teenager who wonders, “What makes it inerrant and infallible?” In my opinion there is no satisfactory answer to that question. My guess is that such questioning if it ever occurs is squelched, but I really don’t know as I don’t run in those circles.

We haven’t really learned, in this country, to question authority, to challenge accepted notions and the status quo. It’s been to our disadvantage continually, since the formation of our nation, and it’s remarkable that we have preserved to the extent that we have , our democratic processes given this lack. I’ll grant that there have been and are countervailing forces that have encouraged independent thinking and challenges to the status quo, from Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers to Occupy Wall Street, but they have tended to be a “weak force.” The “strong force” has always been the maintenance of the status quo. One example: It took almost 100 years for the full effect of Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves to be effectively brought into being. Equality for African-Americans was delayed in the American South for years by supposedly “well meaning” whites who were unwilling to grant equality for all Americans. Oh – and did the churches speak out against this travesty?

It’s threatening and scary for our cherished assumptions and beliefs to be challenged, but adaptation to a changing world requires openness to that process. And it’s even more important now with the extraordinary effects of the internet and global interconnectedness as well as the increasing rapidity of innovation in technology and its effects throughout the world. Oh – we’re not a Ship of Fools or we would not have survived as well as we have. We do need to assess our foolishnesses from time to time, and this is one of those times.

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