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Riots and Quiet Cats

April 30, 2015

I live alone with a quiet cat. I don’t know that she’s quiet by nature. She likes to go outside when the weather warms up in spring. When April greens up, she gets a little restless, and will begin to turn in gentle circles by the back door. If she sits there and glances at me, she is waiting for me to let her out. In any case, I have learned that those circles she makes, punctuated by the occasional glance, are the early, quiet form of her asking to go out. If I am attentive, I meet her subtle, articulated need and open the door. Out she goes. My attention is sensitive, and my response is timely.

We are largely happy in our skillful communication. She never cries or whines…unless I ignore her for too long. And she tends to be patient with me, because she’s confident I’ll be there to help her out. But if after a while, I continue in my ignore-ance, she ups the ante, with some annoying mewling.  If things get really bad, she’ll find it in her heart to bite me, rather gently, really. When this happens, I consider it a refresher course in attention..a “language of the unheard.” Do you know anyone with annoying pets or other relationships (cough, cough) who demand attention by making a big fuss?

It seems clear to me that the amplitude required to make an impression in a conversation is a function of the sensitivity of the receiver. This week we have been hearing MLK’s famous notion that “Riots are the language of the unheard.” Civic violence is a loud form of communication, a bite, and not a gentle one, intended to wake the insensitive out of the dull, un-empathetic, waking sleep of their life.

So I thought of tranquil, happy cats and their people, and the utility of sensitivity, of attention, of care, of response-ability. And how becoming so attuned to life that you are sometimes able to identify a species of bird by the sound its wings make  beating the empty air, or to know what kind of tree you sit under by the song the wind sings moving through its branches, might be a rather more useful skill set than is readily apparent.

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