That’s the mood this morning. This picture, the weather – it all fits.
The weather, writ large yet again. Last night near Little Rock, a 4.7-magnitude earthquake. Last night here in Fayetteville, direct lightning-strikes. A picture on FaceBook shows a big tree brought down in town.
Bugs started out scared.
Here he is at the beginning of the storm.
He ended up vanished. (In the house, though. Thankfully.)
And last night, while most of our species were watching the Oscars, I hung with PBS and the final episode of ANY HUMAN HEART. This three-part series traced the arc of an English man’s life from youth, through World War II, to a lonely old age and the sadness of posthumous recognition . . . . featured standout encounters with Cruella DeVille Mrs. Simpson and viciously self-involved Edward VIII . . . I’m savoring the irony that as I write this, THE KING’S SPEECH and Colin Firth won Oscars – Albert George VI was Edward’s brother, who stepped up, after Edward abdicated, and redeemed the monarchy with courage and dedication in the dark days of the War . . . .
This is the signal-flag for “Oscar,” since I couldn’t find any free clipart for the Oscar statue.
In the PBS series, Jim Broadbent did a star turn as ever, in a performance filled with subtlety and feeling. A piercingly bittersweet ending, an understated, but no less powerful, death.
I myself don’t want to go at all. But when it does come as it must, I want to go like that. On my feet. Felled suddenly, while walking toward a vision of love.
And then I couldn’t sleep (no surprise there). So I tuned into last week’s THIS AMERICAN LIFE podcast THE PARENT TRAP. Then I really couldn’t sleep.
HUMAN HEART set the stage for the longer view of life. And PARENT TRAP led me inexorably to a bitter, very sad reflection on the trajectory of my own life –
PARENT TRAP is about a grossly misguided social experiment involving Lucy, a baby chimpanzee. Lucy was taken from her mother at days-old and “raised” – make that interfered-with, tampered-with, manipulated, and then abandoned when she became too much for her human “parents” to handle –
A human saint named Janis Carter followed Lucy to Africa. Carter devoted years of her life there trying to ease Lucy’s situation but, in the end, Carter could go no further – and so Lucy was left on an island off Gambia, to live with her own kind, a bit longer, and then slaughtered by others of our kind – I just can’t stand to think of it.
The human who took Lucy from her mother, who tampered with her life in a ghastly social experiment, was a therapist – I pause to consider the irony – named Dr. Maurice Temerlin.
Not only did Temerlin perform this ghastly experiment on an innocent chimp, though. His connection to my own life is that back in the 1970’s, he, along with Margaret Singer and Michael Langone of American Family Foundation, served on the American Psychological Association task force on cults.
The names are well known in my family. My brothers and I were, at one time, all under the sway of the very cults that the American Family Foundation, and Langone and Singer, and Temerlin – and our own parents – were engaged in fighting.
So let my father make my point here, who used to say this, again and again: Things are neither black nor white but shades of gray.
That’s to say, Temerlin could and did wreck the life of one innocent chimp-child – but he could also be of help in rescuing us human children.
It is a vow of mine, these days, to focus my attention on what connects me not to past suffering, but to life here and now, and to where I want it to go in the future to the extent that I have any say in the matter.
Like, for example, this blog, like Mr. Bugs, like you dear readers.
So I do not want to dwell on recreating the cult-years’ experience. Let Allen Tate Wood say it for me. Mr. Wood has written and lectured extensively on his own experience with the “emotional and psychological slaughter” that he suffered in “the abyss of religious fascism.” Wood dedicates his website “to the thousands of young men and women whose . . . idealism and hunger for righteousness have been turned against them by cynical cult leaders. These parasites wantonly manipulate the openness, generosity and essential belief in goodness of their young followers.”
From this, you may discern the roots, in me, of the very serious objections I cherish against any form of certainty. There are scars, dear readers, scars.
I want to retrieve this post with two bits of uplift:
When I think of the Lucy-Temerlin tragedy, I am awash in gratitude that we get to play with cats and dogs instead. These divine beings have consented to live with us, on our terms – and they, unlike poor Lucy, are manageable in our homes.
Bugs is a cat. Unlike Temerlin, I am not tempted, with Bugs, to want to make him in my own image. He is not like me. He is a cat. I want him to be a cat. I want to understand what it’s like for him to be a cat, as best I can – but I do not want him to be like me.
Are we not fortunate beings a million times over, by the grace of Bugs and his kind who are distinct from us, Bugs and his kind who teach us that vanity is the luxury of fools.
Remembering past suffering deepens present gratitude. Painful memories burnish present gratitude. Give meaning to it. Now, I am perhaps more shy than I would otherwise be, of taking present blessings for granted. Don’t we all do that, from time to time. But it is wonderful to feel that gratitude, so large, now.
And dear blogmates, the sun – at this very moment of writing – the sun has just come out.
I would not lie to you about something like that.
Wow, you do not mess around when you make a “meaty” post. Let me say first that even though I’ve only known you for a short time, I can see that you are an amazing person. It sounds like you have overcome much.
And I had probably better not watch the Parent Trap; I already have anger issues about the animal lives that we as a species have ruined (must resist urge to climb onto soap box… resisting… resisting…)
And we had some weather upset in Western Pennsylvania as well. Nothing as serious as an earthquake (yikes) but we had thunderstorms off and on all night last night and most of today. Two cats vanished under the bed, and Argos shook and trembled and panted, his heart racing, the entire time. If only we could reason with them and explain that they are safe.
Dear Melanie, your warmth shines through. Thank you for staying with me as I unload about these difficult matters. I need to do it; I’ve been — well, not brooding, exactly — well yes, brooding in the sense of a hen. It’s been a rough ride as you noticed. To have your company now feels like heaven. As I brood on love, death, victims of vanity — yes! fatback & fried potatoes & gravy & biscuits & pecan pie & the whole shmear (look at that mash-up: Southern food w/ yiddish flavor! the Blue & the Gray!).
The ruination of species is a great anguish. If the fuel of that becomes an irresistible pull on you toward the soap box, I’m in your audience.
And I share your concern for your animal companions who get scared. The wish to reassure just jumps off the screen.
Unload away. It’s a great forum for that kind of thing, especially once you find a group of people that will be accepting and nonjudgmental.
And oh. You’re making me miss southern food. Okay, we never had the Yiddish influence, but my great-grandmother was an Arkansas lady, and could she ever cook. It’s been a long time, but I can still remembered fried potatoes and biscuits with sausage gravy and pecan pie and sweet cornbread.
How fortunate, then, that my cohort is here for me.
And how interesting, about the AR connection. I’m delighted I’ve recalled grandmotherly FOOD memories for you! Yum. The best.
As always your well written posts have prompted a flurry of thoughts in me and an appreciation for your subtle wisdoms.
For I long time, I used to wish I was an animal. They can do all the things that furrless, clawless, bi-pedals can’t and I thought they were closer to god as well. As I got older, I came to the conclusion that animals have the worst lot in life possible. I no longer wish to be an animal, That would be a curse, as we humans use and abuse everything we have dominion over.
I greif over the plight of animals, but not any more, nor any less than I also greif over the plight of my fellow man who is himself used and abuse. and who can’t save himself for trying.
I love my cat a lot more than I love my neighbor. But in the end, if it were a life choice between cat/neigbor, I’d save the neigbor. I am human, wether I like it or not.
Cult members are a dangerous lot. They are so passionate about whatever mantra their ‘cult’ pushes. They scare me.
4Cats, your reply moves me so deeply I need more time to take in what you say here. Let me just say now that I feel tears. I have to go off into metaphor, to express more. They feel like sweet fruit tastes. Like nectar.
I love this! I feel such joy that you’re there at the other end. This cyberworld can be so so alienating — we’re doing the opposite. Miraculous!
More to follow. Deepest gladdest appreciation to you for now.
Your post is a bit confusing as you mixed many theme in one post 😉
Anyway…I love your cat’s pictures, the first and the last were great. You can create a story out of the first picture.
As for Oscar…yeaaaa I love this years result…all my favorites won,The King’s Speech, Colin Firth and Christian Bale 🙂
Oh Novroz, I’m so glad to welcome you to this blog — and glad you stayed with me to the end of the post. I’d be sorry to think you were put off and never made it to the beauty of the sleeping Bugs . . . . I do wander all over the map, I realize, that’s the way my experience of life goes — so I’m happy we’ve been able to join up in a little of that. I’m also happy your faves won. That’s a great feeling, isn’t it.
Oh Novroz, I’m so glad to welcome you to this blog — and glad you stayed with me to the end of the post. I’d be sorry to think you were put off and never made it to the beauty at the end . . . . I do wander all over the map, I realize, that’s the way my experience of life goes — so I’m happy we’ve been able to join up in a little of that. I’m also happy your faves won. That’s a great feeling, isn’t it.