Lots of people are talking, arguing, shouting, without anyone able to hear. We seem to be sliding toward some weird geography where floating islands of people are colliding like bumper cars, all yelling at the top of their lungs, and nobody can understand the first word unless it’s their own tribe hollering. Tower of Babel, anyone?
Maybe a lot of people are actually losing it. Their dreams have disappeared. In 2001 we created a play at Juniata College, Realists, and it became our first novel. Our premise involved a dilapidated political arena where very few bothered to vote, allowing a party of incompetent fascists to take power. (That was a while ago and we didn’t know what was coming.)
The Realist Party, once in power, moved the War on Drugs into a new phase, the War on Dreams. Everybody except the elites were required to dose themselves daily with dream-suppressants, and those caught out by pee tests were punished. Human brains being what they are, dream deprivation started making people nuts, and groups under stress in tight quarters caused reality itself to shatter into isolated fragments. One bunch of people couldn’t communicate with the next bunch any more.
More and more I’m seeing what looks like this: isolated tribes fiercely united and hotly aggressive, completely unable to understand anyone not speaking their “language.” Reason and truth are null and void. Self-interest is out the window and identity politics is the only glue. And it has happened so fast.
Or so it seems. The seeds of this were sowed decades ago and the tending has been deliberate and obsessive. I fear it will take at least a generation of equally dedicated work to make a difference, and Gaia may not have that much patience with us.
We need to dream.
When our four feral cats, one by one, migrated to the great beyond, we thought again of testing ourselves with house cats. Years ago, we had a pair of Siamese and kept them through their first litter, but I manifested a severe allergy and we had to give them up. Over the years, touring and lodging with cat-encrusted families, I managed with hearty doses of antihistamines, but with age I found that my allergy retreated. At first it was with particular cats, not all, and finally I was armored against all hair of all cats. Age does have benefits. I still have allergies, but new cutting-edge allergies, not the old boring conventional ones.
So we just got two cats—kittens at the moment. Two male litter-mates whom we’ve named Shadow and Garfunkel, for reasons I don’t recall. They’ve been here a week, confined at present to the kitchen, but soon we’ll allow them to carry their riots into the rest of the house, once we manage to cat-proof the rest of the house (to some degree).
It’s not entirely a new experience, but our previous kitten-like creatures are now 44 and 42, one a San Francisco cartoonist, the other a Tuscan translator, and we no longer have a concern for their dragging things off the counter or falling into the trash can. We have new challenges.
Right now, though, we’re simply enjoying the petting, cuddling, listening to the low rumble of small garbage disposals, and watching the extraordinary display of their play, something between ballet and soccer with toy mouse and foam ball, the moves of Michael Jordan, Baryshnikov, and Little Richard. At the moment, their mutual ambition seems to be to gain the heights of the compost bin, the stool or the counter in order to jump down on the other.
And at last I understand the function of cat photos, cat anecdotes and cat videos (and a few other animals besides) on Facebook: they’re one of the few things posted that offer a moment of simple existential joy. Long may they frolic. Long may we.