growing downward

Be broken to be whole.
Twist to be straight.
Be empty to be full.
Wear out to be renewed.
Have little and gain much.
Have much and get confused.

So wise souls hold to the one,
and test all things against it.

Not showing themselves,
they shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
they’re self-evident.
Not praising themselves,
they’re accomplished.
Not competing,
they have in all the world no competitor.

What they used to say in the old days,
“Be broken to be whole,”
was that mistaken?
Truly, to be whole
is to return.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

At this point, a poem like this should be very clear in its meaning, yes? It’s the same kind of reasoning that goes into the old maxim less is more. If you can follow that, you should be able to follow this.

And so I want to talk about my cat.

viggoHe’s a big fluffball, as you can see. It’s been interesting having a cat in the house, since I didn’t grow up with a cat and have only had very limited exposure to cats during my life. But he’s been our little buddy for about seven months now, and he’s nearing the end of his first year.

They’re peculiar creatures to live with, because they really are nothing like dogs. Chelsea warned me about this.

The day we were bringing him home, even, she told me not to expect him to even spend time with us. He was a kitten, removed from his family: he would likely be nervous and afraid and suspicious of us.

I guess this is normal for cats.

So I had no expectations, but this little guy has been an affectionate companion since the day we brought him home and he could fit comfortably in the palm of my hand.

He’s been a delight and has enriched our lives, even when he’s annoying as hell and acting like a maniac.

viggo1It’s a simple kind of companionship. An easy one. And it’s a beautiful one. The way he trusts us and desires our company. He doesn’t always sit or sleep with us, but it’s very unusual for him to be in a room without us. When we move to a new room in the house, he invariably follows, just to be near us.

It’s a hard thing for me to put my finger on, since his friendship is so different from my sweet Lily Belle’s friendship, but it’s no worse. Just different and interesting. Perhaps simpler, in that his expectations are so low. His desires so vast.Yet everything’s so simple. He wants to play, to eat, to poop, to sleep, and he wants us to be nearby, paying attention. He wants us to rub his head or under his chin, and sometimes he just wants something to kill so he can show us how fierce he is.

So I think of my cat when I read this poem because he’s such a small, simple aspect of my life, yet he enriches it in ways that are difficult to describe.

His easy friendship and love is a lesson, I think. That life is much simpler than we make it. That the more noise we add to our lives, the more disturbed and frayed it becomes.

To live simply, to love wholly, and to embrace in friendship those who desire it: what could make for a better life?

What shines brighter than this?


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