Monday, July 26, 2010

the real thing

Cat mugs, cat towels, cat notepaper, cat pajamas, cat books. Though I don't openly display all of these items in my home, I do own them. However, for the most part, I did not acquire these kitty goodies for myself. They were all gifts from people who like me and know that I like cats. I guess some of them might secretly be cat lovers, too. And I appreciate the kindness that is behind all these gifts, but there is one major difference between most of the people who buy me these cat items and me: I have the real thing. And living with the real thing day in and day out is quite a different story from the, "Awwwww, how cute" response that a cat t-shirt or a kitten key chain evokes.

This week in my readings on mysticism, one author suggested that the more intimate the mystics became with God, the less they relied on symbols, liturgies, and rituals. Very interesting. As their relationship with God deepened, they didn't need a trigger to remind them that God was present. They lived their whole lives in his presence. They lived with the real thing and the need or desire for representations just faded away.

While I won't go into the strengths and weaknesses of that theory, I do believe it has a significant ring of truth to it. Cat calendars (there is a baby leopard looking at me from the July page) and cat napkins say so little to me about cats. In fact, I find much of the artwork and photography associated with the whole cat gift scene slightly unrealistic and trite. If you tried to dress Jazz up in a little fur boa and pose her reclining on a pink plush rug, she would threaten to remove your fingers and maybe an eye. Why do we dress cats up like people? Just let them be cats! What I really like about them is their cat-ness, not their people-ness! Sorry, I got off on a tangent there, but one could also say that perhaps we need to stop dressing God up like ourselves. What is really awesome about him is that while he did the incredible and became one of us, he is really very "other."

Anyway, back to the topic of cats. I don't need any reminders that I like cats. I just have to look on my bed. I don't need to tell the world that I like cats by sporting a cat watch. They find out soon enough that I have a very real and lively feline in my life. It usually comes out naturally in the conversation. They might say something like, "How did your arm get scratched up like that?"

I show I am committed to Jazz not by having a picture of her on my screensaver, but by providing good quality food, cleaning out her litter, paying regular visits to the vet, giving her a place to sleep, spending time with her, and taking her on the occasional excursion around the neighbourhood. My committed presence, my loving attitude, and my acts of service express my devotion, not my decorations.

I don't have a lot of Christian symbols in my life, either. I don't sport a cross necklace, put up religious pictures, or make a big deal out of praying at meals in public. For me, these things do not constitute an authentic connection with God. Others find such aids very meaningful, and I don't mean to negate that. But personally, I would rather go straight for the real thing instead of cluttering my surroundings with religious paraphernalia. It means that the warm, fuzzy, sentimental feelings that are sometimes conjured up by these icons and habits are subjected to a strong dose of reality. To paraphrase the words of C.S. Lewis: He is not a tame God.

Let me always be more interested in the real thing than any fancy facsimile.

The top photo is of 2 of my cat mugs. The one below is of Jazz during a walk in the park on Sunday. Big difference.

1 comment:

Lori said...

There's one good lookin kitty (and she knows it :))