June 8, 2013 by jonmillymiles
I view the world as being made up of two kinds of people, and those that are cats and those that are dogs and they take their traits from their respective animals. Cats are predominantly independent, proud, a little discerning and extremely clever… particularly when they’re trying to get their own way. Dogs by contrast are loyal, hard-working, loving even when not loved and extremely clever… particularly when it’s fun.
So that means that I think everyone is clever. Actually, I do.
But I digress. These two animals are often seen as polar opposites, people tend to like one or the other, you rarely see a cat as a good character in a movie or cartoon. They are always the sly ones out take over the world whereas dogs are the protectors of all that is good. Dogs are a force of loyalty and justice, they are the champions of courage and determination: they struggle through adversity to win the day. Cats, they meander through their life being waited on hand and foot, placed on a pedestal enjoying the high life – the hardest thing that they have to do is to catch their playthings.
Now I know that this seems a little black and white, and I understand that there are many shades of grey in the human psyche, but generally I think that many people can be attributed to one animal or the other and I often look inwards and see a pair of floppy ears and a wagging tail. But some things happen and I can feel my retractable claws extend and on the occasion I have been known to cough up the odd hairball. So where does this all come from, this musing of mine?
Well I had a random thought earlier yesterday and it was this: isn’t Spangles a fantastic name for a cat. For those who do not know, Spangles is the name of a cat belonging to the protagonist of Only Forward, the first published novel of one of my favourite writers, Michael Marshall Smith. In the story Stark, the protagonist, is running from some agents from the Centre and makes his way to a gate to a neighbourhood called Cat, a place where cats go to during their free time and a place where the owners can visit them. It is here that Spangles provides Stark with shelter and protection.
I found something out today which I never knew before. Spangles is real.
He’s not fictional, he’s 19 years old and living with Michael Marshall Smith. I know this because I shared a brief, but powerful conversation with him today on Twitter and it ended up kicking off this whole train of thought in my head.
I explained to Michael that “I always think of him when I teach: it’s not clear where I’m heading, but when I get there it all makes sense.”
In Only Forward Michael observes that cats rarely walk in straight lines: they always walk in curves. But they always get where they are going. My teaching is the same, and I say to my students that I teach like a cat walks. I go off on a tangent with a story or analogy that reinforces the teaching point so that I can get the students to understand, or even better deduce, the answer for themselves. I find that it works well and leads to a lot of light bulb moments which are rewarding for both my students and myself.
He replied “As with life, hopefully ;-)”.
And that was it. That single, profound statement lit up the light bulbs in my head.
My life has not always been easy, sometimes it has been downright cruel to those that I love and, by proxy, myself but it has made us stronger individually and as a family. Most importantly it has made us appreciate what we have within each other and love each other even more. In a roundabout way life has taken my family to a point where our family is the most important thing to us, we where we care for each other more than ourselves.
And that is how it should be.
Life is cruel and selfish: it puts you through all kinds of shit and then demands that you place it on a pedestal and comply subserviently to its demands. Only when you have sated all of its needs will it leave you alone to get on with what you think you need to do. Often though Life’s needs are paramount and ultimately serve to teach us something or to show us a way of being a better person. It cleverly gets its own way.
Life, it would seem, is a cat.
So stroke it, feed it and enjoy it while you can. Learn from it and love everyone you are close to as much as you can. Life won’t be here for ever.
- You can view more information about Michael Marshall Smith on his website or follow him on Twitter: @ememess
- Only Forward is available through Amazon UK and the link can be found on his website here