Friday, October 03, 2008

Change and Endings and Memory

The recent awareness that my cat, Crickett, who is between 16-18, is failing rapidly and has very little time left to her set me off on a little philosophical jaunt about endings and change. I was a little surprised to realize that there can be change without endings, but never endings without change.

Resistance to change seems to be wired into the human psyche, probably as some sort of primordial built-in braking system to keep us on the same general track as a species and prevent us all from individually spiraling out of control in an eternal frenzy of change. Our present is made of our past, and our past provides us with stability and the foundations of who and what we are, both individually and as a race.

But change is absolutely necessary for any forward movement, and it is not so much change that I object to as it is endings, which are generally an integral part of changes. Change involves the opening of doors to our future, and often, especially on an individual-human-being level, closing doors to the past which can never be reopened. Death is the ultimate door closer, and the source of our greatest pain.

Memory, another of Mankind’s unique traits, can be both a blessing and a curse. Memory ties us to and roots us in the past. It is a gigantic storehouse of emotion, the strongest of which is love. But once something is moved into the storehouse of memory, it is lost to the world of now.

Man is a greedy creature. Once blessed with love, he is reluctant to give it up. He may pay lip service to the fact that love is not a gift but a loan. The response to losing someone or something one truly loves is sadness, grief, and an indescribable resentment for its having been taken away. It is not enough to merely be grateful for having had the love at all; we despairs over its loss and, like a little child, want it back. “If I had it once, why can’t it be mine forever?”

Memory is the mind’s eye. We need only close our physical eyes to open the eye of memory. Yet we are terribly myopic when it comes to the future and refuse to see what we do not wish to acknowledge: that time is a collection agency, and it will be paid.

Which brings me back to Crickett. She has been with me for many years, but her time, as is time for every living thing, running out. I am trying, rather belatedly, I fear, to give her the attention she has always demanded but I have been too busy with my own interests to give her. I want her to know she is loved and that I appreciate her sharing her life with me. She is still alive, so I still have some time to make up for all the past years of benevolent neglect. The door is still open, but I know it will soon close, and Crickett will pass from the tangible now to intangible memory.

But Crickett is not human. She is a cat. My love and concern for her cannot possibly be compared to the love of one human for another. My mother, my father, my aunt Thyra and Uncle Buck, my remaining cousins, my close friends to all of whom I owe so much and upon whom I depend so strongly…how can I dare equate love for them to love for a cat?

Easily. Love doesn’t come with set values or limitations: it is neither quantitative nor qualitative; it simply is. Had I to make a choice between Crickett or my mother, there would be no question, of course. But I do not have to make such a choice. Love is love.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go pet Crickett. While I can.

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