By Anna Kate McWhorter, Staff Writer
If you know me at all, you’ve almost certainly heard me talk about my cat; I doubt anyone has come down the road of friendship with me and somehow escaped seeing pictures of my feline companion, but it should be noted that my undying affection for Potato the cat goes beyond how unfathomably cute he is or the entertainment value of his reaction to catnip bubbles (which, trust me, cannot be overstated). Having a house bear has always been very important for me. Currently taking the form of my relationship with Potato, living with a furry creature curbs my anxiety, makes my depression feel less isolating and crippling, and there’s something deeply special about how a cat curling up on my stomach can calm me down during a panic attack.
This past weekend I downloaded an album of songs specifically composed for cats by a classically trained professional cellist (see link below). Created with sounds reminiscent of chirping birds, suckling with their mothers as newborns, and the nearby purr of a fellow feline, this music has been reported as having incredible calming effects on its cat listeners. The music we listen to isn’t always pleasing to other species, so it’s like Potato was hearing music for the first time. (Imagine never hearing any music until you were a teenager).
David Teie’s Music for Cats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1VyfsG5SIQ
Listening to the album took me from a ball of end-of-semester anxiety to lounging in bed with a book next to the window; and it turned the bitey, swishy-tailed, fur-covered embodiment of angst that I live with from rough playtime mode to snuggle-up-in-the-sunlight-with-mom status. All of this is a privilege—one I’m grateful to have—because a happy four-legged roommate means less panic attacks at home, feeling more capable of pulling myself out of the darkest spaces in my mind, and some semblance of mental and emotional stability. In all seriousness, this creature has been the one constant, unchanging thing in my life since we found each other a little over two years ago, and I don’t know that I would have made it out alive without him.
So when I say I love my cat, I mean that in this relationship I have found something that is often difficult for me to cultivate with other humans. Perhaps such kinship and mutual caregiving are as divinely ordained as relationships between human persons and should be valued as such. Maybe those bonds that have mostly fallen by the wayside can be remembered in new ways to facilitate our planetary salvation. Not the go-to-heaven salvation, but the salvation that comes through liberating that which we have oppressed.
We exploit our fellow humans to mine materials so we can have space machines in our pockets. We allow the toxicity of our water supply—from poisons that we put there ourselves in order to line those same pockets with small green pieces of paper—to seep into our rhetoric, both interpersonally and in our national politics. We kill the ground itself, that from which we were created—‘adam from the ‘adamah—that which God breathed life into and declared good. Yet the actions of our contemporary society proclaim earth as a dead thing to be raped and pillaged, denying the life-giving respirations of that which is the very root and source of our being. Can we proclaim this as a Genesis creation narrative “good?” Think of factory farming: the rearing of animals in their own feces, pumped so full of growth hormones that they cannot physically walk even if they were afforded enough ground space to do so. This is then the food that we make most easily affordable, such that people who are already disenfranchised are not given the option of buying out of a system that perpetuates their place on the margins of society.
We allow a stereotype that asserts that people in poverty only eat such unhealthy junk, ignoring the fact that our governmental policies only allow them access to shit food, and then we’re somehow surprised at the poor health of those who make up the lower socioeconomic strata and outraged when we have to subsidize their emergency room visits. God made the chickens, yes, and they were good, but would God congratulate us on a job well done within the walls of a Tyson facility? Can we announce “It is good!” in the face of the immense discrepancies between a Food Lion and a Harris Teeter…and the lack of either in East Winston? We have tried to play God in our own acts of creation, but we have failed miserably and without apology. We have forced countless species—ones whose names we will never even know—including our human siblings into death and extinction, their voices forever extinguished, deprived of their sanctified role in the earth’s orchestral acknowledgement of the Divine. And here, the renegade Baptist must borrow a thought from the Jesuit Pope: