Today, a little cat named Vashti spent her last hours on this Earth. In tribute, I am posting this blog post I made in July 2000, when Vashti was two years old. It’s a bit indulgent, but it reminds me how much I’ve grown as well in all these great years together. Without modification, here is On the Soul:
On the Soul
Today, I was at home working on some things, and I took a break by sitting on my bed for a moment. I thought I heard my older cat, Vashti, somewhere in the room, so I called her name. (If you think you can’t tell a cat by the sounds she makes, you can.) Within a few seconds, Vashti hopped up on the bed and walked over to me. Even though I had intended to just be there for a moment, Vashti seemed to take this as an invitation for quality time. She cuddled up against my chest and rested her head comfortably on my arm, the whole time staring up at me.
I was touched by the cuteness of it all, and thought to myself what a joy it was having my two little troublemakers around. Having enjoyed the moment, I started to get up, but stopped when Vashti gave me an alarmed look, and placed her paw firmly against my face, as if she were trying to stop me. It worked. I paused, and went back to thinking, as she slowly took her paw down. (Yet continued to stare intently up at me.) I thought about just how intelligent her little eyes looked. Humans do get awfully arrogant, I thought. Just because we’re so much more intelligent than other animals, (and we are), it’s like we completely discount the consciousness and intelligence they do have. Consciousness has no value to us if it’s not our own. We kill animals, eat them, torment them, and none of it matters because they don’t have enough consciousness by our judgement. But you could hardly see that in Vashti’s eyes. In her eyes, consciousness didn’t come in levels. It was just there.
I got up to go again, but back came the little black paw, much firmer this time. I chuckled, that I was being commanded by a little cat, and I was actually obeying. I looked down at her again. She was softly purring now, and still staring back at me. I scratched her head, and she closed her eyes for a moment and purred more loudly. Then she looked back up at me so intently. I looked back. I wondered if she was thinking about me as I sat there and thought about her. What was she thinking? She didn’t have words like I did to structure her thoughts. She couldn’t have my understanding of the many differences between us. She couldn’t have much of a concept of a human, or a cat, or where she fit in. That’s it. I thought. She doesn’t. It didn’t matter to her that I was a human. She didn’t know or care that we were so different. She didn’t care about my education, or my job, or my new car. All she knew was that I was her friend, and she wanted me to stay there just a little longer to scratch her ears. So I did.
And I think the people who say that the difference between humans and other animals is that only humans have a soul… have never looked into the eyes of a little black cat.
E.D.E. – 26 July 2000