Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

Symmetry breaking

I’m something akin to muck on the wall, the lichen in the corner of a humid room. When God was creating creatures, he rushed and left me broken. He probably looked away when molding my face and body, and this is why all my proportions are distorted. My intestines are malfunctioning like a rotten onion, and my insides hurt. 

My nose stands out, looks like a misshapen piece of clay. My hair lies flat. It covers the contours of my irregular skull and all bumps are visible. My skin is porous, covered by scabs and ulcers that secrete mucus. No matter how much I swipe it away, it always comes back. My legs grow at a weird angle. Which makes me clumsy and awkward when walking, and I often fall. My nails flake off.

When others cast a glance on me, they quickly divert their eyes, for everything in me is bearing this imprint of divine inattention.

The other creatures around me were endowed with tools of communication with their kin. But when I utter words, it’s seems they emerge somewhere on the ocean floor, and when they ascend to the surface, there are just a few bubbles—a barely noticeable ripple on water. 

But I like flowers, roses of Sharon and lillies. I like the colors blue and red. The fragrances of petals and perfumes.

And most of all I like looking at the dark-haired girl. She appears near shepherds’ tents when the dusk falls upon the city. Among the flocks of grazing sheep and goats, among the blooming vineyards, she walks down the hills. She comes there every dusk searching for someone, looking around the cedar and fir trees. Her eyes are blue and grey, dazzling with green like a dove wing. Her necklace is full of jewels. She starts out near the hills, and at the daybreak she’s near the city walls.

My neck hurts from the ambush of thick shrubbery when I sit watching her.

Mirrors are supposed to reflect the symmetric state of the world, but when I look at myself in the water, there’s nothing in that image that resembles what I’m carrying inside of my body.

Poetry exercises

Saint John the Evangelist receiving a Revelation on the island of Patmos

I am John, I sit in my cave.
Dreaming of man whom I’ve never met.
Outside there’s morning, vast space, slow rotation of Earth.
But inside of my cave only rocks and the dirt. 

I envision the kingdoms that ought to fall.
7 churches. Antipa. Balaam. Balak.
While I write my treatise, counting days until end,
Herbs are blooming on fields of Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis.
And other places that I made up.

When the morning dew falls upon grass,
I shrug from fever and dream of eternal death.
Lake of fire, the locusts, famine. Hot oil is my bath.
These are days – and I count till they pass.
Till life’s gone. So I summon the earthquakes, I dream of conquest:
Many towns, many lands,
But most often I dream about none.

Summer bucket list

We downloaded the first list from Pinterest. A summer bucket list. It was the middle of July. Half of summer already gone so there was no time to waste. Something had to be done, urgently.

The list said. Make paper airplanes. Climb a tree. Feed ducks. 

‘Do drugs’, Tomas noted. 

‘We’ll fit that between paper planes and ducks’

The list was colorful and cheerful with flower doodles on sides and pastel colored fonts. Perhaps better suited for someone closer to 12 than 30, but it was still a good, solid list.

And so we started.

Tomas was my friend. We met on a meet-up he organized. His meet-up was called ‘Let’s talk about death’. We bonded over shared resentment towards life.

Next day, we met outside. It was a Saturday morning, but it could be pretty much any other day. The bucket list said: make paper airplanes.

Not far from the center, there was a large train tunnel junction where teenagers came to smoke weed and leave tasteless graffiti. It took 10 minutes to get to the place. For a few minutes we sat there and watched trains going back and forth from the tunnels below. 

The first task on the list was a serious one to tackle. But I was prepared. With a package from Koh-i-Nor, right there, I had a whole heap of paper in front of me, gridded, delineated by fine lines. Just as God created man out of dust and ashes, it was now time for a man to give shape to formless cellulose. The task was simple: take one sheet, lay it in front, fold in two. Bring upper corners towards the center, press with the fingers. Make two triangles. Fold the paper in half. After a few minutes, I had a fairly solid airplane in my hands.

Another sheet of paper. Three folds, four movements. The Berliner train rushed into the tunnel. Blue livery, 6 cars, a diesel locomotive unit. And as it was half-way gone, that particular minute, Tomas lifted his hand and launched the first paper plane into air.

‘This one is from Al-Qaeda’, he said. ‘Flight 175. United Airlines. Boston to Los Angeles… Didn’t land exactly where intended’.

L’Amour et l’Occident. Love, opera, and neurochemistry

Let’s examine such a mainstream topic as love. Sounds overly analyzed and scrutinized and in overall – quite mundane, but I still don’t think it’s been analyzed properly. Although I don’t think I’m supposed to be writing any of this because it’s against my long-term self-interest – I’m supposed to feed my audience with stories about eternal love – but intellectual integrity is the most attractive quality, and we’re supposed to be true to ourselves. So let’s put a definitive conclusion to all the sentimental whining. 

Epistemologically speaking, it’s only possible to attain truth through a multidisciplinary approach – identifying patterns in several spheres: sociology, literature, neuroscience – and building a nomological network based on a variety of inputs. So I have approached the topic from a few angles: natural and cultural, scientific and poetic, neurochemical and musical. In plain terms – by reading research papers on neurophysiology, revising good old Denis de Rougemont and Plato’s Symposium, and listening to hours of Verdi, Purcell, Wagner, and Puccini (what a task! but which other genre involves such a nauseating amount of excessively romantic tales if not classic opera!)

It seems a big deficiency to me that no one yet attempted to analyze all this sentimental bullshit from the perspective of modern neuroscience (the only ultimately truthful perspective!). To make it epistemologically even more sound – it’s always helpful to run experiments on humans, although often considered unethical (even though the most dedicated researchers may resort to running experiments on themselves).

Classical operas are weird. They’re mostly about people doing ridiculous stuff. Tristan and Iseult. Armida and Rinald. Dido and Aeneas. Aida and Radames. How ridiculous their choices are. In order to enjoy opera and relate to its irrational characters one needs to be in a very particular state of mind. Otherwise they just sound silly. Would a truly rational person sacrifice the great city of Jerusalem for the love of a random man they just met? Or renounce the rule over the kingdom of Egypt for a female slave? They vaguely justify it by such an ambiguous term as love – but what do they really mean?

Can a worker be happy?

Can a slave be happy? A toiler of coal mines? A peasant cultivating the fields? (Alright, a peasant could be happy, as Christian holidays celebrated in Middle Ages apparently totaled up to 200 days per year). An Animal Laborans who does life maintenance for a living, ‘a beast of burden, a drudge condemned to routine’. A Homo Faber who merely reproduces artifacts of material world. Was a worker ever supposed to be happy?

Aristotle wrote that human happiness is thought to depend on leisure, because the most supreme virtue and pleasure are attained through contemplative activity. In order to cultivate virtue we need free time (that’s why the poor or farmers cannot attain true happiness). Leisure is the most serious activity in human life, the freedom from occupation, what we do when we’re free of necessity to work. It tells much more about us as human beings than our occupation or how we earn money. War is bad, and peace is only needed to make sure citizens have leisure. A truly good political regime should allow its citizens to contemplate and philosophize – by ensuring they have enough of free time.

We learn about happiness from the great books. Books are written by those who have time. Gentleman scientists, intellectuals, aristocrats, wealthy amateurs, inheritors of generational property and family wealth. The class of aristocracy. Some bloody duke sitting in his estate passed on by ten family generations, occupying free time by hunting ducks and maintaining correspondence with ladies from neighboring estates. How come we started to accept that their thoughts on happiness could be considered even vaguely applicable to the dismal subsistence of the laboring class?

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