A Few Little Kitties I Know, And The Lessons They Taught Me
I've learned many important lessons from cats in my life, from Scooter who taught me how to control my roughhousing to Eri who has taught me to be a better parent. In this article, I explore the idea of cutting catapult ropes and how to use the wind of your own abilities to move forward in life. I also discuss the importance of documentation, and the importance of having places for things.
Learning Life Lessons from the Kitties I Know
By Michael Levin
Sunday, May 14, 2023
Okay, the lightest touch cataput ropes? I need to be able to drop people into any of the 3 websites in play: MikeLevin.in, Pipulate.com or Levinux.com and have it very on-point, with an end-in-mind new situational circumstances.
What is that circumstance? Create something of obvious, inherent and of self-evident value that’s receiving enough peer-validation to prove it to those motivated more by fear. It can’t just be more writing. It’s got to be compelling on that amygdala level.
Do various Roomba-passes, as if you’re about to post to LinkedIn, dropping a link to each of these sites. Think as if you were about to try to mobilize or motivate the thousand-or-so fans on the Facebook Levinux fan page. What would I ask them to do and why? Oh, wiping out those stars on Github. Such self-sabotage. But that’s okay. It’s nothing I couldn’t get back 100-fold with a little effort.
Least effort! Release built-up potential. Roomba-test-runs… Oh, of course! My local physical environment… where I last ran roomba… my bedroom!
On my first day with Moz, I received a standing desk I orderd from Amazon and threw out my back trying to lift it up the stairs. It’s still in the box and I still don’t have a great place to work. I’m giving over the enitre livingroom to Adi as their Fortress of Aditude. Their bedroom is too small and tends to get cluttered, encouraging of moving around. But the living room is this big, vast, potentially clear space for… for all kinds of possibilities! The science lab and the enticement into the Tardigrade Circus idea again. Consistency over time!
So follow Roomba. The standing desk goes in my bedroom, of course! Oops, a cat just crawled onto my lap immobilizing me. It’s purring away. What’s that Eri? That’s a good idea, and the Angels are broadcasting their feedback down to me though you? Yeah, I think so too.
I’m building better blogging
To replace a bygone era
Where your CMS is flogging
You to take up something clearer,
So you catalog your cat tails
In one file for the hashing
Using YAML for the data
And then Jekyll for the lashing.
Did I say cat tails. I meant cat tales!
Okay, full Eri appreciation, pets, and gratitude sent out to all the cats in my life who have taught me so many important lessons, from Scooter who taught me not to rough-house around cats least they cut open your face and have to be put to sleep through no fault of their own, to Nermal who taught me my parents didn’t know shit about where was safe for a kitten and the emotional damage that can be done to a child who accidentally closes a door on it.
There was Merlin, who I’m so sorry I gave up when I “moved off to follow my dreams,” to Scala where I traveled a lot, but for whom it wasn’t worth giving up a cat. Billy and Sammy were my redemption when I moved to New York, and they each took on one aspect of my personality with Sammy being quite self-important but insecure (projecting Alpha) and Billy being a sweet mush-ball (Omega or secret-Alpha).
Then there was Charlie. We liked to say Charlie loved affection but hated people. It wasn’t true, not until the right people were around Charlie. Then Charlie loved people. Charlie had a tough first 8 months in life and never got over it, but eventually got to be an outdoor cat again at times (never at night and never unsupervised because of that wildlife) when I moved to the Pocono’s and it turned out he liked to sample every form of protein at his disposal. Charlie finally came on his own in his final days in that house.
That brings us to today. First there was Lynnie of the lockdown era. Lynnie manged to get outside, totally through faults of my own trying to get this cat-tent set up she could get into through a cat-door. But it was imperfect and Lynnie liked to get out. And Lynnie was attacked by a hawk. Lynnie survived, and I’m happy to say she’s not gone the way of Charlie, scared for life. Besides a bit of skittishness, Lynnie’s loving both the affection and the people.
Eri, named after Eri of My Hero Academia, whose powers are to “rewind”, I feel a very strong opportunity to rewind some of the more negative opportunities I had to know cats in my youth by being the parent my parents never could be. Eri has in fact emotionally rewound a lot of myths and assumptions humans tend to weave around our pets of being “evil” or “hating people” or “scarred for life”. Sentient creatures like cats, although not being able to speak our human languages back at us, understand a lot of what we’re saying, if not in words, then in tone and emotional context.
Cats know the stories that are being told about them, so try not to go calling them “dumb” or “evil” or any of that other nonsense for which they’re going to have to be pegged-with, painted as, and carry around with them for their entire cat lives. It is our responsibility to help even our cats become the best they can be.
When we cut catapult ropes, it’s not without aiming. That aiming is with at least a rough visualization of the end that you want in mind. You can go through life just bobbing on the waves, taking the current wherever it takes you. Worse still, you can assume the strategies of an ambush predator and wait for someone whose got their act together but is otherwise hapless to the dangers of those waiting in ambush to hop on their boat and freeload. People who have got it together are magnets for freeloaders.
Once you’ve visualized where you’re going, how do you actually start to move in the bobbing currents? Well, you raise a sail into the wind of course, and you start overriding the natural direction the maths of the surface-bound (buoyancy, water-tension & gravity). By raising your sail into the wind, you’re using that part of you that’s different from any of the other flotsam and jetsam floating around, which lacks the same abilities as you.
But if you’ve got it together for yourself, you’re a free ride for someone else. Remember that. They are out there and gunning for you. If they can’t ride along, they’re going to try to take your boat, even if they lack the skills to use it themselves. Oh maybe they can put on a good show temporarily and convince you, but you’ve gotta go read “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew”, the single most important and under-read Dr. Seuss book.
So I’ve thoroughly mixed the metaphors of sailing with cutting catapult ropes. By the end of this article, I will have significantly changed my life by putting together that standing desk in my bedroom. Again, by the time I finish this post, the desk will be assembled and I will have entered a new chapter in my life, the standing-desk chapter.
This not a dependency for my work, but honestly with having let Adi take over the living room, I need this to have a sort of workspace and focus that my current work calls for.
It is important to document:
- That ideas were presented.
- To whom ideas were presented and when.
- How effectively the message was communicated and received.
When you document a thing, there is liable to be freaking out and a kind of attack ensuing. This is because those for whom the lack of documentation enables their behavior gets scared shitless that the documenation exists and is liable to be used.
You can recognize these attacks as attempt to divert attention to something else, usually perceived weaknesses of yours that they’ve been sitting on awhile and think they can get other to come around to believing or seeing it their way.
Don’t let such cheap diversionary tactics dissuade you. Take any freaking out as strong indication that you are on the right track, and go into higher levels of observational, experimental and documenting mode. Be as Watson describes Holmes, that bloodhound on the trail of a scent. Even if you don’t attack back, and you really never should… does Holmes?… do what Holmes does. Recruit the help of Scotland Yard, not trying to upstage then and graciously handing them credit whenever possible.
Do not retreat from attacks. Bluster is designed to drive you to retreat. Are you going to let the bluster of blowhards rule you? If you pull on a thread and it starts to unravel, keep pulling on it. You’ve found the lynchpin, the key to it all.
Are you in such a situation? Preform a test. You know how Ikea furniture assembly has a reputation as being a danger to relationships? That’s because it surfaces this stuff. Freeloaders for example do not clean up for themselves. It’s part of the whole freeloading gig. They are stuck in that child-like state, perhaps from an over-hovering parent who did everything for them.
Here’s the test. Get a trashbag or trashcan and throw stuff out as you unpack. Hey, that’s the reason you were at Ikea in the first place, to better your lives through improving your environment, right? There shouldn’t be any problem with throwing out trash as you go, so easy test, right? As you unwrap the Ikea box, you’re holding the trash anyway. Instead of dropping it on the floor, fold it up and put it in a trashbag. It would hardly take any more time than not putting the trash in the bag, but this is a trigger.
Taking the time to throw out trash is some kind of trigger, like it’s a personal affront or something. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen that throwing out trash as you go in a situation like this should cause relationship-ending levels of anger. Its something in their head you’re not clued into, or maybe even able to be clued into because your brain just works differently.
It’s okay to ave places for things. Not that you have to be an organizational freak, nor am I prescribing a static lifestyle with a big tower computer and multi-monitor setup. Quite the opposite, as your experience reading my material gradually paints the picture of, the place for things is ultimately in your mind, in a very Dune Mentat way. But Sci-Fi is Sci-Fi and we can talk about why NeoVim turns you into a Dune Mentat later. But grab that dustpan and brush. Know where it is? How about a nice bedside table so you know where your glasses are when you wake up. Is that being denied to you?
You just might be dealing with an agent of chaos. Agents of chaos work against having places for things, for it represents preparedness, thinking ahead, ability to respond well and generally have your act together. If somebody doesn’t want you having your act together, they will attack your places for things. Don’t believe me? Conduct experiments. Marvel at the predictability of it. For example, try putting a bedside night table were you can rest your glasses at night and know where they are in the morning, and watch watch what happens. The very concept of places for things is anathema to agents of chaos.
This is not blame or excuses for going scatterbrained as a result. This is a description of how to start on the road to recovery, healing, regaining balance and doing even better now given the life-lessons learned.
Under the stress of such prolonged attacks that you don’t want to believe are happening because it’s really quite unthinkable, your brain gets thoroughly scrambled and you lose touch with the real you. Sympathetic vibrations amplify, resonate, and become visible about you and the people you’re around, whereas the opposite, antithetical vibrations dampen and subdue and lower the volume on your real self until you quite forget who you are.
Coincidentally, the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body for stress-related activities. Sympathetic is fight or flight. The other side you actually want to activate, which ironically gets activated by sympathy is the parasympathetic part of your nervous system, haha! Freeloaders who are quite the opposite of sympathetic drive your sympathetic nervous system into fight or flight, but because you can’t even let yourself believe the reality of that because of who its coming from, you dull yourself. You turn down your emotional receptiveness and vulnerability, then they’re going to attack you for being unemotional and distant, haha! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The point is to damn you. When an agent of chaos finagles their way into a freeloading position, they have a lot of time on their hands to damn you.
The way out of this is to be organized, first in your mind. Read books and get the opinions of others. Your freeloader will hate you for it and attack your books. Opening a book and starting to read it is a sure-fire trigger. Another good test. Go grab a book you’ve been wanting to read for awhile and actually take some of your time (yes, you do have it regardless of what you’re led to believe) and start reading. Watch what happens. Do the eyes start to vibrate? Are there daggers coming out of them?
No matter what label or excuse is put on the reason for stopping you, you will be stopped from reading, guaranteed. Run if you want, but you can’t hide. Actually, you can now thankfully due to the state of technology. That same damned social media vehicle can be a vehicle for regaining and maintaining your sanity. You can actually read quite well on your phone these days.
Agents of chaos can’t keep your phone from you, and with an OLED phone screen set to a very energy-effect black and a big white readable font on the Kindle or similar app, you can read anytime, anywhere. Don’t lose the habit or the love. Of all things you can do to keep yourself organized, doing so in your mind should be first, and can be easiest. Themes in literature about how “they’ll” even try to take that away from you can be found in the pop-culture book The Circle, a lampoon on the Google culture. The closing chapter of the book is quite poignant. Then of course there’s the immortal paragraph of To Althea, From Prison by political prisoner Richard Lovelace:
Stone walls doe not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Mindes innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedome in my love,
And in my soule am free,
Angels alone that sore above
Enjoy such liberty.
Alice often gave herself very good advice, but she’d very seldom take it. Journals help fix that. That is the purpose of this very journal you’re reading for me. Somehow or other, I managed to move my journal into vim back circa 2010 when I was re platforming onto Linux, Python, vim and git, although I barely even knew it, forging the timeless path as I was. And so now I give myself this advice:
Go ahead and write. Your stories are yours. They will be used against you, naturally. But make it so that it is precisely what you want. Getting things out in the open is best. Accountability is best. Documentation is best. Dig and get past the surface details and help others get past the surface details. Don’t let spin-doctoring and gaslighting and other forms of manipulation prevent you from getting to the truth.
All of this goes directly to the point why the vi/vim/NeoVim text editors are not merely put down by agents of chaos and those corralling you to a fleecing, it is an affront. Writing helps you think. Writing gets to your real feelings, your core, and eventually to clarity.
That such a thing can exist that can let you organize your thoughts, your mind, your code, your story, and in a way where you don’t have to pay anyone anything, and it’s not tied to any particular piece of hardware, and that it requires long-won skills that validates a world-view they don’t believe in. Make it true. Gain the skills to become your own navigator on the sea of fate.
When you are a skilled navigator on the sea of fate, be wary of who hitches a ride on your boat. If they get tired of you, will they try to knock you off that boat and take it for themselves? Watch for those signs. If you start going scrambled in your head, fortify yourself through journaling. They’ll try to take that away from you too. God forbid you publish any of it, it’s going to be the bluster of the gods raining down on your head, hahaha! You are free, my friend. Protect the freedom of your mind first, expression next, and mobility third.
Hard-won skills are hard won. The real-deal and genuine-articles remain real deals and genuine articles. Posers and freeloaders remain just that and everyone eventually sees it and knows it. The long-term effect of bluster versus real substance is funny that way. Don’t let your accomplishments or the fact that you’re the source of everything everyone wants and is fighting for be lost. Freeloaders can’t hide the fact that they’re freeloading. People who live on a foundation of real skills, self-reliance, and life-codes are likewise recognized. They can’t take vim away from you. Work on a different level.
There’s a powerful thought-processor and text editor going back a half-century. Perhaps there’s some substance there? It’s there for you to take up. It’s a place you can go in your mind to start blending together escape, practice, problem-solving, life-betterment and the like. And because it’s so powerful, time-tested, and free and open source, it starts to become an internal capability. It becomes a limbs. And no version-changes, upgrades or whatever can even disrupt that.
What does Alice tell us? Well right from the opening chapter, Alice tells us that if you’re going to be in the game, which requires deviation from the status quo, you’re going to encounter oddballs, and you’re likely to be one of them even though you may not prefer to think of yourself that way. Really, read Alice over and over. It’s an amazing book.
Much of what I’m talking about isn’t in the Disney movie by the way, so if you’re a poser who wants to think you “get it” because you can remember seeing the movie, think again. Wow, I should really consider doing a dramatic reading of Alice online.
The movie is really quite good though, too. If you want to know what gaslighting is, it’s Alice joining the Mad Hatter and March Hare’s tea party, and being uninvited as she is, she’s asked a riddle and allegedly “invited in”. Oh goodie, she’s got “an in”. So Alice repeats the riddle to which the Mad Hatter and March Hare call her start raving mad. Actually, that was the movie version which was stronger. The book goes there, but Walt really nails it. There was so much more situational context of which Alice was not aware when she joined the tea party, and she was being “set up” for a fall.
Alice dutifully left when things got nuts, leaving the good old boys of the patriarchy continue smacking each others backs and smoking their cigars, in a manner of speaking. You might think I’m talking just about interpersonal relationships, but no it’s really about the whole of society. That’s what makes Alice so timeless and wonderful.
One must really soul-search to decide whether to stand up to gaslighting and the patriarchy. Oh, another Sci-Fi book to read is This Perfect Day, by Ira Levin. Ira’s much more famous for Rosemary’s Baby, but This Perfect Day is the one you have to read if you want to learn about principled people standing up to the patriarchy. Go, Chip! Anyone gonna read the book to get the point? Not in this imperfect day, they’re not. It’s all about cheating, getting the surface detail benefit, and denying yourself the real “internal” reward of having the experience.
Mad Hatter, mad matter. Mad matter, Mad Hatter. These characters represent those lovely folks who both ascribe value to things, like their party and their tea, their seating arrangement and indeed even each others social company precisely so that they can exclude others and find self-worth. The Mat Hatter is simply mad about “things”. He has things you don’t and if you have something he wants but can’t have, he’s going to ruin the works by smearing butter in. Only the best butter, of course he tells you with a smile. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this picture.
Shallow people like the Hatter can only make the illusion of value in things, and usually material things (mad hatter mad for matter), and then thus only find relationships with other people through those same material things. The matter parties! If they want to control or punish you, they can only do it through the matter and not through some deeper connection.
See, these mad matter types think matter is just as important to everyone else as it is to them, and so they take that matter away from you as punishment. You see this all the time in proprietary subscription software. Adobe for example makes you base all your “internal” artistic skills and craft on “external” and quite take-away-able tool. Sure while it’s software and should flow from machine to machine and decade to decade, it won’t. For 1000 little reasons Adobe will make you pay to remain a graphic designer or video producer. It can’t just be “in you” like oh say Inkscape, Gimp or Blender.
The March Hare is there because he validates the Mad Hatter and gives him power. Bullies often have friends who empower them and egg them on, like Biff Tannen and his gang in Back to the Future, Johnny Lawrence and his gang in The Karate Kid, Ace Merrill and his gang in Stand by Me, and Scut Farkus and Grover Dill in A Christmas Story. Do you understand what I’m saying, McFly? McFlyyyy?
The online mental health community has unfairly labeled these enablers Flying Monkeys after the other, and much more American-style coming of age story of a young girl set in a sort of Wonderland, but here across the ocean we call it Oz, and it’s a real place. Oh, the movie wouldn’t have you think so, but L Frank Baum went there in his books. I mean, he made it not a dream. No ambiguity. Oz was real, and it was a evolving place having modern problems as the world modernized. And the flying monkeys were quite decent folk, perhaps a bit mischievous, but noble and enslaved by the witch with a special magical device. There it is with power being held over people with hardware, again.
The catapult rope I’d like to cut is a hard-and-fast education, a full college degree of valuable information that over time, with the layering-on with infuse and imbue you with a new outlook, a new love (for non-material things), and a new way of approaching and tackling problems in life. A timeless way. A non-material way. A way that if there is an afterlife, you can indeed take it with you.
And my standing desk is assembled. Wow, it’s on wheels! And room for all 3 laptops open and in use at the same time! I can hardly believe it! sigh of relief and end of such a long journey. This particular cutting of the catapult ropes is perhaps one of the best gifts I could have given myself today. It has the health aspects of standing while I work (all day!) and even when I’m not working because that’s where so much of this writing comes from.
Whereas many people watch TV and partake in social media as their pastimes (am I over-generalizing here?), I use that same discretionary skills on things, which when taken separately don’t look like much, in actuality, they’ve been winding and winding and winding, putting tension in the machine. I mean what if all that Netflix binging time was put into developing some loveworthy skill or other? What if what you did for relaxation wasn’t just playing into the mad matter program, or the information brain-rot social media equivalent.
Maybe people just don’t know about these deep recesses of Wonderland where such thinking and behavior that leads to ever-more decoupling from particualr hardware and ever-more love for the thing traveling between the hardware is even possible. Maybe the just don’t know and cutting the catapult ropes is my hopeful thinking that once aware… what? More people will? I’ll be some sort of pied piper leading people I deeply care about away from the fleecing.
Maybe. I don’t know. Guess I got to visualize that part more. All I know is that it all starts with my standing desk being built, and the parallels between that and cutting catapult ropes being large in my mind. Symbolism is often very important. Change daily activity in your mind (read), and behavior will follow (environment improvements). Compel daily behavior change through environment change, and habits will follow (write). Change habits and a new life will follow.