Issue #31: Being with Cat Laser
Pew pew! — Did we get you on the title?
No, it isn’t clickbait. It indeed is the topic we’ve decided on for this issue. What better way than to laugh and play our way into 2022, right?
Well, actually, because Daryl was playing the fool, and Rosslyn was being defiant. When Rosslyn wondered what we should write about in this issue, Daryl, with Hanabi (you'll see who he is later) perched on his shoulder, just uttered two words: Cat laser. He then went on to be a child and made pew-pew sounds. Rosslyn, all daring and grown up, coolly replied, "Ok let's do it!" Game on.
So here we are now, with two articles inspired by cat laser. Where did our experiment lead us? Read on to see where each of us took our respective essays...
Here are our reflections:
Essay // Being with the Pew-Pew Kat // by Daryl
Essay // —Beam— // by Rosslyn
May you embrace your whims and roll with the punches.
Rosslyn & Daryl
ESSAY // by Daryl
Being with the Pew Pew Kat
Ah, absurdity. This is something that’s close to my heart. “But wait,” those who know me might say, “don’t you hate it when people are being unreasonable and irrational? How can you embrace absurdity?!” That is very true. It’s probably my biggest bugbear to see people who are not amenable to reason, refusing to submit their actions before the tribunal of reason. That’s not the kind of absurdity I endorse because it’s the willful rejection of reason, one of the fundamental human faculties.
“…absurdity can augment your faculty of reason”
So what kind of absurdity is acceptable? What if I tell you that, if used rightly, absurdity can augment your faculty of reason instead? That’s right, augment. The value of entertaining absurd thoughts lies in seeing what’s possible. Too often, I find myself trapped in the humdrum of the everyday. This is when I like to daydream. But I don’t usually daydream about vacations or what have you. I daydream about cats shooting lasers from their eyes, how quiet I can be should The Walking Dead come to pass, or even try (vainly) to think of square circles and triangles without three sides. And if you ask what’s the point of asking questions about situations that cannot materialize, I’ll say that’s the wrong question to ask. The correct question is, “What else can we imagine?” Attempts to think up absurdities reinvigorate the mind, freeing it from the mental sludge that had built up from menial tasks. Being with my own absurdity means feeling into the sweet liberty that comes from experiencing the spaciousness of my mind, that quintessentially human faculty.
Liberty intoxicates. A headiness arises with the awareness of some amalgamation of ideas I might not have seen before. In some instances like the square circle, even though it’s absolutely impossible to conceive of the end product, the exercise puts me in a contemplative mode about the essence and nature of things; I liken the attempt to conceive of absurdities as a primer for philosophical imagination. Philosophical imagination requires me to look at the what-ifs in a manner free from practical considerations but sometimes it’s difficult when I’m in the weeds. Absurdity, because of how outrageous it is, yanks me right out of those weeds.
But absurdity is not just liberating because it expands the mind. It’s liberating because it’s play. One of the shows I return to from time to time is the Jackass series by Johnny Knoxville. If you haven’t watched it, give it a go and just lean into it for the ride. If you have, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. I like Jackass because it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Knoxville and friends partake in those absurd stunts because they’re all about discovering the what-if in a no holds barred endeavour. They’re unencumbered by the practicality of their actions. “But,” you might retort, “what is it for?” It’s for nothing! Since when do we play for the sake of something other than itself? Play should be pursued for its own sake. The benefits we reap from play are secondary. (First aside: I believe children should be allowed to play because it’s just what children do. It’s their nature. Getting them to play for the sake of developing them already begins on the wrong foot. God forbid we structure play so we can attain those developmental milestones. Oh wait…we already do….)
I suggested cat laser for this issue because I found satisfaction in being absurd. How on earth are we going to write on cat lasers in a newsletter meant for philosophical and spiritual exploration? You know what? When I mooted the idea, I couldn’t care less; I’ll figure out the logistics later on. Somehow. (And here I am!) But it was fun thinking about how I was going to marry a serious article with cat lasers. It was even more fun when Rosslyn, out of some hidden desire, refused to back down, and agreed emphatically only to worry about it later. (Second aside: For the record, I think she did a better job than me in incorporating cat lasers into this issue and capturing its spirit.) (Third aside: For the record again, maybe I’m talking about cat lasers in succession now because I realized I haven’t really brought it in thus far. Cat laser. Cat laser. Cat laser. Cat laser. Cat laser. There, I’ve used my own prompt.)
Being absurd from time to time is my way of being true to the activity of playing; it going against the grain of every modern or, more precisely, capitalist virtue is just gravy. I’m not saying we should travel the path of the Jackass cast but there is something to be said in defence of their dedication to exploring the absurd, that is to say, that which defies rational sense. Maybe we can discover more of ourselves and get in touch with that kid in us waiting to burst forth.
ESSAY // by Rosslyn
Snaeffles mounts atop Mochi, clutching his ears, commanding it to fly in the direction of the beams while avoiding direct hits — Extreme softness on softness, what’s there to dislike? Yield, be all gooey before these two lumps of fluff — The only thing though, Mochi can’t fly, remaining faithful to his location. Sorry to disappoint you, dear one. Mochi is still pretty young in the family. He has not been loved well and long enough to reach the transformational stage of becoming real like Snaeffles. He has neither been bestowed the powers of speech nor mobility; his character, yet to be formed.
The other figure athwart, sharing a similar physique but a darker complexion than Mochi, continues to fire bolts out of his eyes. Once flat rugs in a vacuum-sealed pack, look, how puffy they’ve grown! Air-trapping fur coats — beam — oh yes, beams, relentless lasers only visible to the eyes of innocence. Randomness born out of non-sense, something I can’t quite master, not yet. My boldness, a mere fraction of the recipe for audacious absurdity. Unlike Daryl who has honed this faculty, I haven’t been able to accomplish the same feat. But I have a different ability: whatever I love can become real. Can this be a superpower too? My characters are born out of my beloved qualities I can’t yet fully display to the world.
Being with cat laser is like being with the crazy, wild imagination which was never quite present in my life. As a child, my fantasies were rooted in reality, abiding by the laws of nature. In my dream, the only things that flew were birds and spirits. Flying pigs are not a thing in both my reality and dream.
Why on earth did I agree to this topic? Too big a dare apparently. I am no fiction writer, much less a sci-fi one. Seriously? Haven’t I been living in a world beyond reality? Haven’t I been telling myself all sorts of stories? — Wait, what do you mean I can’t do more to make things happen? I don’t have the power to make things better? What will acceptance speak of me then?
It says: I am human. I have limits. I conform to human conditions. I err. I fail. I do not have godly powers. I have human abilities to learn and develop though.
Can I be okay with it? Is being human too small and insignificant and inadequate for me?
Yes, I fear so. I fear being human. I fear my finitude. I fear not leaving even the faintest mark or dot in this world. And I fear too, leaving a black mark. How did I live? I erected towers, hollow columns; I strove for impossible standards. So I could be walking amongst gods, the gods who envy humans. Only falling, crushed, disillusioned. Was it all a fantasy? Have I reached the ground yet? Shatter! Let me break apart. Let the cat laser torch my misbeliefs and the lies I stand on. The faux ivory is no place to hide.
A cat with laser eyes, is he going to need a pair of shades like Cyclops? Is he a psychic who can mind-read and control humans? What does the world look like through the eyes of this cat? His laser beams like infra-red signals controlling humans to serve him. Scratch my back — beam — massage my belly — beam — get me my treats — beam — my milk too.
Who sits before me? I gaze.
Neon beams exit his imagined eyes. Yes, imagined. Did I not tell you that he does not have any eyes? Neither googly nor wool, nothing sewn or glued. His name is Hanabi, which means fireworks in Japanese. How apt! The seed I had planted some time back comes along with Daryl’s dose of endearing silliness to awaken the sparks in my head. Exciting! Stimulating! My world looks fantastical when fireworks go off in the ether of my mind. Reality comes alive. I’ve interlaced fantasy with reality. I don’t have to leave reality to retreat into fantasy. Both can co-exist. This is augmented reality overlaying the physical, real world with my imaginations. Isn’t that how it is when I imbue Snaeffles with my voice?
I sense softness, gentleness, love.
And I look away.
Too much, too much to take. I will crack. Who-I-take-myself-to-be will crack. The plaster I moulded painstakingly, the image I preserved for decades to stay safe, to fit in, will crumble, and what will be left? Who will be left? — beam — Snaeffles, get away from Hanabi. I already told you Mochi can’t fly! — How will it be to toss myself into bewilderment, be lost in cat laser — beam — What character shall I create? What world shall I paint? How the hell do I write about being with cat laser?
And I, my dear, I will be left. The Self waiting to be unearthed; the Self longing to be unfurled. But isn’t the plaster me, too? Yes, it is, but not the whole. Currently, it shields me from the squalls and storms but also obscures my shine. I can’t see the world with clarity and objectivity, neither can the world see the whole of me. But the world could never take in all of me. No one can. We all wear colored lenses. And this is not enough to stop me from trying, from sitting down, with my sincere heart, open to receive who I am. Am I ready? Not yet. Because the whole of me is a massive gift beyond my current appetite. And I continue to do the work, to receive this love that I am — beam — If our greatness were to be grasped so easily, perhaps the gods would not glance at us with emerald eyes — beam — You’ve just been hit by cat laser.
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