Written by Jonathan Aryeh Wayne, November 11, 2015
Walking, trying to keep calm as heavy metal careens down streets. This is the story of my life. Not a day goes by where I don’t hear silence. There is always that lone car that ruins the tranquility and trance of an otherwise busy street, deep in sleep in the early morning hours of the day. Sometime I’m lucky to have a head start on my bicycle as I turn off Solway unto Murray avenue. For a good 2 or 3 blocks there are no cars behind me, no air pollution seeping into my pores and lungs. And then out of nowhere a big car turns off of Northumberland and races up Murray as I approach the 4 way intersection of Aylesboro. I’m able to quickly hug the sidewalk where all the street debris stays for months at a time, having missed the clutches of the street brushing vehicles. If a fresh rain had just fallen, my bicycle tires go from dry to wet and then I slow down so I am not tainted with street soil spraying unto my white linen pants. These are pants that belong in a Caribbean or tropical setting or even somewhere in North Africa in the late 19th century. Why here? Why do I constantly feel like I’m overdressing in a place of fashion ignorance? In the summertime, I see people dressed up in flip flops with shorts and a t-shirt, and I bet over half a century ago these people would have been glared at, walking around in their underwear in public. But now its commonplace and wearing modest clothing is looked down upon. I’ve done it myself. I often feel guilty of walking around in such “light” clothing. The days of white linen suits and straw fedora hats are long gone. The days of walking on the street and looking people in the face are dwindling. For now, we all look down at technology, at our technological devices that are part of our lives, as we type frantically, in the palms of our hands.
“Yet, every once and a while I am reminded of the sincerity and empathy of animals, specifically cats, kittens, and felines.”
But not all of us have been caught in the wave of dehumanization. There are still some men and women out there who resist the trends. And I can bet that 100% of all animals have not been “deanimalized”. They have not been deprived of the positive animal qualities that they were born with. I don’t see cats and dogs texting on smartphones on the street. They are what we, humans, were once. Those days of walking down the street and eating an apple and carrying a newspaper in one hand, those days of watching and looking and observing and thinking and those days of advanced social communication that did not once include looking at cellular phones: They were days indeed. These were days when people gathered in public places with cool little toys such as Kaleidoscopes and Rubik’s cubes rather than their laptop computers and iPhones. We used our hands for other purposes, in mechanical and interlocking fashion. There was no electromagnetism wafting into our eyes and there was no worry about losing our contacts and “lives” in the palms of our hands.
In Los Angeles in 1967 on Easter Sunday, young people gathered for a “Love-In” in the green fields of Elysian Park with flowers in their hands and in their hair. There were balloons, dogs, Kaleidoscopes, saxophones, drums, dancing, bubbles in the air, flowers in people’s hair, the Ankh symbol high in the sky, motorcycles and leather hide, face painting, hipsters, hippies, bikers, beatniks, elders, sunglasses, hats, flowing robes, colorful sheets, quilts, flutes, guitar, hand holding, fruits, children playing, drum circling, heads full of acid with fields lush and placid. I watched this short film last night called “God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance” by the great filmmaker Les Blank. I saw people out of mind, out of sight. By decade’s end, it was some sort of doomed spectacle, when violence and riots replaced the seemingly peaceful movement of so-called innocence. This innocence, its in all beings, if the mindset is clear and focused in the moment. Animals embrace the moment, they are the moment. Their hearts beat more than twice as fast as ours, yet their love beats more than twice as slow. They don’t care about television and don’t even watch it. We can put a bird in a cage and place them in front of a television set and they will not care. I’ve seen and done this myself with a lovebird named Spock. It was completely illogical to him, completely irrational. There is no logic in watching television or sitting for hours on end in front of a device with a screen emitting artificial light. This is what the animals sees, as we sit with unnatural light bombarding our senses day in and day out. Yet, every once and a while I am reminded of the sincerity and empathy of animals, specifically cats, kittens, and felines. I hear you laughing! Go on, keep laughing, its cute. They are after all these little furry, warm creatures with whiskers and paws that “meow” often.
“And then that majestic feline raced out of nowhere in this man’s backyard towards me, as I listened to the crunching Autumn leaves underneath its feet.”
Well, on another afternoon I found myself walking down a busy street, with cars racing to and fro, as people behind the wheels one-upped each other in terms of how fast could we push it down this cruel expanse of danger and derision. Dare anybody, be it animal or human, cross this death-defying space at any one moment. These avenues of injury, these boulevards of insincerity, they are part of our lives. We need not know nor ought to smile at these heavy metal monsters because they are indifferent to the preciousness of life itself. This is survival, because without being able to drive, we’d find life far more inconvenient. Those days of horses, were days of earthly connections, of animal reflections, on ponds, waterways and dirt trails never needing paving or low frequency raving. There was often a chance to survive if a horse struck a passerby. The horse has empathy, love and sincerity. A car has none of these things. A dehumanized driver has been stifled of their will, and cut off even still. And here I am, walking along Penn avenue, desperately trying to stave off the stress, by finding a secondary road with a quieter sidewalk to breathe normally. And then I found it, along with a cul de sac that permitted pedestrians safe passage to the other side where another street jutted down from Penn. I walked and walked and saw a cat in front of me curiously awaiting my approach. It greeted me. Never would a human do this in their right mind. I stopped and communicated back. It wanted to talk. I had to continue my journey however. I kept looking back, and still the cat watched me as I walked further and further away. Suddenly I stopped in my tracks and saw a sign for a “lost cat”! It did fit the description. It was grey, medium sized and social. I was not even a block away. Was this the lost cat? I returned and did not see the cat. Then I peered over a fence and saw a young man looking down on his smartphone, oblivious to my presence. I finally called out “Hey sir, did you see a gray cat nearby?”. He was in a technological stupor of stupidity. “Ummm, I don’t think so”, was his response. And then that majestic feline raced out of nowhere in this man’s backyard towards me, as I listened to the crunching Autumn leaves underneath its feet. The cat ducked under the fence and confronted me again. Did this preoccupied man not see or hear the cat? Or maybe he didn’t really hear what I said. I assumed it was his cat and I left. But the cat ran back for me, and I felt it was a privilege to be welcomed once again by this spirited animal. It was an empathicat. An Empathicat! A cat with real empathy that was on full display, much like those humans of yore who wandered green fields yonder, with flowers, balloons, bubbles and love. When can we see them again?