Wednesday, February 02, 2005



After very extensive research, I have learned that cats have three names. If you look at the set of all the world's cats, you'll find many duplicate common names: "Fluffy" is in the millions, I'm sure. "Boots" and "Socks" come in multiple thousands of pairs. Superficial descriptions that serve only as a way to refer to the family pet.

So, within the set of Cat, you have subsets of "Fluffy" and all the rest. Now, cats have a second name, and this name is applied to only one cat at a time. Within the set Cat, one and only one living cat may have this more dignified name. I'm told that this is so the cat may hold her tail up straight, and keep her whiskers from drooping. After all, how can you be a Cat when you have the same name as thousands of others? No cat wants to be just another run-of-the-mill moggy.

You might have "Boanerges." Or perhaps "Artaxerxes." A name to grow into, a name to direct the actions. "Achilles," or maybe even "Zeus." These names are more than common handles; they are a connection to who the cat is and although incomplete they hold more truth, and show more care on the part of the cat's namer, than the superficial ones.

And then you have the Cat's True Name, that none but the cat himself ever knows. Unique forever, through the timewise dimension of the set Cat. This is the Name that Holds All, the One Word that, if spoken, would cause irreparable harm to the universe because two of these words can't share the same place. Forever unique. I'm not sure dogs have deep names like this; they never stand still long enough to find it out, but cats will. You think they're dozing in the sun, but they're actually partaking of their singular, ineffable, unrepeatable Name.

Now, human beings have many names. The problem is that we grow up thinking the superficial ones are all we have. No one ever speaks the deep Name, no one takes the time to learn even a part of the dignified second name. All on the surface. Muscles, wrinkles, tan, clothes, car, house. Inside is hollow, waiting to be filled.

God knows the Name. He speaks it, and the common water of the heart is transmuted to his glowing wine, and we hear his call. The shepherd knows his sheep, and calls them by Name, and we ring like bells to his song. I feel the truth. What I do after that is up to me.

(Inspired by T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats")

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