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Existentialist Friday cat blogging

by Sirocco Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 09:25:38 AM EST

Friday cat blogging with a European twist: Following up this, I have translated another story by existentialist philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe - an animal fable from his 1941 masterpiece, On the Tragic. Here a bunch of castaway cats face a deep dilemma in trying to survive on a desert island. The fable is an image of the human condition, of which Zapffe took a pessimistic view.

Feel free to treat this as an open thread, complete with pics of favorite felines.

Animal Fable

By Peter Wessel Zapffe

Excerpt from On the Tragic, Oslo 1941.
From the Norwegian by Sirocco

Once upon a time there was a ship carrying cats, a lot of cats of all kinds, to a World Exhibition on Hawaii. Underway, the ship sunk ‘with men and mice’, the cats clinging to matresses and other strange things and drifting ashore on a desolate island. There was no life on this island except certain sprightly and irresistibly funny, but sadly inedible beetles, so at first sight they appeared all condemned to miserable death.

Then it was discovered that the soft clay along the beach brimmed with fat and delicious clamshells, easily opened with a claw or two. Thus arose for most a terrible dilemma. The only decent path was surely to leap like tigers for the beetles, the alternative being a foul activity to which no cat of the genus Felidae would descend. They represented the Cat as it had jumped forth from the mind of God, as one of them had learned by mom’s knee while a kitten at Mrs. Bloom’s, and the very thought of it abhorred them utterly.

But ‘cat, schmat’, as the madam also used to say, and sure enough, it was not long before the first ones dipped their paws and were followed by others, there being soon a veritable rush. Indeed they displayed such indifference to feline standards as to lie in the pleasantly sun-warmed mud merely gorging and breeding – their progeny slurping clams as soon as weaned. At fitting intervals they would raise their mudstained faces to squint at the snobs ashore; scorn and ridicule altered with a glowing hatred as the sight of land cats reminded them of their betrayal against the family’s precious heritage.

Optimism became a treasured way to dull their awareness of guilt and inferiority. Before long, they had to extend their defences; the land cats were called neurotics and psychotics – tricky words, but stimulating to the mud colony. Finally an analyst was sent up from the beach; he found resistance against recovery and diagnosed a fear of water. The plebeians were in triumph, but the others too were convinced by the explanation and acknowledged it, knowing well what the bottom line was.

By contrast, the cats of prey became pessimists. Not due to such burdens as the others gave weight to – lesions and starvation, choking and cold – but to finding themselves put into a world of poor terms for the sacred formula in their hearts. In recognition of this fact they instilled reproduction, the future appearing darker day by day.

Then prophets arose among them to teach the art of hope: Once upon a time we all came from a land where the objects of our noble pursuit could also be eaten and digested. Yet many were slothful, neglecting to exercise their nimbleness and strength, and that is why the ship went ashore. Now death awaits the faithful, but after death a new ship will come for the ones who did not fail. And then all those who lived in sin shall perish, and no ship shall come to deliver them.

But hunger tore their bowels, and they would whine in many keys and say: “Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, in unsrer Brust!” Still some became traitors and went into vulgus and sated themselves, whilst others converted by the prophet’s word and went ashore and cleansed their pelt and prepared for their great departure. The proudest of them formed a fraternity, publically declaring it the duty of any honest cat to die before selling one’s soul for a dish of clams. And when the leader felt his powers waning, he laid down on a stub to die what humans call a tragic-heroic death. Many would revere him as a saint and follow his lead, as they could not bring themselves to useful resignation; those stayed faithful to the highest ideals of felinity, though they saw through the prophet’s consolation and fought despair in their hearts.

Yet a majority in both camps became slaves of eternal doubt, dividing their time between uneasy satedness and abstinence with devouring wants. It was of course a relief to be rid the aristocrats; but the new maxim of merging with the crabs proved unrealisable in the end.

I've not been posting for a couple of days - did anyone notice?

No? That's what I thought... ;-)

Five Abyssinian kittens for your viewing pleasure. These cats would surely go for the beetles:


The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 09:40:56 AM EST
for the story and you might be amazed, but it has been noticed that you have not been posting. :-)

P.S, lovely kitty picture.

by Fran on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 09:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. Sadly the kitties have no relation to me...

Speaking of beauty and its opposite, have you seen the new dKos design? What do you think?

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 10:03:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
been missing you!!

Please don't do this to me!

Regarding your story: is this a variation on the topic of realos vs fundis? Staying pure but not achieving much vs compromise and compromission?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 01:19:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Captain... There will occasionally be days when I'm not posting much, usually because I've been unable to finish any stories. And it's hard to know in advance when writer's block kicks in. Not an affliction you are prone to, I am sure... :-)

Your reading is a valid one - but in an existential more than socio-political sense. Zapffe was a bit like Camus, only not so optimistic...

Another post coming up in a little while.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 01:55:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't worry about it. I did get worried when 2 days went by with no posts from either you or Soj, and no news, and I had other obligations keeping me away from my computers... But please don't feel any pressure - now we have Colman to help us!

As to realos vs fundis, I'd say that it is probably one of the most fundamental metaphysical questions.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 02:07:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're in trouble if you're depending on that guy to save you. I hear he drinks all sorts of weird French things. Some of them have apples or blackberries in them.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 02:42:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I refuse to have a blackberry, which my company has finally offered to foist upon me, because they have very limited internet access. I am perfectly happy with my 2-year-old SonyEricsson, where I can get all my e-mails and not just my work one, and i can read any intenet site (although apparently not the new version of dKos - and I can take nice pictures od the eiffel tower, sand castles or wind mills:

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 04:30:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So perhaps that's why this fable provoked a response of, "I don't get it" from me.  I'm sure the translation is quite good, but there's just something in my sensibilities that prevented this from "clicking".

In any event, it's always nice to read any story about a society of cats, since that concept seems almost antithetical for felines -- at least, those I have known.  The idea of cat prophets, however, is an appealing one.

And even if the Abyssinians above aren't yours, they're still adorable!

Regards to all from my tabby Phoenix, who's doubtless sunning herself on a windowsill at home right now (while I sit beneath fluorescent lights all day).

by The Maven on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 10:16:28 AM EST
'Getting it'? Haven't you heard that the idea of making sense was abandoned by European Continental philosophy at the time of Nietzsche? ;-)

Anyhow, quoting from the (not incredibly eloquent) Wiki article linked to in the ingress:

Zapffe's theory, is that humans are born with an overdeveloped skill (understanding, self-knowledge) which does not fit into nature's design. The human craving for justification on matters such as life and death cannot be satisfied, hence humanity has a need that nature cannot provide satisfaction for. The tragedy, following this theory, is that humans spend all their time trying not to be human. The human being, therefore, is a paradox.

Something in that vein is what the cats are meant to illustrate.

Yeah, Abyssinians rock, don't they? I know a hybrid of Abysinnian and ordinary domestic cat. She has somewhat smaller ears and is just about the prettiest cat I've ever seen. Enchanting personality, too.

My best regards back to Ms. Phoenix!

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 10:29:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Three of my cats, from left to right: Fluffball, Sheila, and Sam. Sam was still a kitten when that one was taken about 2 and a half years ago. And yeah, those three cats are tight - especially Sam and Fluffball who are best of friends.

The Left End of the Dial

by James Benjamin on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 02:16:02 PM EST
Very nice. Would they be landcats or beachcats?

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 02:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sheila would definitely be a land cat. The other two, on the other hand, I suspect would gladly venture to the beach.

The Left End of the Dial
by James Benjamin on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 02:39:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Those are dachshunds, believe it or not.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 02:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My parents' cat when he was a baby, playing with one of my molecular models:

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 03:08:21 PM EST
So, did he choose organic or inorganic?

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 03:43:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, his favorite molecule was nepetalactone.
by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 03:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL. I guess there was a lot of rolling around...

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 04:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
didn't resort to this:

La vie n'est de soi ni bien ni mal, elle est la place du bien et du mal selon que vous faites.

by Time Waits for no Woman (time.waits_at_gmail.com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 04:59:55 PM EST
FIFA World Youth Championship Soccer - The Netherlands

    FIFA site

Team Morocco performed before a home crowd of 20,000 Dutch Moroccan fans in Utrecht, upset one of World Cup favorites: team Italy. The game was filled with suspense, technical feats, solid defense, excellent offensive plays and a fair team of referees who needed eleven bookings and a red card. Team Morocco was carried by their supporter legion in Utrecht stadium, forcing the Italian side into an away game. In the end, the four penalties saved by goalkeeper Mohammed Bourkadi during the game and the deciding penalty series to decide the winner, was the difference.



Yesterday's results and schedule for today in the World Youth Championship:

1/8 Finals
Brazil - Syria  1-0
United States - Italy  1-3
China - Germany  2-3
Morocco - Japan  1-0
Colombia - Argentina 1-2
Nigeria - Ukraine  1-0
The Netherlands - Chili  3-0
Spain - Turkey  3-0

Quarter Finals
Italy - Morocco  2-2 (OT and penalties 2-4)
Brazil - Germany  2-1 (OT)
Nigeria - The Netherlands  25 jun 2005  15:30
Argentina - Spain  25 jun 2005  20:30

Semi Finals
Brazil - Spain/Argentina 28 Jun 17:30 in Utrecht
Morocco - Netherlands/Nigeria 28 Jun 20:30 in Kerkrade

  • VIDEO Highlights of All Cup Matches

    This World Youth Championship, has been a great show of young stars and a talented group of soccer players with matched ambition. Many of these players will make a great step forward to the World Cup in 2010. Excellent coverage by Dutch television, enthusiasm and joy of the game by large crowds in the stadiums guarantees top performance on the pitch. Check out the Sports websites for coverage.

  • Must watch Young Stars Perform!

    USA WELCOME: Make Yourself Known @BooMan Tribune and add some cheers!

  • by Oui on Sat Jun 25th, 2005 at 02:07:08 AM EST

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