I saw a cat get hit by a car the other morning. It was an orange tabby, crossing the road when a white SUV drove by and a wheel smacked it in the side of the head. It fell in the middle of the street, as the lower half of the body squirmed around for 10 seconds or so before falling limp. The only sound was the thump from the contact.
I was sitting on my porch with a friend as the scene unfolded. After a few moments of dealing with the immediate shock of observing everything, we walked up the street to check and see if the cat was all right, but it had stopped moving and breathing. Its left eye was popped out onto the asphalt, and the smell of death permeated the air. It didn’t have a collar. It was likely a stray that wouldn’t be missed by anyone because it wasn’t lucky enough to have a home — an insignificant death.
Insignificant because, as my friend said, things die every day. People die all the time, so do animals and plants. The world we live in is inhabited and inebriated with death and dying. So, death is insignificant because it’s commonplace. It only sticks with us when we are witness to it, whether through time and place or relation to that which is crossing into that world of nonbeing or otherbeing, depending on what a person believes. There is no escape from this end to life, and it’s ridiculous to try and conjure up meaning for the death of a stray cat in the middle of the street at nine in the morning on a Sunday.
But nonetheless, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that cat. I’m known to do ridiculous things all the time, and so here I am, trying to conjure up meaning for the death of a stray cat in the middle of the street at nine in the morning on a Sunday, while I sat on my front porch smoking cigarettes with a friend an hour after we’d eaten pancakes in my kitchen.
It’s the context of events that give them meaning. When something is out of place, it comes as a shock — that’s why a person would be nonplussed if they saw dozens of forks and spoons in a drawer. But if that person were to pull back their blanket to get into bed and notice dozens of forks and spoons on their bed, they’d be confused. The context has changed. The meaning has changed from understanding things the way they should be to some absurd reality with silverware in their sleeping place.
Perhaps that’s why this cat’s death stuck with me. I wasn’t prepared to encounter death on a Sunday morning while I sat on my front porch smoking cigarettes with a friend an hour after we’d eaten pancakes in my kitchen.
So, what’s the context of this cat’s death?
I’ve only provided my own context for the event that happened because I can’t know the context of this death for the cat, or for the person who drove by and didn’t stop, or the context for anyone or anything else that saw. I’m trapped by my own context, stuck in my own reality with only imagination to attempt to overcome the limitations of myself.
How many deaths have I not seen, simply because I’ve been lucky enough to be distanced from them?
Even then, how many deaths have been insignificant just because I haven’t thought to put the weight of giving meaning onto myself? And who am I to decide what has meaning outside of myself?
Time will tell. For now, I’m trapped in a sense of uncertainty about this innocent death at nine in the morning on a Sunday, while I was smoking cigarettes on my porch with a friend an hour after we’d eaten pancakes in my kitchen.
Kevin Thomas is the Managing Editor for the Newswire. He is an English and philosophy double major from St. Louis.
Categories: Opinions & Editorials