Monday, January 31, 2022

Between Here and There, Thinking About Cats and Philosophers, Simone and Sartre


We spent January thinking about Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre and Nelson A and Camus and the ethics of ambiguity and the Maoists and Algerian resistance and existentialism and Marxism -  with my buddies in the activist Informed Reading group, with the the kids, with HG.

Simone de Beauvoir begins The Ethics of Ambiguity, her distillation of existentialism, with a quotation from Montaigne: "Life in itself is neither good nor evil. It is the place of good and evil, according to what you make it.”

Our lives are what we make of them, up to us, to navigate those gray spaces in between.

It's up to us. 

What a  revelation.

I flip through Being and Nothingness, looking at the Key to Special Terminology.

I cant figure out which A  fits - between Anguish and Absurd, struggling with “meaningless'' and “reflective apprehension.” 

"What is the consciousness of consciousness?"

Asked her boyfriend, JPS.

Good question.

Each day, I alternate between the two, chatting with mon amour, reading Simone on the tragic, ambivalence of our existence, the dualism of being and nothingness.  

Twenty two years ago we met at a demo at City Hall. We've been together ever since, traveling, writing, having kids, taking through it all. 

Happy anniversary HG. 

Out we walk to celebrate 22 years over oysters and friends at Barely Disfigured with Stevie and Morgan, no Jeremy. 

And Big Tiny with Dominique. 

Dinner with Max and Jenn, 

A surprise beer with Karina, 

A pint with Mary M, who loved Isla.

We wake up with more Simone de Beauvoir, her first novel about her boyfriend Sartre and herself, and a third, another.   She came to stay begins with the epigraph "every consciousness pursues the death of the other"...

The other, ourselves, increase, reduce. 

Our little one, Isla has been sick for years now. 

For years when I came home from work, she would come great me. As they say, cats don't know you are crazy. Isla used to hang out behind the bookshelves. She would always great me and smile and prrrrrr....or say  helllllloooo...up the stairs with a quiet existential yearning.

She used to knock the books off the shelves... so i locked my office before a trip to stop that. she got stuck in side the office. It was horrible. I never could forgive myself.

I sat with her every night on the couch. 

Each of us learned something from her. 

The teenager brought the cat home with her mom. She loved the cat; the cat played hard to get. She only came around once the teenager stopped coming to her. Lots of lessons there, lots of life struggles.

The smaller teenager chased her.

They dueled… scrapping on the couch.

Isla had been sick since Spider came to stay, interrupting her world with Shannon, our three cat comrades. 

A thyroid condition consumed her. 

She stopped eating, getting sicker and sicker. 

Still, purring. 

Sicker and sicker, starving. 

Still purring. 

Still greeting us. 

Still sick. 

RIP Isla.

Friday, she left, now two.

The snow poured all evening, white streaming through the night, memories, filling the evening. 

Remembering when Isla came, years before, when the others came to stay, Puck, Shadow, on Snowball in the snow.  

Gorgeous winter days thinking about cats and friends and snow and Sartre and Simone and Isla and the cat in master and margarita and on and on.

Isla joined the others. 

Alexandra, who I knew from pipeline fights, who shuffled off earlier in the week.

The People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street posted a note:

Our dear Alexandra Zevin has transitioned to the next realm. She passed away today, January 25, 2022 about 1pm. Alexandra was one of the most active members of the People's Puppets, and a present part of curating and creating artwork and messaging for dozens of social, racial, and economic justice campaigns. She was an impeccable steward to our studio, ensured that everything was covered and cared for... and always would volunteer for the tasks no one wanted (rat patrol!) Her artwork accentuated any protest or rally with messaging, but she would ensure it was embroidered, embellished, and every corner was creatively attended to. An excellent artist. Alex put her body on the line to fight numerous fossil fuel projects from DC throughout New York. Alex was patient with the most difficult personalities in the movement, and we still have no idea how she was able to manage sometimes, always with giant listening ears, strategic problem solving in her heart, and that smile... Alex's smirk was just the best. We love you so much Alexandra, and you live in our hearts forever. See you relatively soon, our dear friend.

Love, your ragamuffin crew at the People's Puppets. Thank you for making our circle your creative home for the past 8 years.”

Arnie was on his way as well. 

He was a rebel friend of Vito. He was a memoirist bar none. He loved his students at CUNY. He wrote about his friends and struggles with gay activist alliance in the most readable activist memoir ice read. He was an activist.  Arnie was the kind of activist we have to admire.  He loved Walt Whitman. He loved teaching. He wrote a wonderful memoir about his days with gay activist alliance that made it a page turner. He was an epic friend. And a humble soul. RiP Arnie K.

Every day, friends are making their way. 

Leaving and coming. 

It's all part of growing, making our way through this life. 

“While I fear that we're drawn to what abandons us, and to what seems most likely to abandon us, in the end I believe we're defined by what embraces us,” writes J.R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar: A Memoir

So, we make our way.

Erik McGregor snapped a shot of us, of us January 28th. 
"CUNY Faculty and Staff Rally to Protect Health, Safety and Jobs Medgar Evers College"

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