Ever since mobile phone cameras became widespread, there have been a marked drop in apparition and UFO sightings.
Miracles also seem to be a thing of the past.
It seems mobile phones have done away with all things spiritual and spooky. Are mobile phones our saviour from the superstitions and fears of old?
Or have mobile phones become the new deity?
Now I sound like one of those pastors decrying false gods and idolatry.
Of course mobile phones are not inherently evil. They are merely a tool, a ubiquitous and seemingly omnipotent tool that will soon cure you and connect you to the Creator. Or maybe just the nearest single person.
What once started as a communication device is now our new best friend, our personal well of knowledge, our portable piggy bank, our source of joy and entertainment, our entire world.
What will mobile phones look like in another 10 years? 20 years? Will we have become one with our digital double? Will they have become greater than us? Or will they have become a true friend, the perfect companion in our own lonely little worlds?
Humans have always searched for companionship outside the usual social circles, beyond the typical human communities. Pets and plants, games and gadgets – humans have concocted a variety of things to provide interaction and fulfillment, at least for a time.
So why not the little device we carry with us everywhere?
Slowly we move in that direction, making it recognise and respond to our speech, making it identify and follow our gaze, making it come alive at our every touch.
Will we one day worship our perfect creation? The pinnacle of our technological prowess and evolution?
Will this sleek glossy rectangular wonder lead us into a utopia of unprecedented peace and prosperity?
Will we start making love to our mobile phones?
I bet most people already are.
I’m sure our phones have seen more of us than anyone else alive. More of our faces, more of our bodies, more of our thoughts, more of our lives. And they will remember more of our every living detail than we will.
Imagine for a moment that your mobile phone was sentient and had a mind of its own. What kind of shit would it have on you? The amount of things it has seen and been through and knows about you.
It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
We invited it in, and now it is here to stay.
I, for one, welcome our new digital overlords.
Just kidding – don’t rely on your mobile phones too much kiddos. You never know what’s under the surface.
A tool should stay a tool, and not become more the wielder; Else as we look down, closer we approach the reaper.
Pedalling past green pastures to the sound of my heartbeat, I mused about what a splendid and wild world we live in.
And then as so often occurs in the history of mankind, I pondered the meaning of our existence, our fragile fleeting existence upon this mortal coil, this cyclical spirally soiled coil.
Our genetics insists that we should procreate and conquer our environment and adversaries and be merry in the face of certain demise.
What about leaving a legacy other than progeny?
Our religions insist that we should do good onto others and interact with each other within the rules that govern our spirit and mind, and be merry in the face of certain demise.
What if the deities are just assholes and there is no afterlife?
A quote from Dead Poets Society has always stuck with me:
The full quote is this:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
And the human race is filled with passion. What is this passion? According to evolution and religion, we are just meat-filled machines made to serve our instincts and base desires, to carry out our predestined duties in this preordained existence.
What is passion?
Some might say it is a device for us to procreate, a tool to create a legacy that will ensure the survival of our offspring, a divine gift to inspire others and bring about good in the world.
I feel passion is more than all that – it is closer to the thing we call our calling in life. The deep inner well that we draw our meaning from.
There are many I have seen who go through life without passion, a soulless meat drone going about the daily routine, a slave to the chores of life and the burdens of existence.
There is no passion there, there is no joy.
Having passion is more than just having a goal in life, something to strive towards. As the cliche goes – it is not just the destination, it is also the journey. And passion is the same – shouldn’t it be more than just attaining more wealth or more love or longer life?
Passions are ideas, relationships, dreams. The intangible made tangible.
Will the things I say awaken something in those who hear it? Will the lines I sketch alter reality? Will the words I write today change tomorrow?
But if it can even spark something in another person, implant the seed of future greatness, or make someone’s day, is that something?
What if evolution is right? What if all there is to existence is to make babies and ensure they go on to make more babies?
What if religion is right? What if there is an afterlife and all the good people get to have endless fun while the bad people are subject to eternal turmoil?
Both of these options seem rather meaningless to me. Both simply prescribe a means to an end, a way of life that does not help the present, that does not lead to progress or the true betterment of man.
But then again, what is progress? Doing things faster and more efficiently? Curing diseases so people can live longer?
For what? To continue to fuck for babies and fuck with one another until we fuck off this mortal coil?
Speaking with a friend about the meaning of life, he replied that it is up to the individual to determine the meaning of their own lives. And so I asked what he felt was the meaning of his life.
Was it to help his fellow man? To create and leave behind a legacy that would make the world a better place? To motivate, inspire and equip the next generation?
To do good works?
Is not our life’s work (or “day jobs” as some people refer to them) one of our defining purposes and major source of meaning in our lives?
A friend shared a story with me:
There once was a man who approached three construction workers and asked what they were doing.
The first worker replied simply: “I’m working hard to feed my family.”
The second worker responded proudly: “I want to learn and improve my skill so I can become a famous stonemason.”
The third worker stated humbly: “I am helping to build a grand cathedral for the church.”
All three workers clearly had different goals and ambitions (or lack thereof).
The first worker believed his work to be a means to an end – to feed himself and his family. Basic necessity, zero ambition.
The second worker believed in himself – he only saw his own future and what he wanted for himself, with no regard for the larger project that he was a part of.
The third worker’s response captured the true goal of the project at hand – he knew his own role in the scheme of things, and aligned his goals with that of his principal. He saw things not just from his own scope of work, but also from the perspective of the organisation, of the whole body of work. This type of worker is capable of seeing the end result and the value of the entire project. The third worker sees the big picture, and thus is believed to have the greatest chance of success.
Perhaps a somewhat dull tale about types of workers, but it does outline the different mentalities that people have. And if work is one of the greater purposes of our life, then shouldn’t we place more emphasis on it?
I imagine for much of the working class in today’s society, the work we do is simply a means to an end, akin to the first worker’s aim. We work to earn money so we can feed ourselves and our families and live happily ever after.
We work so we can make money so we can stay alive and perhaps travel every now and then.
Religion dictates that we work so we can provide not just for ourselves and our kin, but also to do good for the needy and less fortunate in our society, so we can store up karma and treasures in heaven.
So either way we have to work, right?
So we go through life working and working and making money. There is meaning in that.
But is it enough?
No? Then get better at what you do. Become the second worker.
Be the best that you can be, so the world will know you and acknowledge your amazing work. So you can get paid much much more for your work.
So I can live happily ever after with all that extra money I’ve made.
How’s that for meaning?
Do I need to be the third worker? Do I need to see the bigger picture?
And what, pray tell, is the bigger picture?
At the end of my days, when I am old and shriveled, when my joints ache and bones cry out in pain, when my mind is sluggish and my smile is all I have left to offer, will I have found my meaning?
Or shall I just keep living my life in a blurred haze of busy work to make ends meet? Never once pondering further the meaning of things. Thinking about what life should be like, instead of thinking about what life is?
And when I’m nearing my end, will my frail heart waver and rue my life’s choices? Will I turn back to the old things that brought me comfort in my life?
Will I call out to my deity when my time has come?
I guess thus far into this paltry existence of mine, if there is one nugget of wisdom I would want to impart to anyone going through any phase of life, it would be this: develop the joy of learning.
Life is always going to be full of ups and downs, highs and lows, full of surprises and changes. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are born, we will all experience this crazy thing called life. And there are times where there will be challenges, whether big or small; in these times we have to adapt and overcome or fail and hopefully learn from it.
And I’ve realised that life is all about learning and being open to new things and experiences. If you’re not open to learning, then you’re not open to life.
If you don’t learn, then you’re stagnant – you don’t improve, you don’t learn from your mistakes, you don’t grow and develop, you don’t expand your horizons.
If your entire world remains in a static field of suspended status quo, then I suppose you could be forgiven for not needing or attempting to learn and advance yourself or the knowledge pool of the world.
I imagine there are people who go through life growing physically, but not mentally or emotionally. People who pander to their base instincts their whole life without learning a single thing, leaving the world almost the same as they left it, zero contribution with a little waste. Seems like a big waste. But hey, as long as they were happy, right?
How does happiness weigh into the equation?
Are people who enjoy learning happy? Are happy people constantly learning? It’s not something easy to put into a statistic or graph.
Maybe not that hard, but it’s still a stretch to derive happiness purely from income level. You could say that those who are constantly learning or better at learning excel in academia and therefore excel at life (make more money), as the graph suggests, but I think that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Firstly, let me put it out there that just because you enjoy learning doesn’t mean you’re good at it. And just because you’re good at learning doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at applying whatever you’ve learned.
However, I would posit that those who enjoy learning or are good at learning tend to have a better outlook on life and a better chance at obtaining what it is they seek to achieve, simply because this attitude lends itself to curiosity and creativity, being open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
And if you’re not trying to achieve lofty goals, then at the very least you will have fun while you’re learning about this world and the things in this life. Why do I say that?
Because learning is the process of engaging and applying yourself to something. And if you develop a joy of learning, anything is possible!
You enjoy learning new languages so you can speak with your fellow human beings; you enjoy learning new recipes to spice up your meals; you enjoy learning new things about your friends and family so you get to know each other deeper and engage in more meaningful conversation (especially about the weather, oh boy!).
Learning can be as simple as picking up a new piece of trivia: did you know that Geoff the Robot on the Late Late show with Craig Ferguson was designed and built by Grant Imahara?
Think of it this way: learning is the avenue by which you perceive the world around you. You see with your eyes and hear with your ears, but you learn with all your senses. If you enjoy learning things, you will experience things in new and wonderful ways. Well, sometimes they may end up being dull or downright unpleasant, but at least now you know!
So yes, there is a risk to learning – you may uncover undesirable knowledge, knowledge that will haunt you until the day you die. But in the end, at least you can rest peacefully knowing that you knew the truth.
My point is, no matter your lot in life, where you’re at or what you do, learn to enjoy the learning process. Always be open to learning new things, and relish the journey of learning. Never be afraid to ask or to try something just because you think you’ll look stupid.
I guess most people would describe me with the word “eccentric”. Perhaps “quirky” if they were trying to be nice. People try to be nice a lot, at least to your face.
So I imagine the terms “eccentric” and “crazy” are thrown around a lot when I’m beyond earshot. I’m writing this not because I’m at all fazed or bothered by what other people think, but more to explore the notion of eccentricity.
What is the definition of being “eccentric”?
Departing from a recognized, conventional, or established norm or pattern.
So basically being a deviant, an outlier, someone who doesn’t conform to the norm, who doesn’t fit in or get along.
Strange, weird, bizarre, deviant, erratic, peculiar. Here are a few other fun terms that tie into the eccentric status.
There are many facets to being an eccentric. It’s like depression – you have to tick a few of the boxes to be a confirmed eccentric. Thankfully, being depressed isn’t one of them, although that is commonly attributed to eccentricity.
So what are the steps to being labelled eccentric?
Keeping to yourself; enjoying your own company
Acting the way you like, usually in an anti-social manner
Liking the natural state of things
Having an atypical belief system
Doing weird activities (but within the legal system, for the most part)
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Numero Uno: Eccentrics Keep To Themselves
Why? Because it’s easier.
Life is simpler when you don’t have to accommodate others, when you can do things you want, when you want, the way you want it.
People who like to go off on their own and do their own thing are thought to be a little off, right? Off with the fairies, they say. Hiking through the lonely hills, drifting upon a solitary sea.
But is there a problem with enjoying your own space, having a dose of me-time?
Yes, humans are social creatures and no man is an island and all that, but that doesn’t mean you need to be surrounded by yammering yahoos all day long.
The extremes are the hermits, those who shun the company of fellow human beings and retreat to nature, far from the madding crowd. Perhaps you would go a little loopy being in solitary confinement all by yourself. But then again, you have the company of nature and her flora and fauna. Fresh air does wonders to you, you know?
So in short, an eccentric person would tend to be a lone ranger, a singularity, an isolated entity, that curious person who would rather read a book or take a walk than browse Netflix or sip cocktails at parties.
Funnily enough, considering his name is Solo, Han was rarely ever alone.
Point the Second: Anti-social Actions
People expect those labelled as eccentric to act out in certain ways, often in crude or brutish ways, with snappy temperaments and lengthy lectures about irrelevant things.
I don’t think those people are eccentric, they’re just ill-mannered.
Eccentric people will push other people away, or keep them at arm’s length (actually that’s barely social distancing – definitely several arm lengths). This is because of point the first – eccentric people value their own space and time and want to keep it sacred.
And that means prioritising it over other things, like other people or activities that they feel are meaningless.
That indicates that eccentric people have a mind of their own. They are not bound by social obligation, not influenced by peer pressure, not swayed by public opinion, not brainwashed by herd mentality. They are not afraid to have their own thoughts, and sometimes not afraid to express them as they see fit.
Eccentric people act however they like, which sounds like a bad thing. I’m imagining poo flinging and public music making. However if no one is getting hurt or inconvenienced, I see no harm in letting eccentric people have their own way.
Eccentric people will do what they like, when they like, how they like. And the dangerous part is they don’t care what other people think. They’ll walk their dog in the middle of the night; they’ll talk to themselves out loud and makes amusing (at least to them) sounds.
The eccentric do things their way, which society regards as bad, because they are not team players. They don’t fit into the hierarchical work structure; they do their jobs a funny way. And yes, they’re not the best at communication or at adhering to society’s rules and regulations.
They’re the rebels, the mavericks, the loose cannons. The eccentric won’t rule the earth, and they certainly won’t stop anyone who is gearing to try.
第三 : Natural State of Mind
Progress is about conquering and going beyond the natural state of things, right? So returning to nature is bad; it is a step backwards and is undesirable.
And so we slave our days away to pave over this dirty, uncomfortable natural world. We build glass houses and gaudy rocket ships to pierce the heavens and pollute the earth, our home and place of birth and living.
The eccentric tend to gravitate toward nature and a simpler way of doing things, a tranquil uncomplicated way of living. Eccentric folk don’t want to participate in the rat race – they’ll work, but only as a means to an end.
Eccentric folk tend to shy away from socialising, as they are content with their existing company, even if it’s largely their own. They avoid the “vulgar masses”, the mindless herds of sheep and cattle suffering from FOMO.
Nature is the perfect example of contentment. Nature does not need to strive – it grows and it thrives, it withers and it dies. The cycle repeats, and yet the pattern is always unique, always changing and adapting, while always staying the same.
Being at one with nature and going back to your roots is eccentric; it is only something monks and hippies do. Environmentalists lobby for a cleaner, greener earth, but they just want to make sure their pristine mansion doesn’t sink because some dipshit clogged the sewers with their plastic waste. They all want to care for the cute turtle and otter, but a lot of it feels like attention-grabbing.
Eccentric people don’t care for that – they just feel nature has all the best things to offer, and offers it without having to sign up and download the latest app or investing some ridiculous amount of money every month.
Those eccentric folk like tending to animals and plants and romping through the jungle and over the hills. And the best part is all of this can be done without even saying a word. Perhaps that’s the appeal of pets (although we talk to them all the same).
As mentioned, eccentrics appear to be weaker in communication, but that’s just because they appreciate the power of the spoken word, and they treasure silence.
Is silence the natural state? Mother nature is a noisy bitch, but her cries and her vibrations resonate within us. They are a part of us, like purring is a part of a household cat. They are instinctive noises, guttural earthen sounds, that our brain processes differently from speech.
And so eccentric people glide back to their roots, back to nature or as close as they can get. They go out in search of their homeland, where they belong. They go with the flow, they’re in no rush.
Nombor Empat: Losing Your Religion
Having an atypical belief system isn’t just about the afterlife and top tier principles; it permeates into every aspect of life.
Eccentric people believe in…well, whatever they want to believe in. Not what society says they should believe. Or it might be their own interpretation of whatever the prevailing belief system is.
Those eccentric folk believe that life is what you make of it, and so they give up subscribing to the American Dream and create their own dreams. They try new and different things, they’re open to new experiences, although they don’t seem to be hard up about trying everything under the sun. They don’t need to.
Having your own belief system means you’re not measured on the same scale as everyone else. At least from a societal ranking perspective. And so those eccentric folks don’t compare as much, don’t go around judging other people. They live life a lot easier and they accept things quicker and move on, going with the flow.
Of course having your own belief system means you don’t congregate with all the others and perform the same rituals as all the others, which makes you a bit of an outcast. But that doesn’t mean you don’t respect the other belief systems, or incorporate their principles into your own playbook.
Eccentric people don’t necessarily shun others and their belief structures; they just pick and choose what they deem worthy, and discard the rest. They think for themselves and form their own theories and values from their knowledge and experiences.
Religion tells you what to think and what to believe; eccentric people make up what they want to believe. Hell, a lot of these religions were started by so-called “eccentric” people.
I mean, if you met the Prophet Mohamad or Jesus on the streets, you might find the way they act and the things they say more than a little bizarre, right? Is it because they spoke in riddles and stories, or were they stark raving mad? They appeared to have their wits (and followers) about them, so their countenance and values (as well as their marketing) were certainly on point. I mean, so many people ended up liking what they said, so they must have had some merit, right? Right?
다섯 번째 : Hare-brained Hobbies
Finally, those labelled as eccentric tend to partake in strange pastimes and irregular relaxations. Their idea of fun seems a little skewed.
These activities tend to be lesser known hobbies, involving smaller groups of people. Yes, I suppose Magic: the Gathering makes the cut, but that one is really just a pay-to-win ever-expanding card game. It’s kind of a cult.
Eccentric people tend to delve into activities that meet the previous four criteria: they can do it alone or in small groups, it’s not complicated and they can do it the way they like, or whatever the natural way of doing it is, and they don’t need to proselytise in the process!
I mean, by and large these activities aren’t necessarily truly deviant; would you consider Christian an eccentric person? Perhaps eccentricity does lend itself to certain fetishes, but for the most part I feel the eccentric label is reserved for a different type of wacky crowd. Let’s keep BDSM locked up in a cage, yeah?
So what are examples of eccentric activities?
Well, there’s no exhaustive list, but generally things that most people would find strange or disturbing or downright distasteful.
Admiring bugs and plants? Running ultra-marathons? Cribbage?
Drawing stickmen? Eating uncooked and unseasoned vegetables? Travelling to the frigid wastelands of the tallest parts of the world?
Playing with stray cats and dogs? Volunteering at a soup kitchen? Learning axe throwing?
Woodworking? Picking seashells on the beach? Listening to Vegetarian Grindcore Metal?
Hint: I may or may not partake in some of these activities. I’m not saying which ones though.
Essentially, any activity that doesn’t conform with society’s idea of a normal, conventional hobby is passed off as eccentric. People fear what they don’t know and can’t understand, and eccentric people are a big part of that.
So now that we have a rough idea of what classifies as eccentric, where do you fall on the scale?
So what do you do if you tick all these boxes?
Keep on living, my friend, keep on living to the fullest.
To be fair, if you were truly eccentric, you wouldn’t be taking anyone else’s advice anyway. But here’s hoping this little essay made you think a little more, and maybe it brightened your day (or night, for those nocturnal eccentrics out there) knowing that there are others out there like you, fellow eccentrics.
Stay eccentric, my friend, and never change. Unless you want to change. Then do whatever you like, weirdo.
Personally, I’ve always been a little eccentric (if I do say so myself). I acknowledge it’s probably not an attractive quality and might hinder me from getting that promotion or that luscious mate, but as long as I have my freedom I couldn’t care less.
My belief is that as long as you are truly happy and content, and nobody is getting harmed to maintain that status quo, then why should you change? Certainly not for the approval of others, or for some short term gain. We eccentrics see the bigger picture, we plan for the long term, while on the other hand we don’t care about the future and don’t let what tomorrow holds worry us. Like a wise man once said:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
So don’t worry, be happy.
And now I’ve got that blasted song stuck in my head. Wonderful.
Then I realized what I needed to do in the time left to me. I needed to write you a letter. I needed to write about all the things I’d never told you these past years.
Another quaint little book, another book with a picture of a cat on the cover.
Perhaps this is a trend of mine, although I fear I may run out of relevant material all too soon, short of reading children’s books and lolcats albums.
That makes me think of another trend – the growing pet trend, at least in many parts of Asia. Especially exotic pets.
Is an increase in pet ownership a sign that a community is maturing or growing in wealth? Or quite the opposite? Pets present a lot less complications than human offspring, and maybe cost a little less (even if just from a shelf life comparison). Also pets appear to be less problematic, less anxiety and stress inducing, a modern solution to a modern problem – companionship and loneliness in the 21st century.
As Homer put simply: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.”
Therein lies part of the beauty of pets, I suppose. As much as we draw comics and write books and make movies about talking animals, I’m fairly certain if they could it would ruin it for a lot of us. Unless all they did was baby talk all day long. That would definitely ruin it for some of us.
If Cats Disappeared From The World is an intriguing book, to say the least. It is actually not all about cats disappearing from existence, not a methodical what-if breakdown of the break down of ecosystems and world orders should the feline family one day fly off the face of the earth.
This quaint little novel is about relationships – not just relations between humans and animals, but also between humans and everyday objects and the meaning we derive from abstract concepts and our own mortality.
The book follows a young male protagonist who works as a postman, with no great aspirations and no major achievements and no latent superpowers stashed away in his bloodline that only activates when the moon is full. He lives alone and owns a cat. Keeps to himself for the most part. As common a person as can be. Highly relatable, I’m sure.
And the protagonist finds out he only has an extremely short time left to live.
Don’t worry, that isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the introduction.
If you were in the protagonist’s shoes, what would you do?
Write up a bucket list? Make amends with all those you felt you’ve wronged? Party like there is literally no tomorrow?
Well, what if there was a way you could extend your life?
But of course, there is a cost.
What would you sacrifice in order to extend your own life?
In a humourous and mostly light-hearted journey of discovery and enlightenment, the protagonist (it’s not that I don’t remember your name, bruh, but you were narrating in the first person the whole time) rekindles old passions and explores old places and memories from his rather limited sphere of influence and truncated lifespan.
And I mean limited. Let’s go through the cast, shall we?
His imaginary friend, Aloha
His cat, Cabbage Oh boy, we’re off to a superb start!
His somewhat less imaginary friend, Tsutaya
This is also in order of interaction levels. And his parents only appear in flashbacks, so technically zero interaction there.
Yes, that’s right – the protagonist is a postman with a powerful pseudo-pal and a pet and not much else. He’s pretty much Nobita with a more useless version of Doraemon, in other words an actual cat with no pockets. It would be easy to pity him.
He is Walter Mitty but without any rad skateboarding skills or a remotely interesting vocation (you have to admit Mr. Mitty actually had a really unique job). Mind you, I’m not saying being a postman is dull or useless, but this character shows no passion for anything he does. It’s more than mildly frustrating.
And yet somehow the thoughts and memories that his brief journey manages to evoke hit close to home. As unrelatable of a character as he is, his awakening and his experiences upon learning he has little time to live draw out a rich tapestry of emotions and primal yearning that you can’t help but feel that tug, that little tug inside.
He unearths old hobbies and old flames (well, I use plural but they’re all singular) – he visits an old friend and his ex. Yes, he voluntarily goes to meet her in person. That’s always a roller coaster ride. Brave move though.
Brave as it may be, his interactions with fellow human beings end up being rather awkward and ungainly. He talks more naturally with his vanishing friend Aloha and of course his trusty pet cat, Cabbage. An amazing pet name, I might add. Their previous cat was named Lettuce.
And despite that, by the end of it all, you end up feeling a sense of camaraderie and admiration for the protagonist for the courageous decisions and choices he has made in the face of his frailty and impending demise.
If a book can provoke deep, meaningful thoughts, then I’d say it’s a profound book. If a book can make you feel real feelings, then I’d say it’s a well written book. If it can do both, then I’d say it’s a pretty darn decent book.
If Cats Disappeared From The World does both those things, and a little more. Although it may be somewhat soppy or a little preachy at times, there doesn’t appear to be too much lost in translation. My hat goes off to whoever translated this little chronicle – the wry humour still shines through.
It’s not a romance novel, but it’s a love story.
A story of love between a boy and the diminutive one-dimensional world that he lives in. A story of time squandered, communication breakdowns, and of love lost. Love for things both big and small, but mostly small. Still, love strong enough to sacrifice for.
So I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how far or wide or deeply you loved. It doesn’t matter if you loved and lost, or got lost in love, or if your life is full of regrets. As long as you know that you loved and were loved in return, you have something special – a connection with another living being.
Knowing that you have experienced love and are capable of loving – that makes it worth all the while. And if you still have time left, while you still have breath, keep on loving.
As you go on with your life, always remember the things that are good in you. They’re your gifts. As long as you have these things, you’ll find happiness, and you’ll make the people around you happy…I hope you always keep hold of these things that are so beautiful about you.
It’s been a while since I read a book from cover to cover, and I have to admit this one kept me hooked to the pages, always wanting more, even at the very end.
Considering that it is but a simple tale of an equanimous and plucky puss with his master, you would scoff at how riveted I was to this story. I must confess everything about this book resonated deeply with me, being a cat lover myself. Yes, I said it – I’m an ailurophile.
It’s not that I dislike dogs and other popular pet animals; it’s just that cats and me, we just tend to be on the same wavelength. Oh, and cats are simply super adorable, so that helps.
But back to the book at hand.
When I use the word simple, I mean it in the purest and most literal sense – the translated writing is an unassuming, uncomplicated prose that draws the reader in and takes us on a road trip through a magical land.
Except there is no magic involved, at least not the high fantasy, otherworldly and vividly colourful type magic. But the story definitely binds you with a spell.
In gentle words and soft treads belonging to a cat lover, Ms. Arikawa navigates the idyllic cities and countrysides of Japan through the eyes of the protagonist – a stray cat named Nana.
Yes, you read that correctly. The cat is a male. Named Nana. Yes, like what you would call your granny. Maybe you should go call her now, it’s been a while.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles starts off like any other romance novel – cat meets boy, boy likes cat, love ensues, and they lived happily ever after, dancing away into the sunset. Don’t worry, no spoiler alert necessary, I’m being a little facetious here in case you didn’t notice. But I’m not pulling your leg when I say this is a love story. A simple love story between a cat and a man, and their travels around the world.
The calm pace of the story, the tranquil descriptions of the world they occupy, the interaction of humans and pets and nature – and there is hint of something more. Surely there must be something underneath it all?
I must say though, Nana’s owner, Mr. Satoru, is clearly one of those guys that only exist in fiction, those too-good-to-be-true, heart-of-pure-gold type characters. Calm and conscientious, providing pure, unadulterated love and care for his one and only cat. Sure, he does show hint of a tiny flaw here and there, but really the truly relatable character is the cat.
And I must say, the author really pinned a cat’s thoughts and behaviour down to a hair! Everything Nana says (or at least thinks or expresses in cat language) and does is precisely something an actual cat would do, with motives not altogether far-fetched from an actual feisty feline.
Nana is the entertainer, the comic relief, the one who says what he thinks and does what he wants. The snake, the charmer, the genie – all in one. His wish is his command.
Now although I use words like ‘simple’ and ‘tranquil’ and ‘discombobulate’, this story is by no means without heart and emotion. All the characters are grounded and face real-world problems with believable backstories. All have suffered in some way, such that it would be impossible for readers not to relate to the characters on some level. And when you think everything is hunky-dory, the peaceful plot bats you off the ledge with a left hook you thought you saw coming but it’s too late you’re sobbing through your black eye and now you realise you want a cat so bad.
I’m kidding – it’s certainly not a heavy book, no War and Peace, no Grapes of Wrath, and definitely no crying involved. At least not by the reader.
All this because of a cat.
To say I was deeply touched by this book would be like saying Disney made some nice cartoons. I went into it thinking it would be a mildly droll tale, and then bam! Curiosity killed the cat. Not literally, of course. No animals, fictional or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this review. And the original story. I think. Oh wait, there was that accident.
This book didn’t just make me reminisce my cat or dream about travelling to Japan, it made me marvel at how our sweetest little companions can bring people together, can make worlds collide or come crashing down, and how sad it would be for someone to have never known the pure, unconditional love that an animal can give.
I daresay this love story could rival any of those top romance dramas out there, as the love a human has for their pet can rival and outshine the love one feels for another human being.
Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, or perhaps you simply haven’t known the true extent and depth with which a human can love and bond and care for his or her soul animal, loyal companion and unwavering friend, and how said animal can return that love.
But animals cannot possibly fathom the depth or intricacies of love that we humans experience, you might say.
I know not what deep or profound love it is you speak of, except that of two souls travelling together through life in harmony, caring for each other despite their differences. A simple bond, a simple love. What more do you want? What more do you need?
Cats recite the poetry of nature, dogs sing the songs of the earth and sky, and do I sound like furry now or what?
You know, I’ve never been certain what this whole furry movement is about, but I damn sure ain’t talking about that kind of animal love, mmkay?
All this because of a cat.
Anyway, kudos if you got this far. My review has almost turned into a bit of tale itself. If you like pets and animals, go read the book. If you don’t, then…go read the book and you might find you’re missing out on something.
Reading scientific papers and journals may seem like a daunting thing, what with the big walls of text and scientific jargon. But don’t be put off – it’s not as scary as it seems! Let’s break down some scientific papers, shall we?
Please note that the material below is borrowed from official sources and I do not lay claim to any of it. Also, the explanations below are merely my own views and interpretations and should not be taken in lieu of professional medical opinion and consultation.
Below are excerpts from a paper published by a group in Beijing on their methods of isolating and inactivating their chosen strain of the Covid-19 virus. For the actual paper, please go to this Science journal page.
Firstly, every scientific paper begins with an Abstract section. This Abstract is a convenient summary of the entire paper.
Imagine you’re reading a novel, and at the start of the book is a full synopsis of the novel you are about to read! So now you know what the whole novel’s story is about, and you only need to read the actual novel if you want the nitty-gritty, raunchy details.
So this paper is about how this group of biotech scientists in Beijing, China isolated a particular strain of the Covid-19 virus, and proceeded to inactivate and replicate it to test whether it produced an immune response in live animals (mice and macaques).
Firstly, they explain how they selected the strain of the virus (because like any organism, there are variants and mutations which creates different versions of the organism). They chose one of the more commonly occurring strains of the Covid-19 virus, CN2.
They then went about inactivating the virus so that it would still appear to be a live virus that would generate an immune response in the host, but not actually cause the illness and have the full detrimental effects that a regular Covid-19 virus would.
For the viral inactivation, the group used a substance called β-Propiolactone. This substance is an organic compound of the lactone family. It is described as a colorless liquid with a slightly sweet odour, and is highly soluble in water and miscible with ethanol, acetone, diethyl ether and chloroform.
Here is what the compound looks like:
β-Propiolactone is an excellent sterilizing and sporicidal agent, which means it is great at killing micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi.
However, it has been found to cause cancer, so although it was once widely produced as an intermediate in the production of other chemical compounds like acrylic acid and its esters, these days it is not heavily produced.
After they used this chemical to power down the Covid-19 virus, they gave it to a few groups of mice and measured the level of Covid-19 antibodies that these mice produced over time.
The Sham group refers to those mice that were not given any virus and used as a control group.
A significant difference was observed, which is what the scientists wanted to see, and so they continued pumping the inactivated Covid-19 virus into animals that more closely resembled humans – primates like the macaque.
Random aside: a species of Malaysian macaques have been observed devouring rats! Here is the article. Be warned: graphic imagery within.
They actually ate so many that they saved the palm plantations from have to exterminate the rats.
These pig-tailed macaques had previously been considered a pest themselves as they do also eat palm oil fruits, but now they’re all good because they saved the companies pest control money.
Anyway, aside over.
And so the scientists pumped the virus into a few groups of Rhesus macaques, and monitored their Covid-19 antibody levels over time.
And to further confirm their tests, the scientists also took lung tissue samples from the macaques after injecting them with the actual Covid-19 virus. This is called the “challenge”.
So the results look promising! The vaccine caused a significant spike in Covid-19 antibodies in the macaques, and after challenge with the actual virus the group that had received the vaccine fared much better and did not exhibit full pneumonia that the control groups experienced.
As a final measure, the group performed multiple vaccinations on some more macaques just to see if the vaccine itself caused any issues. They pumped the vaccine three times at two week intervals.
Below are the results:
In order to show that the vaccine is safe, the scientists monitored a number of immune compounds in the macaques, namely cytokines. They also took samples of their lung tissue.
Cytokines are a class of little proteins in our bodies that our cells release in order to talk to each other, especially with regards to cell development and fighting off pathogens through inflammation and calling in defenses.
Basically, all you need to know is that when your body is responding to invading baddies like bacteria and viruses, your cells will release cytokines, so if cytokine levels go up, that means you’re preparing for battle!
This study found that cytokine levels didn’t go up with a few vaccine shots, and the lungs were all normal, suggesting that the vaccine is safe for use!
So the take-home message from all this is that there is a promising Covid-19 vaccine (at least for this specific strain that originated in China) and it works on our primate friends. This means they can start human trials now.
Human trials will take a block of time though, so don’t expect it anytime soon. But there is definitely hope for a vaccine.
I hope you found this Covid-19 vaccine study explanation useful and insightful. Feel free to post any questions you may have in the comment below!