Often, No Lesson is Good Enough

After a couple chats, I started approaching Sebastian more frequently, hoping to learn from his words of wisdom. I’d follow him around the apartment and observe his ways. I’d stare him down in the hopes he might observe my ways and offer some constructive criticism.

But on this particular day, Sebastian remained all but silent, the only noise coming from his tongue as he gave himself a thorough bath.

“I see…” I muttered, half to myself and half to my cat. “In order to function properly, I need to maintain good hygiene… Metaphorically. I need to take care of myself if I am to take care of others, the way you take care of me with your sage words of wisdom.”

Sebastian’s cold stare said a lot before he opened his mouth.

“No,” Sebastian said. “I just like baths. You know,” he said looking at me, “often, no lesson is good enough. You need to look within and think your own thoughts. You need to write your own words.”

I continued looking at him, hoping he’d continue.

“And I’ll think my thoughts and write my words. I’ve gotten very good at using voice to text apps on your cellphone. Do you understand?”

I didn’t, but I wanted to avoid ruining what I assumed was a nice moment.

“Of course,” I said, turning away, oblivious to the true meaning of the world, lost without a lesson with which to orient my life.

The Key to Starting Self-Improvement

Last night, I engaged in my usual nightly ritual of gorging on fast food, ice cream, and booze for an hour and a half, subsequently followed by sitting on the toilet for a further hour. Normally, I enjoy my time on the “Golden Throne,” but last night was different. I began to feel low, best described as a sense of shame mixed with a sense of hopelessness. These feelings were compounded when I realized my cat Sebastian, the premiere Cat Critic of the greater Los Angeles area, had been sitting in the restroom with me the whole time, gazing at me with his eyes, as if into my soul.

“What?” I snapped at him angrily. He blinked, either out of boredom or disdain, it was hard to tell.

“WHAT?!” I staggered to my feet, pants sloshing around my ankles. “Do you have some lesson to teach me like last time? Some lecture you want to give?!”

Sebastian paused for a long moment so as to increase the impact of his wisdom.

“Turn around,” Sebastian said demurely.

“Wha… What?”

“You heard me. Turn around.”

Slowly, I scooted my naked lower half around, navigating the complications of my stiff, wrinkled trousers by my feet. When I had turned completely around, I realized I was looking in the mirror at a disheleved mess of a person and his beautiful, poised cat.

“Often, the best lessons you can learn come from looking in the mirror,” Sebastian said quietly.

My face was bloated and splotchy, my eyes glassy and dead, my stomach hanging over a flaccid male appendage like a sack of soggy potatoes that even I would turn my nose up at had they been fried and topped with sodium-infused, caloric sauces. I wanted to cry.

“I look awful. I can never recover from this. There is no point – I shouldn’t even try.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Sebastian said. “Yes, you are a pathetic worm, which is sad. But the silver lining is the golden opportunity afforded you by your lowly status. You can only improve, which is a wonderful path on which to venture. True, you will face setbacks, but only once you’re a little farther down the road.”

“I.. can only… improve?” I said, as if to myself.

“For a cat with very clear speech, you often make me feel like I stutter,” Sebastian replied pointedly. “Do you have to repeat everything I say?”

“Repeat… everything?” I said, glassy eyed and gassy.

“Right. You’re clearly brain-damaged. Open the door and let me out.”

I cracked the door a bit to let Sebastian slink out back into the apartment. He turned back and stared at me for one more moment.

“You’re not there yet, but you will be. Let my words sink in.”

We stared at each other a moment longer. Finally, he added:

“And close the door. I don’t like looking at you with no pants.”

The First Cat Critic Post: "Your Mind is Like a Noodle"

“Your mind is like a noodle.” Those were Sebastian’s first words to me a couple weeks ago. “If you don’t keep your mind moist, it will eventually become rigid and break, thus ending your miserable life in unnecessary suffering.”

At this point, I had been dancing to Abba in my underwear for the last hour, and I gather that Sebastian took my fevered moves as a cry for help. Of course, we had chatted in the past, but it was unlike Sebastian to give me advice or in any way direct my life’s path. He had always been a laissez-faire cat, although he would never say so himself since he hates French.

Given the firmness of his tone and the striking simplicity of his statement, I decided to take out my earphones and sit down to listen what he had to say.

“I’ve never wanted to be a teacher, but the way you live has forced me into the position in which I find myself. All of this go-with-the-flow garbage is going to make you and everyone around you very unhappy. You need to start acting like you have agency, and you need to start making your own value distinctions in order to begin down that path. Now, I know you’re a yellow-bellied son-of-a-gun who will find doing that all at once difficult, so you’ll adopt my opinions first and then tweak them when you finally become a real individual. Understood?”

I nodded, slack-jawed, jelly-donut guts dripping down my bare chest. I am accustomed to eating donuts while I dance in the semi-nude.

“Now, in time, you’ll want to write down everything I have to say, but when I’m speaking, you must resist this temptation. Learn to listen. Learn to be a noodle that gradually absorbs water, absorbs it willingly and without conflict. Listen and become flexible. Later, when you dry out and become all stale and stiff again, you can write down my words of wisdom.

“Today’s lesson is this. Your mind is like a noodle. You must keep it wet to avoid perishing because of inflexibility. Moisten yourself thusly. A noodle does not become wet for a specific end. It becomes wet as a way of being. Because the struggle of wetness brings eventual contentment, You must do the same in your life. Learn new skills. Push past new boundaries. Go to new frontiers. Do not do so for superficial gains in the short term. Do so so you can actualize across whatever span of time is granted you in your short and insignificant life. Do so in order to live with yourself and others. Understand?”

I thought for a few seconds too long as I am generally slow-witted in philosophical matters such as Sebastian’s wet-noodle analogy thingamagig.

“Do you mean like, to take new courses or to, like, learn an instrument or language or something?”

Sebastian sighed. It was obvious he knew I was an idiot but also obvious that he would take pity on me and continue his explanation.

“Yes, those are examples of ways you may wet your noodle,” Sebastian continued. “Another way would be to practice speaking with intentionality. The sentences you utter are attrocious. I would give most of them a C- or lower. Focus on a few areas of improvement and do so for the sake of improvement itself. Not ego, Not material gain. Do you understand?”

I thought for a moment. “So I could, like, take a philosophy class at the local city college?”

“As long as it is within your budget, in terms of time, money, and personal obligations, yes.” Sebastian looked at me blankly. “You should also eat fewer donuts. Yes, I said fewer and not less because that’s a grammatical rule about which I feel quite strongly.”

I didn’t know what grammatical rule he was talking about. But it didn’t matter.

“All right” I said.

Sebastian kept looking at me with his bottomless black eyes. “Feed me.”

Not wanting to displease Sebastian, I got to work. So, it seemed as though I would be taking some gradual steps toward self-improvement in the immediate future.