Sense and Sensibility (Posthumanism Week 1)
Descartes focuses on human identity as solely existing in the mind, and the rational mind as the sole determinant of what is human. Thus, Descartes excludes sense perception (and thus excludes the body, or the carnal) from his definition of human, but he also excludes everything outside of the mind since he doubts everything except for his mind. For the first image, I taped my ears, nose, mouth, and eyes and did not include my hands in the photo. All of this represents the existence of that which is solely in the mind and the exclusion of all senses. This is such a lonely, depressing existence.
Merleau-Ponty, though, reintroduces the body as part of a conversation between the self and the other. Human identity is not determined solely by thought but by its perception of itself in relation to both itself and to others. He calls these others seers, those who through thought and sense, or potentially through thought or sense, are aware of a world outside of themselves and their connection to it. I found an older photo of my female cat, Charley. She was a stray who began hanging around the house in 2004, the year of four hurricanes with three passing through my Florida county.
She found me and kept hanging around our townhouse while I avoided her (we already had a cat). Hurricane Charley was going to hit on Friday, August 13, and when I went outside to secure our belongings, I looked to the top of our porch and saw her jump down to the privacy fence. I lifted my arms out to her, and she jumped into my arms. I took her into the house for the night for her protection. I did not know that she had two-week old kittens. The husband and I put her out after the hurricane passed, around 11:00 p.m., but she was there the next day. I took her to my brother to see if she was pregnant, but the neighbor said she was lactating. Where were those kittens? She had hidden them well between our porch and the neighbor’s privacy fence and under the air conditioner, protected from potential flooding and from pouring rain.
I have already read The Companion Species Manifesto, so much of my thinking about my relationship with this particular five-pound female black cat is based upon that text. She is different from my other two cats (one of whom is her son: he’s just creepy). She comes to me when I call her. She sleeps next to me (practically on my head and purring loudly) at night and if I take a nap during the day. She greets me at the door when I return home. If she didn’t have moments of alone time, I would almost say that she were a dog, but she is not. She is a cat who happened to decide that I was her human. She rubs her mouth against my face, scenting me (yes, it’s gross; she drools); she rubs herself in my washed hair, scenting herself (yes, that’s gross, too; she drools). She sits in my lap or next to my computer when I write. And if I can’t find her … and sometimes it is difficult to find a black cat who occasionally sleeps in the back corner of the kitchen cabinets or next to the VCR (it really is creepy watching TV and to suddenly see glowing green eyes under the set) or on the black fabric that I am sewing and which is on the dining room table (where she’s not allowed) or on my pillow if it’s fallen to the floor and is in the darkened bedroom … if I can’t find her I slightly panic.
She picked me, and while she loves on my husband, too, I am hers and without her I am much more anxious. I wonder how she knows when I am more anxious for it’s in those moments that she never leaves my side, and that can be for days where I cannot move about the house or grade papers or fall asleep without her in my face or on what I am trying to work with.
Cats have a way of saying that they are equal to each other, that they are bonded to each other. She does this occasionally when she gets in my face when I’m trying to watch TV, read a book, and especially when I try to take a nap to refresh from stress or anxiety. My other two cats do not do this to me or my husband, and I have not seen Charley initiate this act with my husband. Cats will put their foreheads together. She does this to me, her tiny forehead against mine, purring and staring right into my eyes. This image is after one of those moments when she interrupted my reading and I took time to talk to her and pet her. She had just placed her head against mine. I thought this would be a Facebook worthy moment, but notice how aware of the camera lens she is while I tried to find the snap button. The in-sync moment was certainly gone, and we had moved away acknowledging our relationship with each other.