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The Crazy Ones
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
-Apple Slogan by Rob Siltanen with participation of Lee Clow
There is an experience unfolding in my backyard that is bringing me closer to humanity than any experience involving humans ever could.
I moved into my new place in Potrero Hill in San Francisco on July 8th. Somewhere around exactly that time, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of at least six kittens in my fenced-in back yard.
Until they learn to climb the trees or the fence, they are trapped in my yard. That is the entirety of the world that they know.
But that isn’t to say that they are living a poor lifestyle. In fact, they are probably the best fed and cared after stray kittens in SF. They have a very kind owner who looks after them, don’t have any predators to fear, and are naturally confined to a relatively safe space.
What amazes me is that even with all of the affection, food, and gentle approach that I give them, they are still horrified of me. At the slightest hint of my presence, even through my windows, they sprint at top speed for every corner of the yard. The two rear corners have tiny spaces in between neighboring buildings into which they quickly crawl in a desperate attempt to run away from this hulking beast of ma human.
That is, all of the kittens except for one.
Dora is still terribly afraid and will usually run off at first, but will stop and turn around before reaching a corner, look back, make eye contact with me, and seem to decide that no, I am not going to hurt her. Slowly, she has become comfortable around me and let me pick her up. She’s a tiny little thing, but feeling her racing heartbeat as she shivers in the cold gives me an intense feeling of joy. I imagine this is what being a parent must feel like.
It was today as I went outside to water my lawn, an unusually cold day, that Dora came over and played with the splaying water, chasing it as it went across the yard. Her brothers, sisters, and mother all looked on from the sidelines as I let Dora dance with the hose, letting the light shine down from the water droplets, tiny rainbows against the green grass, shimmering glass to her tiny eyes.
Suddenly, after I sprayed a bit on my porch, she dashed over to me. A very unusual occurrence. She went straight past me to a pool of water and started lapping it up as fast as she could. It was then that I realized how thirsty she was. There is no natural water source in my backyard and California is in the middle of an intense draught. I have been occasionally giving the kittens water but had no idea if they needed it or not considering their mother is still breastfeeding them. Apparently they do.
And Dora’s playing with the hose was a desperate attempt at getting me to give her some water.
I poured more into the bowl that I had been feeding them with and she drank heartily, still with her jealous siblings and parent watching in what must have been intense bemusement.
Soon enough, she had her fill and as she frequently did, she moved off into a corner close to me, shaking and cold, a tiny, beautiful thing, terrified even of the little, sheltered world that it knew.
I suddenly realized that this is the world that almost every species besides humans live in.
99.999% of animals in this world come into it cold and terrified with absolutely zero concept of what it is or its immense size. They will die the same way some time later.
Humanity’s conquering of fire through our opposable digits gave us the power to get warm, which gave us the power to not be afraid, which gave us the power to explore, which gave us the power to understand.
All of humanity can be traced not just back to the brain, but to the thumb, and to the conquering of fire which came from it. We are still the only species that has mastered fire and the ability to control our environment and thus our world.
Dora is outside my office window right now, fifteen feet from where I am writing this. I have brought her inside many times yet she is still terrified, running into a corner and shivering.
I have no doubt that if her mother and siblings could speak, they would say that she suffers from severe mental illness. Only an absolutely insane cat would ever get near such a horrifying creature as that human! She needs to be medicated and locked up. She is a danger to other cats.
Yet fifteen feet away from me, four remaining kittens and their mother are feasting on clean water and food, all because the crazy one had the courage and dream to be different from the others.
And only one of those cats is going to get adopted by its owner, brought into a warm and loving home with vaccines and safety for a decade to come.
Most of us ascribe mental illness to a defection in our genetics. I don’t ascribe to that belief. The brain is the most complex organ in the human body by far. It naturally makes sense then that evolution in it would happen at a much faster rate. Changes must occur more frequently in order to find a more optimal set for the race.
Mental illness is not a defect. It is these changes expressing themselves. It is the betterment of our species. We crazy ones are not the species falling back, but it moving forward. We need to have the courage and dream to take pride in who we are, recognize our differences, and define our own amazing world. For it is us that will drive it forward to the benefit of everyone.