The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 24, 2010


Civility matters

Emotions, words and actions all tend to escalate during a political campaign. Can Carlisle citizens fully engage in the political process without slipping into hostility, which damages the community that politics is supposed to sustain? Last week saw two incidents where people immersed in a political cause lost track of civility.

The first incident was outrageous and illegal. Just prior to the primaries, someone dropped fliers into some voters’ mailboxes, purporting incorrectly that a candidate had quit. Trying to influence an election by falsehood hurts everyone, not just the targeted candidate.

The second incident was much smaller, but still troubling. A resident who was angry at the newspaper aimed unnecessary rude remarks at a Mosquito photographer. The paper had not printed a letter to the editor the week before and some assumed the letter was omitted on purpose, when in fact it was lost due to an unfortunate clerical error. Assuming ill intent does not strengthen a community. In any case, the photographer was in no way responsible. Speaking uncivilly to her was not a way to score points against “the other side.” Rather, it was a poor way to treat a neighbor.

The Carlisle Mosquito is a non-profit community newspaper staffed by a combination of low-paid employees and volunteers. We make mistakes, like everyone else, but our goal is to objectively and accurately inform residents about the workings of town government and the life of the community. Letters to the editor are welcomed. Mosquito staff members include Republicans, Democrats and un-enrolled voters.

Animosity alienates people. On the other hand, everyone benefits if people can calmly speak out for what they believe in and listen to others who do the same. A community is strengthened when there is competition for political office and when voters can hear a civil exchange of different viewpoints. ∆

Death of a cat

The Carlisle woods took our second cat a month ago. I already knew the drill, since we lost one two years ago this way. Still, we miss them badly when they go. I’m writing this to reconcile my feelings with my beliefs.

My children sometimes remark on the strangeness of having animals in our lives, cats curving themselves around our shins, holding up the begging bowl of their lithe grace to ask their tithe from our affections. I’m sure we’re not quite gods to cats, though they do believe in the power of priestly rituals. Perhaps we are bodhisattvas, strange, frustrating, not-very-bright ones who have to be asked and asked and asked, but eventually the Food Dance Prayer and the Food Canticle do always work.

And they are strange to us. It’s easy to believe, watching a cat sitting heavy-lidded and motionless in zazen, that they have no difficulty quieting the chattering monkey mind. Scientists argue fiercely whether it is even proper to speak of animal cognitions. We find unutterably alien the idea of thinking almost without past and future, just existing in a Now of pure intention. William Bronk, the poet, described the strangeness of Machu Picchu as an enigmatic almost-reflection of ourselves at the limit of what we are capable of understanding, as though we had found “an algebra among cats.” I’m not sure the phrase even makes sense, which is of course his point because one’s disjointing “huh?” perfectly throws a bright unrevealing light across the surface of the permanently strange, like animals in our lives.

Carlisle woods are lovely in every season and they offer up so many ways for a cat to die – beautiful foxes, lean and fluid coyotes, the shy dark fishers. It’s true that if you let cats run outside they are likely to die sooner, but I do believe that cats live only in an eternal Now, that unlike us they are not brooding about their past or fretting about their 401Ks. Why should they not burn as bright as they wish for all the moments they are granted? Look at your cat looking through the window. He doesn’t want to live forever. He wants to be wholly alive now, to hunt, to leap, to hammer his heart, to burn intensely now. So ours go out. I say to the cat and the fox and to all of us: use and bless this shining time we have, it is brief, none of us know how long our day will have its light, be here now.

This time the woods didn’t take her. After we grieved, after two days of inscrutable silence while the man who had fed her twice a day for seven years walked inside and out calling her name, she emerged from a part of the house impossible to get into. Now she chooses to sit near me as I write this, in the legs-tucked-under compact position we call meatloaf asana. As far as I can tell, she is perfectly content. ∆



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