The Telos of Kitty Cats

Cat have I loved, but dog have I hated.My cat, Plato, died this month of sudden heart failure. One moment he was eating supper, the next his body was sprawled on the ground, and he was gone. At least he died doing what he loved.

Plato was a good cat.

But what does that mean? He never donated large sums to charity, or prevented a robbery, or saved a life, or bequeathed deep wisdom, or even earned a paycheck. He wasn’t even exceptional looking; that is an actual picture of him there, but you could be forgiven for having thought it was a stock cat photo. If I lived the life Plato did, I would be considered a shiftless bum.

But Plato was not a human. He was a cat, and he was a good one.

Plato’s namesake gave us a concept known as telos. A thing’s telos is its goal or purpose. Everything has a telos, and different types of things have different teloses. Spoons, forks, trees, mice, men, and women are each different things with different purposes. Traits that make one of those things good may very well make another one bad. When Paul speaks of the many parts of the body, he is describing exactly this diversified community of telos. God made different things for different ends, and He will only expect from them in proportion to what they have been given.

Plato was a cat, and he was a good one. When we visited to the animal rescue, we only intended to take home his sister. He took it upon himself to curl up in my lap and purr himself to sleep. That earned him a home, and he never tired of earning his keep, filling my empty lap whenever it was possible, and often making a strong attempt even when it wasn’t possible. He liked gazing out the window at the birds, squeaking at them and dreaming of fresh food. On a few lucky occasions he found and dispatched mice which were making their homes where they shouldn’t have. When I worked from home, he would brave a dog 4 times his size in order to be near me. When I went to bed, he would lie on my chest and purr some more. When it grew cold, he would climb underneath the covers and form his own tiny warm cave.

I do not know if animals go to Heaven. I hope, and even suspect, that they do, but I have no real data to work from. But I do know that Plato was a good cat, and our lives were better for having him in it. Plato loved us, and I credit it to him as righteousness.

Rest in peace, kitten.

Deconstruction of Sesame Street monsters

Sunny Days would make a good name for a mental institution. Coincidence?Big Bird is schizophrenic. Elmo is a narcissist. Grover’s a megalomaniac. Cookie Monster is a binge eater. Oscar is a hoarder, Bert has Asperger’s, Ernie has ADD, The Count has OCD, and Aloysius Snuffleupagus is severely depressed (probably because his parents divorced).

Every Sesame Street monster embodies some form of personality disorder. But why would we choose such a cast for a beloved children’s show?

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, “Fairy tales do not tell children monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed.” Haven’t you ever wondered why it is that a children’s show stars monsters? Monsters aren’t generally considered to be cute and cuddly; if your child says that there is a monster under the bed, they think it wants to eat them, not sing the ABCs.

Sesame Street episodes are our modern day fairy tales. And the monsters are a warning.

They weren’t always monsters, you see. They used to be children.

The mental age of your average Sesame Street monster ranges from 3 to 6. Haven’t you ever wondered where their parents are? Sure, we often hear them speak of mommies (and very rarely daddies), but we almost never see them.

Every one of these characters has some terrible flaw that they let grab control of their life. It ultimately grew so large that it drove a wedge between them and the rest of their families, and transformed them into something other than human.

Fairy Tales teach us that we can defeat external monsters. Sesame Street teaches us that we need to watch out for the monsters inside of us as well.