One of our quartet of cats, Seamus, just over a year old, has taken up a new habit of visiting us about 4 a.m. for some attention. He purrs in my ear, then mewls softly, traipses back and forth until I
reach out to give him his favored head rub (across the forehead and behind the ears) and butt rub (the sweet spot where tail attaches to body) and belly rub when he flops himself on his back, four paws up. We do this for about four minutes, after which he moves to the foot of the bed, curls up in the negative behind my knees, does his toilette, then naps.
By that time, of course, I am now awake before I want to be awake, but it’s not a drawback.
I have the Marvelous Mar铆a Beatriz next to me, the nodding mammal behind me, and the forward pitch of time for a moment pauses to allow me to reflect upon the warmth and sharing and the absolute serenity granted by both.
The pause that refreshes, as the Coca-Cola commercial used to say.
However, one pause that I’ve never been able to reach is the runner’s high. I’m an indifferent runner,
I’ll admit, a just-good-enough runner, but I put in my two to three miles a day four days a week, with a longer run on the weekend of five miles—and I’ve hit the runner’s wall many times but never reached that state where the systems all harmonize and the body enters an endorphinic blissfulness. Perhaps I haven’t run far enough, but five miles seems to be the limit where fatigue and boredom come together to create the anti-endorphin.
But there is a pause with running that I do appreciate. Just as Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing. I love having written,” I hate running, but I love having run. While I may not reach an in-run glow, I do feel an after-run satisfaction: that I’ve pushed the body against its resting state of sloth and, if only for a brief time, I’ve tamped down the anxieties and stiff-armed the doubts that make up most of my daily life.
I just finished reading Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, in which he offered me (not me, personally, but still I took it as a gift) an interesting thought that gave me pause. In responding to Gandhi’s (probably apocryphal) statement that he thought Western culture would be a good idea to try out, Appiah says, “I think you should give up the very idea of Western civilization” and “I believe
Western civilization is not at all a good idea, and Western culture is no improvement.”
He also goes on to say the following:
We should resist using the term “cultural appropriation” as an indictment….The real problem isn’t that it’s difficult to decide who owns culture; it’s that the very idea of ownership is the wrong model….Those who parse these
transgressions in terms of ownership have accepted a commercial system that’s alien to the traditions they aim to protect. They have allowed one modern regime of property to appropriate them.
Whatever your origins, (Edward Burnett Tylor) was convinced, you could enter deeply into other forms of life, but you had to put in the work….(Matthew) Arnold and Tylor would have agreed, at least, on this: culture isn’t a box to be
checked on the questionnaire of humanity; it’s a process you join, in living a life with others.
Now, this is a pause that refreshes, not only because it echoes thoughts that I’ve had for many years but also because it gives me ammunition to push back against the essentialist and imperialist thinking of our society about American exceptionalism and manifest destinies and lead defenders in civilizational warfare against all who are not us.
Refreshing thought-pauses and moments of serene accomplishment: I’ll take ’em whenever I can get ’em.