Monday, September 03, 2007

Guard the inestimable worth of your own rarity

those twigs 2
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
All right, I'll stop this soon. I am reading the second volume of Soseki's I AM A CAT in a delightfully funny British translation.
Here are some of the cat's (the author's persona) thoughts:

" However, when I think things over and see them in perspective, I can understand that it's not altogether unreasonable that my master and his houseboy should thus look down on me. Two relevant sayings by ancient Chinese sages occur to my mind. "Elevated and noble music cannot penetrate the ears of the worldly wise" and "Everyone sings street-songs but very few can join in singing such learned airs as Shining Spring and White Snow." It's a waste of effort to try and force those incapable of seeing more than outer forms to understand the brilliance of their own souls. It is like pressing a shaven priest to do his hair in a bun, like asking a tunny-fish to deliver a lecture, like urging a tram to abandon its rails, like advising my master to change his job, like telling Tatara to think no more about money. In short, it is exorbitant to expect men to be other than they are. Now the cat is a social animal and, as such, however highly he may rate his own true worth, he must contrive to remain, at least to some extent, in harmony with society as a whole. It is indeed a matter for regret that my master and his wife, even such creatures as O-San and Tatara, do not treat me with that degree of respect that I properly deserve; but nothing can be done about it. That's the way things are; and it would be very much worse,indeed fatal, if in their ignorance they went so far as to kill me, flay me, serve up my butchered flesh at Tatara's dining table and sell my empty skin to a maker of cat-banjos. Since I am a truly unusual cat, one born into this world with a mission demanding purely mental activity, I am responsible for safeguarding the inestimable worth of my own rarity. As the proverb says, "The rich man's son is never seated at the edge of the raised hall." I, too, am far too precious to be exposed to the danger of a tumble into calamity. If sheer vainglory led me to sun such risks, I would not only be inviting personal disaster but flouting the evident will of heaven. However, even the fiercest tiger, once installed in a zoo, settles down resignedly next to some filthy pig. Even the largest of wild geese, once in the poulterer's hands must finish up on the self-same chopping board as the scrawniest chickling. Consequently, for as long as I consort with ordinary men, I must conduct myself as if I were an ordinary cat.. Ordinary cats catch rats. This long but faultless chain of logic leads to but one conclusion. I have finally decided to catch a rat."
So, with the wise words of this inestimable and slightly crabby cat, I take my nightly leave. (It's all one paragraph.)Good night.
PS: I became interested in Soseki when I was in Japan. He is on the very handy 1000 yen bill

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