Maggie is doing the 11-PM Crazies. Transmogrifying instantly into Fuzzball the Demented, she attacks the top button of my dressing gown with all the weight and power of her almost-two pounds, savaging it with her tiny needle teeth and miniature claws. Abruptly abandoning the button, she jumps on the keyboard and bats at the cards moving around my monitor as I play Hearts. Next, she slaughters a crumpled kleenex with practiced professionalism, swats a pen off the desk, loses her balance, and tumbles to the floor, taking a pile of papers with her. Undaunted, she levitates into my chair right behind me, swarms up my back, and settles down on my shoulder, playing boogeties with my hair.

I pick her off my shoulder and cradle her along my forearm, her white breast and forelegs cupped in my palm. Suddenly she is as quiet as she was Mad Berserker a second ago. She disposes her small calico person demurely along my arm, gives a settling-down wiggle, puts her chin down on her white forepaws, sighs, and starts purring ecstatically, relaxed and companionable. It's a big professional full-grown purr, which is absurd, given how small Maggie still is. She's only seven or eight weeks old, after all. Maybe half a minute later, her eyes are closing, and five minutes later she's deeply out, making little suckling motions in her sleep, while I type one-handed.

As someone who's struggled with insomnia for most of my life, I watch the peaceful rise and fall of her fat brindled sides with a combination of admiration and envy. I don't think I ever go out like a light, the way Maggie can. For me, unless I stay up to the point of exhaustion, getting to sleep is always a gradual process, often with fits and starts that go on into the small hours. Some nights are worse than others. Last night was a bad one, full of intrusive dreams and visions, and I am very tired.

Maggie sighs in her sleep, snuggling her small copper-and-grey-tabby muzzle deeper into my hand. I wish I could sleep as easily as she does. I wish also that I could come to faith the way in the same abrupt all-or-nothing way that Maggie sleeps. So many other people seem to have some sort of sudden knock-you-off-your-donkey Faith Experience, TA-DA! It doesn't work that way for me. Some of us seem to sleep secure as babes in the arms of the Lord; others doze fitfully, with the occasional myoclonic "bump!" or maddening fit of restless leg syndrome.

Like sleep some nights, faith seems to be something lurking just out of reach, off at the edge of my peripheral vision--but when I turn to look at it, it shifts again, always just beyond my grasp. I keep working away in that general direction without, it seems, making much progress sometimes. I almost never know faith, the way I almost never know I'm falling asleep. You find yourself in faith, sometimes, with no very clear idea how you got there--unsure if the place where you find yourself really is faith itself, or only some anteroom to the Real Thing. Is this maybe just the way some of us are made to be? Surely what matters isn't how far we have got on the Journey, but our desire to be on it at all?

Maggie's white paws twitch and she makes a small noise in the back of her throat. It's hard to believe, watching any very young thing asleep or in action, in any sort of God who might be punitive and judgmental. No God worth His salt could be remote from this flashing immediate joy or this intense peace. I refuse to believe in a God who doesn't smile when a cat forgets its dignity and plays boogeties on the stairs.

And that makes me wonder whether God really does want us to take all this doctrine and dogma business with all the tremendous seriousness we give it. We think it matters so desperately; we quarrel with each other over points of doctrine, as though God is setting tests for us that God fully intends a lot of us to flunk--that God's looking for an excuse to pounce if (for example) we aren't in the perfect mindset for Communion, or if we've failed in one way or another, as every single one of us has. We've burned each other at the stake over obscure points of doctrine, as though we had the self-appointed right to decide what Truth really is.

But not one of us--not even the wisest of scholars, the most deeply thoughtful of prelates--is one whit more grownup, truly, than this sleeping baby cat. The foolishness of God is so much greater than the wisdom of man that we might as well say the hell with it: we're all just tired kittens. Like Maggie's play, our play is intent and serious, but it is also silly; and the more serious we try to be, the sillier we are.

Some people probably find this realization unnerving. I find it deeply reassuring. I don't have to have The Answers. I just have to be ready and willing to bat my God-opinion around the kitchen floor, tumbling arse over teakettle after it without any regard for my personal dignity. The next time I get my knickers in a twist about some Big Important Faith Problem, I am going to try to remember that.

Typing one-handed is slow work. Maggie's had time for a good nap; now she's awake, yawning. She sits up and mews at me, shakes herself, arches her back and stretches out her forelegs. Catching sight of her own tail, she eyes this alien object with wild suspicion and dives hellbent after it. I remember what Calvin said to Hobbes: "Despite that amazing display of cunning, reflex and physical prowess, your tail still has a death grip on your butt."

Abandoning her tail, Maggie charges up my dressing gown to my left shoulder, where she is now perched, nibbling on my earlobe and licking my cheek. If I wish I could have her ability to fall asleep, I wonder what mountains I could move if I had a tenth of her energy?.

Okay, Mags. You win. Time to play.

Copyright © 1999 Molly Wolf. Originally published Fri, 22 Oct 1999
[Sabbath Blessings contents page] [Saint Sam's home page] [Comments to web page maintainers]