I stepped onto the front porch slab a few minutes before bedtime. The night time weather was unusually mild and pleasant for late June; especially since the afternoon had been quite windy. I visually surveyed the neighborhood and took in a deep breath of satisfaction.
Then I saw it. Perhaps it saw me first. Standing near the four-plex next door was a young, all-black kitten. I called out, “Hello kitty.” A moment later, it raced past the porch and stopped on my driveway. We again established mutual eye contact. Then the kitten walked towards the porch slab and stood next to the immature day lily plants. I tilted my head left and communicated the “slow blink” that supposedly assures cats of friendly intentions.
The kitten mewed timidly. I immediately felt my heartstrings tenderly resonate. I crouched down and quietly coaxed the kitten to come closer. It mewed again, took a couple of cautious steps towards me. Then suddenly the little creature turned around and ran away.
I went back inside the house and prepared for sleeping–all the while, feeling joyful about the close encounter with cuteness and innocence. I wondered if the kitten had been stalking me or if we had simply had a chance encounter. The probability that it has been stalking me is high due to the fast run-by the porch and how it mewed.
It’s marvelous how such simple encounters can make us feel more harmony in our relationship with the world. The cat was almost ready to give up its safety and I was willing to share some affection with an unfamiliar kitten. It was on the verge of giving me the benefit of a doubt. The chance meeting allowed me to contact my inner child and feel the freedom and innocence of being a little boy once again.
As I slid into bed, I pondered how cats don’t care where humans are born, what color we are, what our cultural heritage is. Some experts say that cats perceive humans as other cats. They treat us as equals. This differs from dogs. Dogs feel subservient to their human masters. Pet owners know the differences between the ways kittens and puppies become familiar with people. Yet, both species possess innocence.
“We’ve let the blade of our innocence dull over time, and it’s only in innocence that you find any kind of magic, any kind of courage.”–Sean Penn
Are we able to cultivate innocence after we’ve left it behind? Perhaps not consciously. On the other hand, it’s possible to empathize with our earlier innocence. We feel the emotions that innocence kindles. We feel the joy of innocence. However, the purity of innocence does not return to us unaffected by our experiences in life. As a friend once said, “You can’t unmix pancake batter.”
There is a certain ennui that we feel knowing that we were never perfectly safe from danger. Unlike kittens, humans understand the growing up process. We know we will never again be children. We will never be so unwillingly ignorant again. We know that Utopia isn’t actually practical. We lose our primal innocence little by little as we mature.
A secret of happiness is to never become jaded about life. Without remaining gullible and naïve, we can appreciate innocence as we encounter it.
I hope the black kitten returns soon before it becomes an emotionally injured stray.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the musician, Albert Hammond, Junior. “Over time, naturally, you lose your innocence from gaining knowledge. You can’t be innocent forever, but there’s something in innocence you need to regain to be creative.”