Essay 53: The Little Green Cat is a Bug in the Grass
I am fortunate, I think, in that I have no idea how I come across. Just none at all. I am scared to ask, too, because the only people who’d give it to me straight would be people who are not too keen on me. They would be unsparing in their description of what it is about me that sucks, and then I would be too self-conscious to ever move or speak again. My way is better. I continue to operate in willfully ignorant bliss, for the most part. I do think about it a lot, though.
I try hard to to be good, and I think about how my behaviour might affect other people, but that isn’t really what I am talking about, here. There is that bit in Good Old Neon where the narrator makes a distinction between acting good and being good, and says that they are two entirely separate things, and I think about that a lot too, but that’s not really what I am talking about, either. I just mean that I have no idea how I seem. Does anyone? Is it good to have a firm sense of how one comes across, or is this trundling into sociopath territory? What does one do with that power?
As usual, the true kings are the ones who never think about it at all. They do not care. Introspection is for the weak. This is why they are out doing corporate takeovers and being in the Olympics. They have taken all that useless inner monologue and transformed it into raw power. They are trotting down the middle of a busy street right now, their medals fanned across their chest. Little kids are waving flags. A dog strains on the edge of its leash, just trying to get closer. A band starts up. My brother calls such people ultra-humans. At first it doesn’t seem like a good name, but just let it sit with you for a while, there.
“Ultra-humans” does not necessarily or immediately imply that they are better humans (although of course they are, let us not kid ourselves more than we have to), it just means that they are more. They have put self-reflection in the bin, where it belongs, and their just pure humanness has expanded to take its place. This is science.
There is a Wallace Stevens poem that I love very much, called “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts”. It has been interpreted as a meditation on death, or on the flimsy barriers that separate our own individual consciousness with that of the people around us. You get the picture. I like to think of it, though, as a hymn to ultra-humans. The poem starts with the speaker addressing a “you”, a little rabbit sitting in the grass. The rabbit is keeping its eye on this cat close by:
"There was the cat slopping its milk all day, Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk "
What happens very quickly though is that the rabbit is so busy with being a rabbit that his bunny selfhood pushes out everything else:
"And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light, In which everything is meant for you And nothing need be explained;"
The rabbit gets bigger and bigger, until its edges expand to fill everything, the poem, the evening, the world. Everything that happens exists either in relation to the rabbit, or is part of the rabbit. The rabbit’s idea of how it is to be a rabbit is the only game in town, and the last line of the poem is “And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.”
It is the best explanation of ultra-humanity I have ever seen. Imagine! Imagine how much you would get done, how soundly you would sleep. Imagine you were able to counter the question “Do you ever think about how you come across?” with “When did you last win the Olympics?” You would be so rich, and you would never worry about the implications of that either. You would just saunter into a room and charge on up to people. Leave it to them to manage the conversation and chivvy things along. You are just here to be you.
I know people like this. All animals are like this, obviously, including all rabbits. Most small children are ultra-human, to some degree. It’s why Philip Larkin hated them, he said: their single-minded focus on being themselves. I would strongly argue that this is in fact the best and most hilarious thing about little kids, but never mind. They mostly grow out of it, and pretty early on as well. It’s the adults that really knock you out. They are infuriating, and please, please can I never be stuck in a lift with them, but they are also charming as anything. Their sense of self is so potent it’s as if they have ascended to a higher plane of being. There is nothing you can do to become an ultra-human. You just are one. If you are wondering whether you, yourself, are an ultra-human, the answer is no. An ultra-human would never have read this far.