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i am a cat

The world's evaluation of an individual's social worth, like the slits in my eyeballs, change with time and circumstance. In point of fact my pupil-slits vary but modestly between broad and narrow, but mankind's value judgements turn somersaults and cartwheels for no conceivable reason. Still, now that I come to think of it, there may perhaps be sense in such peculiar topsy-turvydom. For just as there are two ends to every string, there are two sides to every question. Perhaps in its extreme adaptability mankind has found a way to make apparent oppositions come out with identical meanings. Thus, if one takes the symbols meaning "idea" and turns them upside-down, one finds oneself with the symbols meaning "plan". Charming, isn't it?

Humanity seen through the eyes of a cat, from Natsume Sōseki's novel 'I Am a Cat' (1905). From its famous opening lines - "I am a cat. As yet I have no name." - its narrator looks at Japanese society of the Meiji era with feline aloofness and velvety satire.

There is not much story to speak of in this sprawling book (it was written as a serial in a journal), but its detached observational quality is quite endearing. And just when you're soothed by the cat's lazy existence, there's a sharp claw lashing out at the follies of human society.

Here's another of the nameless cat's musings:

All studies undertaken by human beings are always studies of themselves. The proper study of mankind is self. The heavens, earth, the mountains, and the rivers, sun and moon and stars -- they are all no more than other names for the self. There is nothing a man can study which is not, in the end, the study of the self. If a man could jump out of his self that self would disappear at the moment of his jumping. Nor is that all. Only oneself can study one's self. It is totally impossible for anyone else to do it.
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