Life as an Extreme Sport

The Suspicious Trust of a Feral Cat

This is Overlord Zeus. This is also more than just a cat post, but it’s important that you know Zeus before I run with my analogy. Zeus is a rescue, and more specifically, a feral rescue. He had been inside for about eight months by the time I adopted him, and as you can see, he’s adjusted rather well. At least, he has to me. Of course, I also feed him and spoil him rotten, so it’s not too surprising that he follows me around with adoration (or hunger) in his eyes.

Other people, though? Not so much. He’s still pretty apprehensive. Oh sure, if you’re relatively quiet and still, he’ll come sniff and say hello, but if you move quickly or are loud, he’ll run to hide behind me and stay there until you leave.

Zeus has the wary, suspicious trust of a feral cat. People probably were a mixed bag for him while he was on the streets, and – oh. This is about analogies and people and me, isn’t it?

I was talking to L~ the other day about some apprehensions I have, and she likened it – and me – to Zeus learning to live with humans, and in specific to acknowledge the skittishness and fear. People, after all, haven’t necessarily been so awesome to me, so when out of the blue, virtual strangers are nice, I get suspicious. What do they want? What are their motives? How will they hurt me?

It’s not a nice place to be – not for me, and not for people who are motivated by good and kindness.

It also got me thinking about this project that I worked on a while back ago, about trust and time and how we use trust to navigate the world and to even have a notion of being able to make choices. Something Alphonso Lingis wrote really stayed with me:

In trust one adheres to something one sees only partially or unclearly or understands only vaguely or ambiguously. One attaches to someone whose words or whose movements one does not understand, whose reasons or motives one does not see.

Is it all the things that are known that encourage the leap, in this one instance, to adhere to something unknown as though it were known? Is it not because of a long past tried and true that someone becomes a trusted adviser? Is it all that one knows about laws, the institutions, the policing, and all that one knows about the values, the education, the peer pressure of individuals in a society that induce one to trust this individual met at random on a jungle path? But the more one knows about a tried and true adviser, the more clearly one sees that every act of loyalty opened an opportunity for disloyalty.

So when Tristin Hightower asked if people have ever been paralyzed by fear, I could really only laugh, because that trust/fear/paralysis paradigm has been floating around in my head for a bit now, doing its best to cause trouble.

To rather blatantly plagiarize from myself, we build trust, and make the decision to trust, based on experiences – events – from our past. These singular events allow us to look at the seemingly endless options in front of us and narrow them down; trust becomes a filter that allows us to make decisions. In the network of life, trust gives us a way of managing what would be incomprehensible.

When you lose that ability to trust, for whatever reason – a stray cat, a stray student – you lose that ability to filter the numerous options that you’re constantly faced with. We’re built to have automatic sorting systems; we box and categorize, and trust is integral to that process. Trust becomes a limiting factor to help us navigate unending choice; without that ability to filter options, becoming paralyzed – frozen in fear – is an understandable response.

One comment

  1. That is beautiful and true, and beautifully written. I hope that you can learn to trust well, as it seems Zeus has learned to trust you.

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