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I’m An Assh*le

October 29, 2009

Maya1Yesterday I gave up my cat, my baby, and I’m feeling awful about it.

It was a decision a long time coming. When I was working production I would come back home exhausted and Maya, my cat, would just want to come and play with me. She’d jump on my stomach, crawl around the room, and keep me up all night. I’d wake up at 6am for my call, work all day, come home at 8pm, and start the cycle all over again. Then when I would travel I would have to either find a friend to watch her, or put her into boarding for an inordinate cost. When going home I would have to carry a screaming wailing cat through the airport. In general my overall existence was incredibly burdened with a cat. Not to mention I’ve been getting sick and tired from my father guilt tripping me for my seemingly juvenile decision to get a cat at this point in my life. I’m a nomad and a wanderer, and I’m just not in a good place to be fettered by an animal right now. I’m turning the page onto a new chapter in my life, and I felt right now was the right time to find her a new home. But I feel awful about it.

I’m a big believer in a “character based” morality. That is to say we each define our moral character by the actions we make. A “bad” person is only “bad’ because they do bad actions. E.g. a killer is a bad person because they unjustly kill people. In my lifetime I’ve always tried to do the right thing. Not just because it’s right, but because I believe it makes me a more virtuous person. I think doing the right thing gives you self-satisfaction, garners respect from others, and makes you a stronger person. It will always be easier to do the wrong thing, and it will always be difficult to do what is right.

So when I came to the point of getting rid of my cat I was incredibly torn. It stood against all of my beliefs. I’m not one to give up on something I love, and to make matters worse I used a lie to find a new home for my cat (I told the person I got a job over-seas and I needed to find a home for her). So ever since I’ve given her up I’ve felt incredibly guilt stricken. But like most moral matters I think my scenario falls into a grey area. I do believe some moral decisions fall into black and white. Murder is wrong. Rape is wrong. Charity is good. Giving unconditional love is good. But how you deal with relationships, whether animal or human, falls into a grey area. The context is incredibly important. Intention is incredibly important. I may be giving up on my cat and feeling awful about it, but in the bigger picture I truly think she will be happier. I couldn’t have hand-picked a better home for her. The woman is a true cat lover, and has a wonderful house with a back yard on a quiet street. She believes in letting cats live an indoor/outdoor lifestyle, which is perfect for Maya. I know it will take time, but I think she will eventually forget me and love her new owner. She will be able to hunt, explore, and even learn to make friends with another cat. She will have much more freedom and companionship than I could provide her. And in that sense it’s a classic case of the ends justifying the means.

But I’m not trying to justify my actions- I do think I did the right thing. For both Maya and myself. I will miss her, and I feel awful about tearing apart a relationship. But in the long term it’s better for both of us. And as far as my moral character goes, I don’t think a single “bad” action defines my character. I think moral habits are far more defining to your moral character than single actions. A person who cheats once is not a cheater by definition. I know I have plenty of friends who do some unscrupulous actions (in my opinion), but I’ve never judged them. I accept them for who they are, and I love them for the virtues they do have. I may not open to them in certain ways, but I don’t think they’re a bad person because of a handful of bad actions. I was talking to a friend the other day and she compared it to a membership with different levels. You have the first class membership: friends you open up completely to, friends you trust and know are loyal to death. And then you have the coach class: friends that you enjoy being around, but you don’t necessarily trust their opinions or reveal your soft underbelly to. The bottom line being that a bad action does not make a bad person. It’s moral habit that defines our character.

I will miss Maya. But I do honestly think she is going to be so happy in her new home. She was a sweet, gentle, playful, curious, affectionate, and kind-hearted cat. Sure she was finicky, a bit of a princess, and moody. But I will always remember her beautiful face flipped upside down in the midst of her afternoon naps and her undulating purr as she’d lay in my lap. I only hope she’s happy. That’s all I wish on any creature.


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