Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

“Quality without a Name”


I often meander, taking time (back from capitalist time) to take note of what might go unnoticed because it has no “value” within the society of the spectacle. Frequently, that involves me seeing “pattern language,” to borrow architect Christopher Alexander’s term, or what he called “quality without a name.”

Several weeks ago, I saw this cat pressing its rubbery nose to a big plate-glass window pane, surrounded on all sides by a curtain blocking off any view of the feline’s domain. The cat seemed to also be taking time to take note — of reflections, of passing clouds overhead, of sunlight fluttering through tree leaves. But not the spectacle of people outside on the busy street.

I watched it; it watched things I could only guess at; passersby ignored us both.

These few fleeting moments brought an “aliveness,” to again turn to Alexander, made up of pleasing observation of pattern, colors, and cat, and their interconnectedness. Nothing worth noting, except that if we don’t see bits of unanticipated, spontaneous pleasure for its own sake — cat, human, and whole ecosystem for their own sakes — we miss out on what’s worth our attention in this lifetime.

I’ve been waiting for a good day to post this photo, which lifts my spirits whenever I look at it, because it reminds me to look upward, beyond. I guess International Cat Day is a good excuse, though as my sister Karen (or maybe her adorable cat) pointed out, every day is world cat day.

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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, a cat, a curtain, a window, Montreal, July 2015.)


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This entry was posted on August 8, 2015 by in Dispatches from Life.
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