In 18 Lives I am interested in the idea of "becoming" and blurring the species line.
"Becoming" refers to a term used by philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,
who state, "becomings (sic) animal are neither dreams nor phantasies,
they are perfectly real…the becoming animal of the human being is real,
even if the animal he becomes is not" (238). So this becoming is not literal,
but more like a state of mind, in which for a brief moment each creature may forget
what species he or she (or the other) is. Deleuze and Guattari only allow for a "becoming"
to happen when one is not actively trying to imitate the other. It is less intentional and
more subtle than that. Feeling my muscles relax as the cats gaze at me while lying in the
sunlight is a "becoming." Involuntarily my eyes blink slowly, gradually, like theirs do.
The sensation is more about identification with their pleasure than a personal human
desire for heat.
One jumps over and smells my eye, I feel his nose and whiskers touch my
eyelashes. There is a becoming.
Jarvis grooms me in the morning, and as I feel his raspy tongue licking my sensitive
human skin incessantly, I "become" cat. Occasionally he gets over-enthusiastic and grasps
my skin between his teeth; I pull away and become human again. Juneau sleeps with his body
under the comforter and his head on the pillow, arm positioned like mine as I sleep; he
"becomes" human. Later, when he curls up behind my knees he and I become cat again,
seeking warmth like his wild counterparts.
"Becomings-animal (sic) are basically of another power, since their reality resides not
in an animal one imitates or to which one corresponds but in themselves, in that which
suddenly sweeps us up and makes us become -- a proximity, an indiscernibility that
extracts a shared element from the animal far more effectively than any domestication,
utilization or imitation could…" (279).
When the cats and I communicate, we do so in a language that is not entirely cat or
human like. We reach a point somewhere near the middle where it all blends and we are
not speaking our own nor trying to mimic the other's language. Our eyes and body language
play a large part. When these moments of communication are successful, a becoming occurs.