The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

April 24, 2008

Some things I learned from my cats…

Just a few thoughts tonight before signing off for the week. I was watching Soots and Arya (or Suit Scenario, as Axelle calls them) examine the common objects of their lives. They chew on cords. They bat at invisible specks. They jump onto the kitchen counter and invariably knock things off. They drag balls of yarn through the house, creating intricate and artistic messes that I have to clean up. They are way too curious about curly CFL lightbulbs for my comfort, and, as I mentioned yesterday, they are ruining the window blinds in their fascination with all things that move, swing, or make noise.

They are terribly curious and examine every object in their world with fierce intensity. And yet as much as they study and even learn the behaviors of certain objects, for the most part, they will never, ever understand why those objects are here in their world and what they are for. They bumble and break things and don’t understand what they have done.

And we, as their humans, get exasperated but love them unconditionally. We do understand the purpose of the lamp or the ball of yarn or the pull cord or the cloth pantiliner (oh yeah, Arya loves dragging my freshly laundered cloth pantiliners out of the basket and having her way with them, and Michael loves to let her do it cuz he thinks it’s funny and cuz he’s the good cop and can’t bear to say no.) We know that the cats will never understand, and we love them anyway.

Now think about humans. Aren’t we kinda like cats, toying with the universe, poking and prodding and testing and trying to understand, and oftentimes breaking things and creating all kinds of environmental messes in the process? I’m not saying we shouldn’t study and try to learn as much as we can. But shouldn’t we also admit that the universe is way too complex for any of us to ever understand fully? And shouldn’t we have a little humility and awe for the intricacy of the world and quit thinking we can just take it apart and put it back together?

And now I’m going out on a limb here because I have said before that I’m not religious and don’t have any specific belief in any god or “higher power.” But what if there is some higher consciousness aware of all of this, watching us the way we watch the cats, and laughing and loving us just the same? What if we’re all doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing right now? Me blogging about plastic and recycling and eating chocolate and staying up all night. Others driving SUVs or shopping at the farmer’s market or logging old growth forests or studying stem cells or mining coltan or tutoring children? What if we’re all just doing the very best we can, bumbling along, arrogant or humble or a combination of both? And what if that’s okay?

Now don’t freak out and think I’m letting anyone off the hook. On a personal level, I’m driven to care for the earth in a particular way and to be part of a movement urging others to learn to care as well. All I’m saying is that there are vast complexities at work in the universe about which none of us has a clue. Why is the universe here in the first place? Not how did it get here, Big Bang and all that, but why? I don’t think it’s a question humans will ever be able to answer. Just like cats, we can figure out how some things work. We have learned about processes like evolution which explain how everything developed. But I don’t think our brains can ever comprehend why the material world should exist at all. So it’s nice to feel that perhaps we are part of something big and mysterious that loves and encompasses all of our perfect imperfections.

And now I’m going to take my perfectly imperfect self to bed.

P.S. I killed all the ads for new cars on Fake Plastic Fish, even though they paid pretty well. Did you notice? They were depressing me and not in keeping with the spirit of this site. Toyota doesn’t need me advertising the Prius, hybrid or not. I wish I could get Walking and its sister Biking to pay me to advertise. Oh well. I’ll settle for Zip Car.

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This is a great post. I love your humility, and we’d be better off if we had a lot more of it. Especially those of us who are Christians, or scientists, or both!


Beth, I hate to say this in case your advertisers are reading, but I didn’t notice the presence or lack of car ads. I worked in print advertising for six years and I have to say I think most people are pretty good at filtering out the ads – your reviews and research posts are *way* more likely to influence my buying habits than the ads that support the blog. I may be atypical – I’ve always been more a user of pull advertising (when I’m ready to buy something I’ll go looking for it) than of push advertising (Wow!… Read more »


Beth:Thanks for taking on the water filter makers of our world. I use Pur filters since they came out and filtered more throughly than the Britta did back in the 1990’s but I always feel guilty putting any chunk of plastic in the trash. I was amazed to learn that they recycle them in Europe! What are those crazy filter makers waiting for a riot? I might add a Britta for our household, just so I can save up some of those filters to send to you for your visual PR event. Thank you and all those people helping put… Read more »


Hi, while I too am a fan of a healthy lifestyle, I am continuously amazed at the growing number of folks subscribing to the green movement. While admirable in the intent, the sheer arrogance to think we humans can cause irrepairable damage to such a resilient planet is using our very big brains more egotistically than I thought possible. Sadly, we are a nation (fast becoming world) of sheep, and the green movement is the new “wonder bread” being advertised to us, and we’re eating it up, and not even cutting off the crusts. Ultimately, the war to save the… Read more »


Hi Beth, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months, and have recommended it on to several people. I live in Hawaii and have spent this legislative session working on a couple of plastic-related environmental issues (I found your blog while doing some online research). I was wondering if you happen to have come across info re: a process by which to reclaim oil from plastic. I’m really wary and skeptical, but I talked to a rep from this Japanese company (tsphereenergy dot com — the site is currently under construction) and they claim they can complete the… Read more »


Soots and Arya > Suit Scenario > Suit Sin Area > Sued Sand Area > Suet Send Dairy Ah! Anguish Languish, the English language! Fake plastic fish and chips.


Yes, I agree that we don’t know everything by a long shot, but even if we had the capacity to know all, it wouldn’t help. The example: all that we can know currently that people simply don’t think about, not because they are kept in the dark but because (unlike the cats) they don’t use the smarts they have. I know people who will come right out and say, “Oh, I don’t want to hear about that”, the ostrich with head in the sand. Is there any other animal than man that has a capability it willfully does not use?!… Read more »

Beth Terry

There are magazines called Walking and Biking? That’s funny. I really did mean it like Jessica said. Just the verbs. Not any actual business. Clif — I knew you would respond to this post. I agree with everything you said. But want to push it further. You wrote: “THAT is the key. We do know what we are doing. We are the ONLY species that has a chance (at the moment) of modifying its only behavior on the basis of information that comes to us in a way unavailable to all other life – through the action of science.” My… Read more »


Good post! Sometimes I think of how human behavior can be graphed on a curve; some people will go to extremes, most people will behave around the norm, some will go to the opposite extreme. You can’t predict which folks will do what but you can predict the range of behavior and how many will fall into what kind of behavior. This is to be expected of us as with any animal, because that is what we are. What would happen if dolphins ruled the world? It’s reasonable to think that they would make it a dolphin-centered world as we… Read more »


Why is it all here? Someone or
Something loves to be creative, just like we do.

Blue Collar Crunch

Jessica, I’m pretty sure she means the magazines Walking and Biking. But the idea of just the concepts having ads is pretty hilarious.

Beth, we will probably never know everything about the universe (actually, that would be a pretty boring day if it ever happened), but the striving to learn is so much fun! Sometimes I wish I hadn’t given up on the hard sciences in college when things got difficult; I was just so unused to school being hard that I thought I must not be cut out for it after all.

Yeah, yeah, I’m a science geek.

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd

> I wish I could get Walking and its
> sister Biking to pay me to
> advertise.

If they could charge us for the privilege of walking and biking, I’m sure there would be people out there advertising it!

On a serious note though, you should be able to get ads from bike manufacturers I would have thought…