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training cats

Coward’s porcelain kittens, rolled in three-wheeled. What does it take to make ‘the kitty cat’ purr?

In his short slapstick comedy “Operation Y”, Leonid Gaidai portrays three incompetent offenders “Fool,” “Coward,” and “Pro.” The middle-aged men conspiring in a warehouse heist gather at a secure location to practice their ridiculous skills. “Pro” punches a speed bag. “Fool” exercises his crowbar technique on drawer pulls and wall hooks. He sings a realistic song and plays guitar, as it often happens in Soviet films, while “Coward” futilely attempts a chloroformed hanky gag on him. “Fool” tells “Coward” to “train on cats” instead, pointing at a sizable collection of ceramic toys found at the safehouse. 1

In my journaling and coaching, I use a construct of a tricycle — a bicycle with the additional wheels intended for young children. ‘Training wheels’, in a figurative sense, stand for anything designed to make something easier for a novice. It is a powerful metaphor that helps to observe the impostor phenomenon and counter the resistance, but many people come to such wisdom, either spontaneously or borrowed, without any allegories. A portrait photography newbie may take their camera out in the streets before they attempt selling studio photoshoots. An aspiring novelist may start out as a columnist and writing short stories. I’ll continue with writing, but the following applies to any creative practice. The ‘training wheels’ suggest exercising and should not encourage self-deception. This is to mention that some of us pick up authorship only to feverishly share artistic outputs on ‘social’ and wait for approval or criticism from whomever we call friends. Then in our personal narratives, these friends become the “Coward’s porcelain kittens,” but not to make grooming creative skills easier. Rather than that, we roll them onto each scene, three-wheeled. Afraid that they claw, we are reluctant to go out on a limb. Instead of writing for the artistic joy, we wonder what it takes to make ‘the kitty cat’ purr. Why wouldn’t they purr more, damn it?

I started this newsletter last week, and you are reading the second issue. Today’s letter hero is a three-wheeled kitty. Just like the first time, I posted the time-lapse of drawing on TikTok (comes with a catchy music track). Consider this my second attempt at riding my writings and drawings with ‘training wheels’. I want to take a moment to reason what is behind my writing pursuits and illuminate the expectations that accompany sending out these letters. I’ve intentionally made it effortless for anyone to engage with my words — each ‘reply to’ will find its way to my mailbox, triggering a symphony of pings, blinks, and pops on my screens, akin to the arrival of a personal text message or an important notification. That being mentioned, I do not seek gratitude or jests, nor do I invite admonishments or mere acknowledgments of my existence. Please spare me the indulgence of idle suggestions or the intrigue of whataboutery. You and I both play integral roles, and yet, I don’t shape my words for mere amusement, just as your reading (of this letter or anything else really) should not be relegated to compulsive consumption. I write for myself, and in doing so, I hold space for you. The desire to engage in a meaningful conversation lingers, patiently awaiting our passions to intertwine.

I define my writing style as “healing fiction.” It’s not merely because I gather most of the paragraphs from the transformative journaling process, but stems from the deliberate aspiration to draft and design a better human experience — the perspective for current phase of my life-journey. I employ the word “better” not to diminish the significance of my purpose; rather, it serves to emphasize my understanding of engineering and design: improving, mending, and repurposing. My journey into the present authoritarian havoc stems from a background in technological ventures. The difference between the two points is that the later avoids outright obliteration and humiliation of individuals, when both domains share a flawed desire of leadership. In this year of 2023, assuming the role of a technocrat or autocrat manifests as an enigmatic position — a peculiar role of a “guardian-architect,” meticulously orchestrating engineered desires. It’s a rarity to encounter a ‘techie’ genuinely driven to design for and with people. More often, they ask me to assist in weaving tales of yet another exclusive platform, tailored for "special people," purportedly destined to save humanity (the paradoxical dance within this sentence, whether the people or the platform are the saviors, is intentionally left).

While some may perceive the notion of “healing” as belonging to the domain of the esoteric and the ‘New Age,’ and despite having personally experienced life’s traumas, I firmly distance myself from the camp of self-absorbed recoverists. I find solace in applied compassion — a deliberate act of selfless service to the common — a protective shield against personal harm. Should you suggest to me that there is a scarcity of individuals who genuinely extend care towards others, and that it is unreasonable to anticipate benevolent acts from many, I shall respectfully disagree. Most people are simply caught up in the grip of constant thinking, even those of us who have the best intentions. However, it is not the magnitude of our cerebral capacities that distinguishes us from other species, but rather our innate ability to empathize. Additionally, our distinctive quality is rooted in the inborn creative force that resides within us.

Which brings me to the “fiction” part, a vast and all-encompassing domain. Fictions are the mental constructs through which we share our personal fantasies and give form to archetypal narratives that shape our perceived realities. Some fictions, however, become so deeply ingrained within us that we begin to ascribe to them the status of truths, facts, and rules. Consider, for example, how we often regard historical accounts as unequivocal representations of what truly transpired in the past. Similarly, we encounter new scientific research presented as a meticulously documented record of nature’s undeniable truths, dressed in the empirical evidence. Yet, the subsequent scientific inquiries may yield contrasting results, potentially invalidating prior assertions. It is the popularity and enduring presence of a particular fabrication within society that distinguishes it as a mere cosplay from one that assumes the guise of a documentary. Noble mention goes to a plethora of fantasies surrounding notions of “urgency,” “seriousness,” “accomplishments,” and “credibilities,” each contributing to the varying degrees of attention and significance assigned to different public broadcasts.

In our narrative of reality blending with poetry, and within the stories we construct for ourselves, the singular force that remains steadfast, shielding us from the solipsistic tyranny of engineered desire, is our common bond. We exist not in isolation but in profound interconnection, ingrained with an ability for creation and compassion, our birthright. It becomes an undeniable obligation of every individual entrusted with leadership, or who harbors aspirations to guide others, to deliberate their role in the grand theater — a valiant “guardian-architect” or a modest “scholar-gardener.” To embrace the former signifies a treacherous idealism, ensnared by a ceaseless pursuit of resources and dominion. In this grim venture, people are reduced to mere metrics and commodified as the “new oil,” steering our meticulously measured, orchestrated, and fragmented world toward a harrowing dystopia. This is the manifestation of a heroic ego at work, eagerly seeking to wage battles against poverty, illness, substance abuse, old age, non-productiveness, boredom, and any form of adversity the humanity may symptomize.

The course of heroism often entails lying in wait for opportune moments to emulate the “Pro,” resorting to brute force, or adopting the tactics of the “Coward” by ambushing opponents from the shadows. Alternatively, it may involve assuming the guise of the “Fool,” employing surveillance and algorithms in a mission of control, foolhardy veiled beneath a shroud of common welfare. To tread the path of the “scholar-gardener” is to surrender to the healing realism it brings. It requires treating symptoms as phenomena, devoid of judgment, to alternate heroic fantasy with less inspiring humbler stance, free from the burden of superiority. By donning the mantle of a “scholar-gardener,” one embarks on an introspective journey, fostering genuine understanding, and nurturing our common bond with deliberate discernment and compassion.


  1. video: a delicately rearranged scene from Leonid Gaidai’s “Operation Y”↩︎