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In Order to Ascertain the Meaning of Life You Have to Do What???

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Conn Coll chapter.

I will get straight to the point in the interest of catering to my girlboss audience: In order to ascertain the meaning of life, you must name your cat something ridiculous. For those of you who have cat allergies, cat phobias, or otherwise don’t like cats, fear not. This hack can also be applied to dogs, hamsters, ferrets, or whatever other animal you choose to domesticate. But you should know that the professionals use cats. You might be wondering how this simple yet silly act could possibly be the solution to resolving your decades-long questions about the cosmos, but I swear this claim is backed by scientists!

Okay I lied! It’s not backed by scientists, but it’s backed by something even better: 20th century French philosophers! 

Many of us college students will remember reading a certain classic novel titled The Stranger by Albert Camus. Perhaps some philosophy students will remember reading The Myth of Sisyphus, by the same author. Although I wish this article was about either of those books, this article cares more about Albert Camus himself. Camus is perhaps most famous as the figurehead of absurdism, which is “a philosophy based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order brings the individual into conflict with the universe.” But Camus was not necessarily pessimistic in his acknowledgment of an indifferent and meaningless universe; he instead suggested heroic defiance of whatever oppresses us. In layman’s terms: seize the day! 

And Albert Camus did, in fact, seize the day. He was famously a lover of Gauloises, despite being diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 17. So obviously he granted his little black cat the affectionate name of Cigarette. And he lived his whole life with this same level of heroic defiance. He left his car unlocked. He only wrote standing up. He practiced yoga while chain-smoking cigarettes. There is a certain freedom awarded you once you take the step to name your cat Cigarette. 

But he wasn’t even the only one to do this. Many other iconic figures, whom we credit as being the greatest minds in history, named their cats ridiculous names. Jean Paul Sartre gave his cat the confidence-boosting name “Nothing.” Michel Foucault likewise named his cat “Insanity.” Jacques Derrida went for a more traditional name, taking it all the way back to Ancient Greece and naming his cat “Logos.” 

It is almost refreshing to write that Thomas Hardy objected to their harsh names by calling his cat “Kiddleywinkempoops.” As if that’s any better at all. 

T. S. Eliot even wrote a poem on the significance of naming a cat. He gave it the convenient title of “The Naming of Cats.” In this poem, he recommends the unique names “Munkustrap,” “Quaxo,” “Coricopat,” and “Bombalurina.” 

The point to this is that there was a cultural movement of great minds, all naming their cats in defiance of an indifferent universe. If nothing matters to the world, then you have the privilege and the burden of making choices that matter to you. And that has to mean something. 

Don’t worry, readers. I would never preach what I don’t practice. In the summer of 2018, my family made a new addition to the family in the form of a little black-and-white cat. Of course, the most important part of getting a new cat for me and my siblings was naming it, and each of us wanted the honor of being the decider of the name. My siblings and I gave suggestions of names from the usual picks: Bella, Luna, Stella, Oreo, Mittens, etc. But we could not agree. There were too many biases to consider and too much competition. We felt that the permanence and gravity of whatever we named the cat would weigh on us for the rest of our lives. Would the cat like the name? Would she respond to it? Would visitors in the house think it was a cute name? Would the name be sufficiently indicative of the cat’s personality? There was only one solution to this nerve-racking and existentialist problem. We had to toss aside all our preconceived notions of the universe. We had to shed our natural worry about how other people would react to our choices. We had to embrace the absurdism of a cat with a stupid name. 

My dad was a huge fan of soccer, and other soccer fanatics will remember that 2018 was the year of a certain World Cup hosted by Russia. With the flash of that name on the television, my cat was christened FIFA, as in the FIFA World Cup. No one searched for meaning in her name. We just accepted that it was what it was. To this day, FIFA still roams my house and sleeps on my couch. FIFA doesn’t understand what her name is; to her it is just a repetition of syllables that she will never respond to. I have come to know that there was a quiet resignation to the universe shared between myself, my siblings, and FIFA on the day of her naming. We learned that just as FIFA did not control her naming, there are some parts of life that we simply cannot control. And just as FIFA’s ears perk up sometimes when she hears the familiar sound of her name, we can only live day by day and react to what is happening in the present. 

You might be thinking that I’m reaching, and you would be right. But you have nothing to lose in trying this for yourself. If you found your cat in a bush, name it Sticky or Twig. If you paid $800 for your purebred cat, name it after something cheap, or even name it after a word you haven’t heard someone say aloud in a long time, like Flahoolick. 

Happy naming! 

Hello! My name is Catherine (she/her) and I am a Classical Languages and Art History major at Connecticut College. I am also completing a Museum Studies Certificate Program here. I work as a curatorial and archival intern at the New London County Historical Society, and I love visiting museums and spending time around good (and bad) art.