The New World: On "Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure" by The Weakerthans

Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
The Weakerthans (lyrics confirmed here, alternate discussion, lyrics and the song itself at songmeanings, The Weakerthans’ Myspace)

It had something to do with the rain
leaching loamy dirt
And the way the back lane came alive
half moon whispered “go”
For a while I heard you missing steps in the street
And your anger pleading in an uncertain key
Singing the sound that you found for me

When the winter took the tips of my ears
found this noisy home
Full of pigeons and places to hide
and when the voices die
I emerged to watch abandoned machines
waiting for their men
To return I remember the way
I would wait for you
To arrive with kibble and a box full of beer
How I’d scratch the empties desperate to hear
You make the sound that you found for me

After scrapping with the ferals and the tabby
let you brush my matted fur
how I’d knead into your chest while you were sleeping
shallow breathing made me purr

But I can’t remember the sound that you found for me
I can’t remember the sound that you found for me
I can’t remember the sound


Virtue in the modern world is strength, and strength comes from willful ignorance – we choose to stop knowing so we can act.

Is the choice for strength made consciously? We see a landscape made clean immediately by rainfall: rivers push dirt aside and move more than we do, and we are jealous. The mystery of the lack of light impels us to seek something better. We are seekers in the quest for strength, seekers that do not know we are attempting to know.

The trouble is that we want to be independent and loved, and at some point one or the other has to give way. In the New World, knowledge is subordinate to strength which is freedom. The strongest of us is the most mobile – not the one who rules, or worse yet, simply loves. Both of the latter stand in a sense: one stands still and expects obedience, the other stands in an orbit. Both are pathetic.

After all, what they don’t understand is that music isn’t one sound that corresponds to an individual. Music can only be produced by a diversity of sounds; only then can one march to the beat of a drummer wholly unique. And one of those sounds can’t be a pleading, a demanding for more sound – that’s just empty. Better is the cold, the cacophony, and the watching of silence. The ruler and the simple lover only care for others as they do machines: there is no true music at the point of departure.

Or was there something better back then? One of the best things about this song where a cat stands in the place of ex-lovers is that it’s actually easy to see how ex-lovers were flawed in leaving us. We don’t need to cheap-shot them and talk about them returning to their animal nature, because we can clearly see that trading memories for a greater knowledge isn’t merely a cold act, it’s a stupid act. You can’t sing a song if you don’t remember the notes.

Ex-lovers can counter that they do remember the experiences of old loves, and that made them better, but it is curious that the experience of a flighty animal is more instructive than human protestations. The realm of independence isn’t a realm of knowledge, not at all – if you think you’re better because of your ex’s, it’s because your ex’s really were all that, and you suck. They were able to give you something lasting – if you remember it, it’s not praiseworthy: it is the literal “least you can do.” To not remember it is to be a dumbass cat fighting with the cold and pigeons and machines that do awaken and will run one over. One is still bound by a primitive conception of the world, and if one appreciates, it is a coincidence only.

One thing I like to say is that thought is maybe the highest form of love. Perhaps that needs to be amended: if thought is the highest form of love, then a lack of love characterizes ignorance, or a lack of knowledge is a lack of love. The mystery that asks us to not pester lovers with too many questions is a mystery that keeps us together, not drives us to lands unknown to prove ourselves.

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