The Rabbit's Prayer: But First They Have to Catch You

It used to be respectable to learn from Nature, although that has fallen out of vogue-- deer stupidly refuse to adapt to motor vehicles, and fur, fish and fowl alike have shown themselves pathetically unable to fit in with a system dominated by asphalt, Dick Cheney and Monsanto. Adopt the wisdom of the animals? The Native Americans' embrace of casinos filled with clouds of blue tobacco smoke only shows that they've finally wised up and joined the party. If the polar bear didn't want to become extinct, he would would have planned for the future like the rest of us. And if military planners succeed in their quest for the robot soldier (127 billion being spent on something called the Future Combat Project), it'll be our turn to learn what it's like to be a raccoon in the headlight.

And yet, and yet... the book of Nature, when it's not paved over but read with care, contains undiscovered cures for cancer (oops, that plant just went extinct, sorry) and biological marvels of technology beyond human ken. If humans could make an elevator cable with the strength of a spider web, we would ride elevators into space instead of explosive rockets. The unassuming kangaroo can put a fertlized embryo into stasis for years at a time before it is born, effectively suspended animation. Jim Harrison learned a principle of Zen from watching his cat: "When a cat doesn't know what to do, it sits down."

The motto beneath this picture is the rabbit's prayer from Richard Adams Watership Down. Like most gifts granted to mythic heroes, it contains both a boon and a curse. The rabbit hero El-ahrairah was the last to receive a blessing from God in Adams' lapine mythology, and with a sauce familiar to owners of house rabbits, the trickster told God he could just bless his rear end, and so in a dangerous world where everyone else has the weapons and the money and the lawyers and the bulldozers, the rabbit-- "prince with a thousand enemies"-- was given the means of escape.

This is a world of killer apes, unspeakably cruel to the small things of this world. The voice of a woman named Zawadi Mongane is on the BBC testifying about unspeakable atrocities. Her children were killed; she was forced to hang her own baby. She lives in absolute poverty now because of the stigma attached to rape victims in the Congo. She stays alive because one daughter had been overlooked and still needed her. This is a world that makes good people live like weeds in the cracks of a sidewalk.

I think of Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms", a clear definition the difference between the Western democracies and fascism. "Freedom from Fear" was one of the planks. Norman Rockwell made a picture: two small children lie asleep while their parents hold a newspaper filled with war news. No one is going to be raped or murdered or left behind. It was our credo, once, for about five minutes back in the Forties. It was a Tuesday. It ought to be our credo now, recited like the Pledge of Allegiance, but now we are an empire, and we only "rescue" people and "give the gift of democracy" if they're sitting on an oil reserve. The worst thing about a world of monsters and lawyers is that they force the rest of humanity to become lawyers and monsters just like them. The Cherokee, as I recall, tried adopting suits and ties and farms and churches and newpapers, they even tried the Supreme Court, and it didn't do them a damn bit of good against a man like Andrew Jackson.

Never mind the Hollywood Indian talking about Brother Bear and Sister Mountain Lion and busy Brother Beaver. There's not much they can do against a court order or an AK-47. What should I learn from watching my little rabbit brothers and sisters? When Sophie our house rabbit went into the dark, she went kicking, angry and grunting at her illness when it wouldn't let her stand up straight, but still kissing and nuzzling my hands to the last. She never was sad a moment in her life. All the races in her cosseted life had been for fun, mock assaults on our startled cats, ear shaking laughter when she outwitted an imaginary foe. Now she was running from death, and she saw no reason to drop her insousciance because she was going to lose this one. Pluck.

The robot soldiers are coming, papered with writs drafted by lawyers like Douglas Feith, and no one you know is going to own one. If the storm clouds break over your house, God grant you strong legs and daring.

(Rabbit print by Zanfandel, available at DeviantArt, which if you've never been there before, is the widest ranging online gallery for amateurs and professionals alike.)

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