Jun 18 2011

#49 “The Lesson”

From a stranger in Canada.

It is undeniable that the natural order of the world is largely based upon systematic violence and ferocity. The food chain. Predator vs. Prey. These elements are savage and unpleasant at times, but they are natural and necessary. All around us, even in our most civilized communities, just outside our doors, the fight for survival is taking place; but in this day and age it largely goes unnoticed by us. Why don’t we pay more attention to the savagery and carnage of the natural world that pits creature against creature? Well, simply because it IS natural, I suppose.

We know that this is simply how the world works. However, when it comes to the human race, certain “moral” standards and social norms have developed that we believe separate us from the baser creatures with whom we share this planet. But sometimes things do go awry. Sometimes we cast of the facade of civilization that we believe separates from the animal kingdom and we revert back to the savagery that is found in the forests and jungles and oceans surround us on all sides. When this happens, we are disappointed that we have not lived up to our own standards and we attempt to learn from our mistakes. In order to gain wisdom from our own errors, we often tell stories or fables that simplify matters and are easy to remember. Some stories are optimistic about civilization while others are pessimistic, but that is beside the point.

What is really interesting is to examine who these stories often feature as the primary characters. You guessed it: Animals.

Upon examining the illustration above, I was reminded of the wonderful fable by James Thurber that is reproduced below. I hope you enjoy it.

“The Rabbits That Caused All The Trouble” by James Thurber

Within the memory of the youngest child there was a family of rabbits who lived near a pack of wolves. The wolves announced that they did not like the way the rabbits were living. (The wolves were crazy about the way they themselves were living, because it was the only way to live.) One night several wolves were killed in an earthquake and this was blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that rabbits pound on the ground with their hind legs and cause earthquakes. On another night one of the other wolves was killed by a bolt of lightning and this was also blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that lettuce-eaters cause lightning. The wolves threatened to civilize the rabbits if they didn’t behave, and the rabbits decided to run away to a desert island. But the other animals, who lived at a great distance, shamed them saying, “You must stay where you are and be brave. This is no world for escapists. If the wolves attack you, we will come to your aid in all probability.” So the rabbits continued to live near the wolves and one day there was a terrible flood which drowned a great many wolves. This was blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that carrot-nibblers with long ears cause floods. The wolves descended on the rabbits, for their own good, and imprisoned them in a dark cave, for their own protection.

When nothing was heard about the rabbits for some weeks, the other animals demanded to know what happened to them. The wolves replied that the rabbits had been eaten and since they had been eaten the affair was a purely internal matter. But the other animals warned that they might possibly unite against the wolves unless some reason was given for the destruction of the rabbits. So the wolves gave them one. “They were trying to escape,” said the wolves, “and, as you know this is no world for escapists.”

Moral: Run, don’t walk, to the nearest desert island.