Sunday, March 27, 2005

 

The Giant Rabbit (A Morality Tale)

It's Easter again. If you've been reading my ramblings for a while, you might expect that I wouldn't, but I like Easter. It means it's Spring, or that Spring is coming. People dress in nice pastel colors--and hats, which are otherwise out of fashion. I like hats. Everybody goes to church; church is nice. You get to see all your neighbors, and feel both generous and virtuous about giving away a dollar. We eat ham. I don't know if everyone does.

What's that you're saying? How can a professed amoleist believe in Easter?

As a mental exercise, try to imagine yourself in a particular situation. You are living in a green and generous land to which you are generally well adapted. Your fellow creatures are for the most part pleasant and friendly. The laws of the country are neither too lax nor too strict for your comfort. Your prosperity is such that you are able to live without too much effort, and you understand the languages, customs, and habits of the place well enough to live without having to pay undue attention to detail. You have no real trouble finding others of like mind, for company and conversation. You have loved ones there in that country. However, there is one singular peculiarity in your fellow humans in that place, and it is this: every man and woman is of the irreproachable conviction that at regular intervals, a giant rabbit dressed in a jacket enters every house, lays colored eggs about, and goes away.

Now you’re saying, oh, yes, I’m familiar with that, that’s the Easter Bunny. But no, this is no Easter Bunny. The difference between our own culture and this land you’re in is that the majority of your fellow creatures believe in this giant rabbit passionately and literally. That is, this is not a symbolic rabbit to them. It is not a rabbit of myth or legend; it is neither a quaint remnant of folklore nor some holiday convention. It is not something your neighbors tell each other with a wink and a smile. It is no story. No, it is (according to them) an actual, real giant rabbit, certified and sanctified.

None of your countrymen has ever seen this rabbit. Despite this, the rabbit-believers are convinced that the rabbit talks to them, and they believe that if they leave their wants, needs, and requests scribbled on little scraps of paper laying around the house, the rabbit reads them--sympathetically--and then endeavors (by means of powers the rabbit has) to arrange the ineffable progress of events in the world and in their lives such that these events, in the aggregate, comprise his replies.

Now, your friends and neighbors are not insane. You find most of their various beliefs to be, if not sensible, then at least explicable--most of the time; and at any rate, when one or the other of them displays a conviction far from the ordinary, either that individual is aware that his idea is odd and acknowledges it as such, or else he exhibits certain of the signs of mental defect. Neither of these conditions obtain in the case of the giant rabbit, however. Ordinary as well as unusual people take the giant rabbit for granted. Superstitious and dull as well as supremely intelligent and well-educated people agree on matters appertaining to the giant rabbit, though they might agree on little else. People from all walks of life and from every class stratum contend endlessly over every opinion large and small, save the primacy and importance of the invisible enormous rodent--on that, they are as one.

Oh, and I should mention--there is not actually any giant rabbit.

You do know that there are no giant rabbits that dress in human clothes and visit houses, don’t you? I’m not stretching credulity here? You’re aware that it’s not an imaginary giant rabbit that directs the machinations of events in the world, and that no giant rabbit determines your own individual fate? Good, then. You’re with me so far.

There is an attendant problem you have in this imaginary scenario. For not only do all the people you live with--your neighbors, friends, and loved ones; indeed, all your countrymen and -women--believe in the giant rabbit, but they spend a great deal of energy and time simultaneously reassuring each other of their belief, and asserting the truth of the giant rabbit to the rest of the world; and part of this contending is that they are intolerant of disbelief in the giant rabbit, such that if you are frank about your doubts, you will be criticized, disapproved of, ostracized, perhaps even oppressed for your views. Thus, although you are technically free to inquire about the nature of the world and the workings of reality as if the imaginary rabbit were in fact imaginary, you are also likely to suffer for doing so.

There. Have you got it? You’ve successfully imagined this scenario and put yourself in this position? You can sense what it must be like? Good. Now all you need to know is that this is how I feel regarding the tenets and practice of extremist Christianity in America. So now you understand me.

But the actual Easter Bunny--the real one, I mean--him I like. I like bunnies. He's easy to like, because people don't actually believe in him. We all understand that he is imaginary.

Happy Easter!



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