Sunday, 24 April 2016

It Always Seems to Come Down to Rabbits

This blog began several years ago with an entry about rabbits nesting in my garden. Well, time has come full circle and we have had yet another rabbit tragedy. This time the culprit who found the nest was Maple, the skittish Shih Tzu who ordinarily is afraid of dust bunnies and whom you would never envision as a killer. He only got one and the others high-tailed it under the fence into the Japanese garden and got away. By the time we got out there, the nest lining had been scattered over a large area of the yard and Maple required a good scrubbing. I was horrified, and then bemused, to think that this little nervous bug of a dog could do such a thing. Yes, I know his breed was developed to hunt rats in Tibet. I know every canine has some hunting instincts. It's just weird to find them emerging in him after eleven years of passivity. I would have expected this of rambunctious, impulsive Brio, but not Maple.

How many of us have violent instincts or anger below the surface, hiding, simmering, just waiting for the right moment to trigger them? I've wondered that before, when I've seen strangers snarl at each other in the crowded subway stairwell. Is the anger so close to the surface and the layer of civility so thin that a chance bumping-into will bring it to light? Are all of us capable of violence if pushed just so? I suppose there's something to that, considering the actions of crowds at soccer games, Black Friday sales, and Trump rallies. Usually social convention or law or self-restraint keeps us on an even keel, but then all it takes is just the right situation, someone pushing the right button, and our nasty sides gleam through. I've seen it in a close friend, who was nice as sugar to me for years, but when I challenged him once on his unfeeling treatment of a mutual friend, the mask slipped, the gloves came off, and he became Mr. Hyde. Except in his case he stayed Mr. Hyde, and I figured out that that was who he really was, to the core. We're good at showing others only the pretty mask we want them to see.

That's a disturbing thought. As if we're all walking on a very thin crust over a pool of lava. How well do we know each other? How well do we know ourselves? Are we being authentic and true to who we want to be? Are we going to let circumstances determine how we're going to act? Are we mice or men? Or, in this case, rabbits or Shih Tzus?

I don't think we can really be happy if we're showing the world one person while being another underneath. And if what we really are underneath is angry, or frightened, and we're afraid to show who we really are - that's the real problem. It's the only way I can explain to myself the rise of certain politicians in the U.S. - a tapping into of the simmering tensions below the congenial surface. A release valve speaking aloud the things no one else dares to say but secretly agrees with.

But no one can make a happy life living over lava. We need to be genuinely compassionate and kind people all the way through, so that we're not afraid to be our true selves with others. We need to conquer the fear, rout out the anger and prejudice, and be authentically nice. Not putting on a pretense of niceness. That's the definition of integrity. It's our human challenge, and our privilege, to determine who we want to be and become it.

Well, I didn't mean to rattle on so much. It's amazing what thoughts a nest of bunnies can cause. Life lessons can be found everywhere.

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