! Catching Rabbits
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Catching Rabbits

There is an ancient story which I just made up that runs something like this:

Once upon a time there was a man who could catch rabbits. This was ever so long ago and nobody in the whole world save this one man could catch rabbits. The people of his tribe asked the man, Manhe was his name, how it was that he could catch rabbits. Manhe explained that he had learned the way of thinking like a rabbit. "A rabbit," he said, "has its tricks and its little ways. If you follow a rabbit's ways and feel what a rabbit feels you can know what a rabbit is going to do. One catches the rabbit by being at the place where he will run to."

And then the people of his tribe asked Manhe how one learns to think like a rabbit. Manhe said to them, "You must awaken your rabbit self and let your rabbit self follow the way of the rabbit. Do not say, the rabbit does this and the rabbit does that. Instead say, now that I am a rabbit, what will I do."

The elders of the tribe were sore troubled and said, "This cannot be. A man is a man and rabbit is a rabbit. They are of two different kinds and they have different kinds of selves." Some said that Manhe should be put to death, that he was a monster, a mixture of man and rabbit. Others said that he was more than a man and must therefore be a god and should be worshiped. The elders quarreled greatly over this.

Finally the chief said, "This is great foolishness. Manhe is a man; any one can see that. Let us have no more talk of him being a god or a monster. Manhe can catch rabbits. This is something that our tribe needs to know how to do. He has told us how to catch rabbits but his words make no sense to us. Manhe, however, is only a man and men are often not good at explaining what it is that they do. We must ask the gods to make sense of his words for us."

So the medicine men made great medicine. The chanted and they danced. They made the smoke that intoxicates. They called upon Oikme. Oikme answered them, "Why do you trouble me? What would you have of me?"

The chief said, "Manhe has the trick of catching rabbits. This is a good thing and we would know how he does it. He has told us but we can make no sense of his answer. Tell us, Oikme, what his words mean."

Oikme laughed, "That is easy enough. No man, not even Manhe, can think as a rabbit thinks for no man, not even Manhe, is a rabbit. But you do not need to think as a rabbit thinks to catch a rabbit. You only need to think like a rabbit, not exactly like a rabbit, but only well enough so as to catch the rabbit. This can be done for although men and rabbits are not the same they are not altogether different. As a man must eat so must a rabbit eat. As a man must escape the beast that would eat him, so must a rabbit. Each must run and hide in a way and a place that is suitable for him.

And the trick is to imagine yourself to be a rabbit. Imagine that you have a rabbit's feet and a rabbit's nose and a rabbit's fears and that in all ways you are a rabbit and, while imagining that you are a rabbit, observe what you think and do. You will not think as the rabbit thinks, and you will not think exactly like the rabbit, but you will do well enough. You cannot be a rabbit but you can think you are a rabbit."

And that is how men learned to catch rabbits.


This page was last updated June 15, 1999.

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