Tuesday, March 03, 2009

...some bunny to love (heh)

Due to several recent sightings of rabbits – or bunnies, as I prefer to call them - my left brain is focused on the nature of superstition. .

I think of myself as rational and logical, and I was heavily educated in the sciences. This means I like to know cause and effect and the “why” of how things work. I’m the sort of person who had trouble in algebra and calculus, because I wouldn’t just accept the formulas for problem solving; I had to try to reason them out, to understand why/how the formula worked. How anal! How obsessive! How stubborn! But I am none of these things exclusively – because, like all humans, I contradict myself.

What do bunny sightings have to do with any of this? I thought you’d never ask.

For several years I worked as an artist for a high-end furniture company. I had to “clock in” at 7 am – which meant up at 5am and on the road by 6am for a 40 mile drive. Armed with a mug of black coffee, I would set out before sunrise, driving along blacktop country roads for most of the journey. As the faint light of dawn gave way to sunrise and then sun-up, the finite natural world along the berm woke up along with me.

Startled by the sudden bright light, nighthawks and doves and other small indistinguishable birds would often flutter out of the tall grass and veer drunkenly across the beam of my headlights. I had to watch carefully as nothing upset me more than having one crash into the car. Once in a while I would spot the murky forms of deer or wild turkey as they moved to their daylight hiding places. Apparently, although skunks, opossums and raccoons are late night party animals, they retire before sunrise because I don’t recall ever seeing a live one in the very early morning.

There was one other creature I would see on these morning commutes: little rabbits: les lapin; bunnies. Now I am very fond of rabbits, real and imaginary, often using them as subjects in my paintings. I once had a little chocolate Netherlands Dwarf bunny named Ernie who had the run of my house. He was adorable, used a litter box and got along well with the two cats I had at the time: Johnson and Evinrude. Every so often I would find that my phone was dead which meant Ernie had chewed the line in two again. And then there’s the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland ( I’m late! I’m late! - story of my life), and The Velveteen Rabbit and the fabulous song: White Rabbit of Jefferson Airplane/Grace Slick fame.

I didn’t see rabbits everyday, and sometimes a few days would pass without seeing ‘a-one. But seeing bunnies hopping about in the early morning cheered me, - and I began to take note of whether I saw any - and to mentally categorize the days, based upon the number of bunny sightings. A ”bunny” day was any day a rabbit or rabbits were sighted, and then there were “two bunny” and even “three bunny” days. A “three bunny” day was rare indeed; rabbits are solitary creatures, after all.

Upon arrival at work, someone would unfailingly ask: “How are you?” Since my mood was better on days when I spied bunnies, I might answer “I’m great, I saw two bunnies this morning.” Eventually, I would say simply: “It’s a two-bunny day!” and the person would know that was a good thing.

I mean, sure, I was being cute, but part of me meant it. This is where the superstition thing comes in. I actually began to correlate how good my day would be with whether or not a bunny had appeared. I didn’t question it at the time; I didn’t even consciously think it, but I felt that the bunnies were good omens. I mean I didn’t really believe it – but it seemed that those days, those bunny days, just went more smoothly. It’s obvious looking back on this that bunny days probably went more smoothly because of my attitude. Conversely, sighting a road kill rabbit (or any other hit and run creature) negated the good karma of the day because it bummed me out. Thus on a day when I was in a good mood, I noted the good things, and ignored or discounted any bad or unpleasant happenings, and vice versa.

Is this how we come to be superstitious? … I say I don’t believe in luck, good or bad, but I am likely to pick up a penny found on the sidewalk because my Dad always did. It seems disrespectful to his memory to let it lie there – or is this my excuse “just in case?” What about saying the name of that play? What about believing in second sight or fate or ghosts or a supernatural being? What about jinxes? I freely admit to keeping certain potential good news to myself for fear of jinxing it. This is probably just aversion training: having spoken too soon, or counted my chickens before they hatched, I have had to eat crow – an unpleasant dish. But I truly think of it as a jinx, as if the one causes the other. Hmmm … not so rational after all, am I?

My huge encyclopedic dictionary defines superstition as follows: A belief founded on irrational feelings, especially of fear, and marked by a trust in or reverence for charms, omens, signs, the supernatural, etc., …
And supernatural: Existing or occurring through some agency beyond the known forces of nature; lying outside the natural order….

I noticed that the old Elvis song: “Suspicion “ kept running through my head ever since I began thinking on the nature of superstition. Granted the words sound similar, but I thought (assumed) their meanings were disparate – and they are – but they are also related.

suspicion: the state of one who suspects; the imagining of something wrong, without proof or clear evidence…

Each of these terms deals with things that cannot be proven, and interestingly to a linguistic afficionado like myself, each has a different root word origin. I will not bore you with these….

Suffice it to say that curious but imaginative beings that we are, we continue to invent reasons and answers for things we cannot understand and to question our own conclusions in our attempt to have proof of reason and reasonable proofs. And if all else fails, let humor prevail.....

May each and every one of you have a three bunny day!

I hadn't thought about bunny days in a long while. But since my two Great Pyrenees guard dogs are unemployed (I sold all my sheep), they have also become uncharacteristically indifferent to small trespassers. I have started to notice there are bunnies down along the driveway, especially in the evenings. And every time I see a bunny rabbit, I smile and I get a good feeling. Obviously, the bunnies pictured here are excapees from someones domestic rabbitry.

6 comments:

  1. I can fully relate to your thought process on such matters. Although I must confess that I might take issue with your huge dictionary re: "... irrational feelings". Not only does it seem obvious to me that emotions are not "rational", but I've also always been a bit annoyed by the implication that everything not rational = bad.

    I don't live in a black and white world, and I think that the uber-rational can do just as much harm as the uber-superstitious.

    It's just my take, but I think it is or should be more about balance and the colors in between.

    Excellent post, P.

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  2. So true, Marcy. If I relied solely on rational thinking, I'd never be happy or true to myself. It's the things I "know" but perhaps do not understand that make life sparkle with surprises.

    As for that dictionary - it does have its own twist on words. You might say it's "irrational."

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  3. Patrice -
    Delightfully written prose, and thoughtful content. We learn in the crib about cause and effect -- see the curtain move, then feel the breeze that caused it. So, we're always looking for those connections, which is part of our wonderful ability to see abstractly, find patterns, and impute meaning with little data. Superstition may be an overdeveloped need for meaning... or, you could look at it as a "working hypothesis," which we hold until shown otherwise.
    But you're also talking about a powerful neurological process called "framing," by cognitive linguists... you call it "attitude" here, but it's much more than that. It's a filter through which we interpret or reject significance of the events that follow the construction of the filter.

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  4. Edgar - Thank you.

    "Framing" - what a perfect description. Yes. I see through the frame of my earlier experiences, which affects my attitude about my state of being.

    I just love an academic comment and I'll be checking back to see how that painting is progressing.

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  5. well...I used to rate my day based on how many ponies I'd seen on the way to work--though I never went so far as to share it with co-workers! (Coincidentally, I was managing a high-end furniture store at the time.) I was convinced I could create an even better day if I made sure to say hello to the ponies. (Yes, I was alone in the car!)

    Rational schmational. Fancy and imagination add a glaze of color and texture to our physical existence. We choose how we view the world--and I choose the lens of wonder every time.

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  6. Hi Patrice, Thanks for finding my blog and for deciding to follow it. You have some interesting work on your blogs - will have to get reading! Best wishes.

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