Today I saw a bunny fend off a snake. It’s an old video you can dig up on Youtube. I had always heard that bunnies can be ferocious, which I for obvious reasons disbelieved for a long time until one Spring Day in Iowa. My four year-old son was chasing rabbits around the field near a playground. Some other children were doing the same, but the older kids were content to watch the younger ones. By older I mean five and six years-old, not teenagers. These were kids who should have seen fit to find a rabbit of their own to chase if only to show the smaller kids how it’s done.
Now, I’m from California, originally. Many of the idiots there are up in arms about the lack of water, which stems from a certain type of educated ignorance. Southern California, nearly all of it, is a desert. Has been for hundreds of thousands of years. Southern Californians are not in a drought, they are in a desert. The drought is implied.
Stick with me here.
We have bunnies in California. Actually most are hares. They are monstrous at times. I’ve been on the golf course and mistaken one for a baby coyote when I went to retrieve my ball from a bush. No one thinks of chasing a hare around a field. That instinct, however, is a result of the hare’s appearance and demeanor. Hares are skittish, but they never look adorably terrified like a Midwestern bunny wunny rabbit. You don't chase them because they don't appear to be particularly humorous.
Back to the video:
The bunny I saw on Youtube dodged the snapping jaws of the snake several times before it figured out the best way to win was to nip at its tail, which it did until the snake decided it had better slither away from the maniacal, leporidine demon and get to safety. The poor serpent was forced into the low hanging branches of a tree where it would likely spend the next three days developing a rather violent case PTSD and thinking of what he was going to say to his friends when word got around that a bunny rabbit had chomped a few spines of his hemipenis.
You see, the bunny fought because it had to. No new observation of the animal kingdom here, but it was a goddamn bunny! Its fluffy, adorable construction should somehow aleviate it from all forms of meanness right?
Thing is, its life was going to end if it didn’t fight back. Its young were nearby, which meant if she didn’t fight, life will have meant nothing, and for the kittens tucked away in the hole, life might as well have not begun at all.
Of course this is all anthropomorphizing. The snake was just hungry and the bunny was just protecting its young out of instinct.
The line I draw between them and humans goes like this: children don’t chase hares in the Southern California Desert. Neither do they play with coyotes (which are huge in California) cougars, and condors. It's just plain dangerous. But bunnies? Mah. They're cool. Run 'em down. They know you're just playing around.
Back to Iowa.
As I was standing in the field watching my son chase around bunnies, another parent said to me, “You better hope he doesn’t catch one.”
“Why?” I said.
“Those things can get vicious if backed into a corner.”
I thought of the bloodsucking bunny from Monty Python and laughed it off. But after a moment I realized that bunnies, like snakes and condors and cougars et alia, are in constant survival mode. And if one was cornered by a four year-old human it was the same as being cornered by a snake. It would become that monster from Monty Python, if it has to.
Evolution has advanced our psyches incredibly far from that of the animal world's. If we get cornered physically we might fight; that much of our animal instinct has remained with us throughout the eons. But what about when we are psychologically cornered? Why is it that when we feel like failed writers we mope around the house waiting for some magical inspiration to hit us? When we get that rejection letter, why is our instinct to crawl into bed and cry ourselves to sleep? Our instinct is not to fight; it’s to collapse.
Perhaps the rabbit-survival/artist’s-dilemma metaphor is a bit of hyperbole. But to writers it really does feel like a matter of survival. If we do not think we are writing well, our minds always default to, What’s the point anyway?
Meanwhile in CA.
Californians live in a desert and when the land does not magically provide them with water they get cranky. They think conservation is the answer. It’s not the answer. It’s not the answer because the question is not Why isn’t there enough water?, it’s, Why do we live in a desert? Deserts don’t have water. Maybe this was a bad idea.
Our animal instincts would tell us to move where the water is. But sadly our highly evolved psyches tell us, I can’t believe there’s no water! Oh my God! Why has this happened to us? Oh the injustice! Oh the humanity!
Because writing is an almost purely psychotic, I mean, psychological enterprise, we bend toward these sorts of dramatic reactions, Why am I such an awful writer, and so on.
What do we do about it?
Nothing you can do. Turns out it’s just part of having a developed brain. But the same thing that burdens us with existential quandaries can pull us out of them.
Be aware of these moods and begin to ask yourself the right questions.
Not, Why am I such an awful writer? But, What can I do to fix this?
Not, Why won’t any of these agents get back to me? But How do I fix this query letter? Or even, Why would anybody want to read my book? Is it even any good?
When you are backed into a psychotic, I mean, psychological corner, allow yourself a period of that manic whining that comes with such a highly evolved brain, but then get the fuck over it and start asking the right questions. A good one to start with is: How do I get better?
All I’m saying is, be an evolved bunny.