You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not. -- T.S. Eliot
How long does it take Man to realize that he does not–cannot–want what he wants?
-- William Burroughs.
Death and the Bunny
I’m not sure, exactly, what it is I mean to write, but it begins with the end of a wild rabbit in our guest room last night. Jamie and I came upon the bunny on our way home; it had been hit by a car but was still alive. We took it home in order to take it to a Wildlife Rescue in the morning. I slept beside it; it on a folded blanket in a basket, me on the guest bed.
I slept restlessly and woke up frequently to check in on our guest. It had become clear the rabbit was paralyzed from the neck down, and yet it would–between moments of rest–whip its little head around trying to get its poor, broken body to move.
I’d wake up from dreams about the bunny: one was about it as someone’s parent or maybe as the baby, but it wasn’t alone. More frequent was me startling awake because I was worried my hand had fallen into the basket and I was hurting it. Shortly after 2am I awoke again, very suddenly, and found my little friend had died.
This was better than the alternative; that it would have survived into the morning and we’d have to take it to the vet to be put down. Its body no longer functioned in the way it ought for a wild rabbit to survive. Still, I am left with the heartbreak and the anger that it had to suffer for so many hours. In this haze of time between its life and death I am grappling for meaning. What was there? I tried to give it silence and comfort to ease its passing, but that time span felt terribly long for a creature that would inevitably depart.
My therapist once introduced me to the concept of existential depression and recommended to me the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. Those words, written decades ago, bring depth and perspective to my personal idea of life. And yet: It makes me feel impatience that my life feels lived passively. This, for me, is the gift of great Art. I used to tell my therapist that what I want from life is to stand at the top of a mountain to feel the wind whip furiously around me or to stand in a beautiful, foggy landscape for so long that I might spot a crevasse that bears to me the entire universe, secrets that transcend the mundanity of modern human existence and remind us truly–and not from the self-absorbed human perspective–why we are here.
Spending time with the dying rabbit and the aftermath of having done so is the feeling of having been told such a secret. I don’t know what it means, and I know there is something I am meant to take from it. So today I feel raw and blind and angry at myself for not yet understanding. Maybe I will, someday, and maybe it will appear in my art. But this little rabbit, in its suffering, reminds me that there are big secrets and that eyes are meant to take in everything: the good, the ugly and the heartbreaking, and to hold that everything close.
Thou art that -- Joseph Campbell