Tag Archives: rabbit wisdom

What Is Truth?

 Butterscotch and Ahs Discuss Epistemology

In this time of crumbling institutions, conflict and rapid change, the question of what is truth emerges as we weigh in for and against various approaches to solving our problems. How do you express and live out truth as you know and experience it? How do you respond when your truth collides with someone else’s? What does Jesus mean when he says he is the truth?

Butterscotch, the golden rex rabbit, and Ahs, the collie, reclined in the shade under the pear tree. A gentle breeze lifted the hair on their necks. Butterscotch stretched her hind legs out behind her stubby tail. Ahs lay with his chin on the ground, nose close to her cage, eyes watchful. He heaved a long sigh.

Butterscotch 3“Stinky Dog, it is rude for you to drool like that when you look at me,” Butterscotch said. “Don’t think for a minute that I don’t notice how your jaw goes slack and you begin to salivate every time you see me. A prey species never has a moment’s rest. Which is why I say Jesus is getting a bad rap. Folks sniffing him up one side and down the other, running circles around him, chasing him into the brush, cornering him with their philosophies and theologies, poking him with their politics, trapping him in their minds – like he was some wild thing somebody wanted to make a hat or mittens out of.”

The dog sighed again. The rabbit pointedly rubbed her nose with her paw. Carnivores have terrible breath. “How do you know he doesn’t like it? Hasn’t even brought it all about?” asked the dog.

“Well, if you really knew him like I do, you’d see my point,” she sniffed.

The topic for the afternoon was epistemology – truth, and how you know what you know. Specifically, the two creatures were discussing the quest for the historical Jesus, the search by Biblical scholars to determine the historical reliability of the gospels. Their findings are seen by some as a frontal attack on Christianity.Ahs

Not that the rabbit put much store in two legged saviors. But she was able to recognize truth when she saw it. Ahs, on the other hand, slavishly worshiped two leggeds, followed them about, whined and begged to eat their food, and lie next to them. She knew for a fact that he let them pet him and never cleaned up afterward.

Since the pair could not read they hadn’t got as far as taking votes on whether Jesus really said and did the things that scripture claimed. Besides the sun was warm on their backs, the wind just right to waft the fragrance of honeysuckle their way, and neither believed the veracity of scriptural witness was the real issue.

068_le_christ_redempteur  14th CHow does one know what one knows? On what do we base our hope? On what authority does one make a claim? And just what does real mean anyway?  Butterscotch, like the blind man in John, rested her case on the indisputable facts of her experience. “Whether this man is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I know, that once I was blind, now I see!” Her reality was corroborated by the testimony of witnesses. Toad in the flower bed south of the house agreed that she was indeed a changed creature following some kind of encounter with this Jesus. Mourning Dove reported that the rabbit was more humble and compassionate.

Ahs, on the other hand, more faithful or more gullible, relied on the testimony of tradition and the dogma of the church. Yet each appreciated the limitations of his or her perspective. Neither the uncritical acceptance of systematic dogmatics, nor the subjective witness of the inner bunny could completely satisfy the inquiring mind. In the end the two were left with the disquieting notion that everything might be in the eye of the beholder, the universe a dream, and the two of them, snoozing under the pear tree, only the imagination of some mind greater than their own.

There is a bit of the scientist in every mystic, who sets out to test in his or her own life if Jesus Christ is really all he is cracked up to be. “Prove it,” he says to God. Here are all these promises: freedom, joy, abundance, peace, wholeness, justice, truth, and life eternal. “Show me,” says the mystic and sets out to experiment with divinity in the laboratory of her experience.

In the beginning God is the object of the search. At some point God may peremptorily rise out of the test tube and take over the experiment. I find myself being dissected. My soul is flayed open by truth.light and trees I am blinded by glaring light and toasted over a Bunsen burner, where my impurities are burned away and I am distilled into my essence. I am no longer in control of this process. The knower and the known have shifted places. And truth is not something I can find, but something that has me in its grasp.

Theologian Lesslie Newbigin observes, “Reason, even the most acutely critical reason cannot establish truth.” … [This is because] You cannot criticize a statement of what claims to be the truth except on the basis of some other truth-claim – which at the moment – you accept without criticism. But that truth-claim on which your critique is based must in turn be criticized. Any claim to know truth is, therefore, simply a concealed assertion of power.” 

The work of scientist Michael Polanyi reminds us that “all knowing involves the personal participation of the knower, that knowing always involves the risk of being wrong, and that the struggle to know calls for the fullest exercise of personal responsibility.”

Instead of seeking proofs of God from reason or experience, the contemplative finds fulfillment simply and humbly dwelling in love in God’s presence.  The contemplative gives God entry into the world, not through a claim of truth, but through a believing heart. Instead of an exercise of power through the assertion of my reality over yours via dazzling argument or feats of spiritual prowess, the contemplative takes the vulnerable route of allowing God to make God’s own appeal through the context of his or her surrendered life.

That’s how Jesus did it. He seems to me to be asking us to do the same.

Agony in the Garden

Excerpts from Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Loretta Ross (-Gotta), Sheed & Ward, 2002, p 118-120.  Read more….

More about prayer –

Contact Loretta –
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

Follow on Twitter

Contemplation: Circling a Definition

Animal crackers


Captain Midnight ate a giraffe and an owl. I ate a camel and a lion. Crunch, crunch, crunch went Captain’s teeth on the owl. His dark nose worked back and forth and his whiskers twitched. We were eating animal crackers, a particularly satisfying meal for a rabbit. When you live your life running from fox and eagle, there is nothing quite so satisfying as sinking your teeth into a sweet crispy coyote.

There are turkeys in the trees.
There are turkeys in the trees.
Tell me if you please
why are there turkeys in the trees?

Captain was writing a poem, but he got stuck after this line. His problem was not rhyme. He had a whole list of possibilities: sneeze, sleeves, sweet peas. It was an ontological problem he was working on, as he chewed a rhinoceros. He was considering the nature of being. Why are there turkeys in the trees or fields or woods? Why are there turkeys anywhere? Why, for that matter, are there trees?

Captain finished off the rhino and sank into reverie. Turkeys, trees, he thought. Then something shifted. He, who was absorbed with his poem, began to be the subject of something else’s absorption. He felt lifted and held. He was no longer thinking, but was being thought by something larger than he.

 Captain Midnight was a rabbit with a contemplative nature. A lot of rabbits are like this. Maybe you have noticed. At dusk when rabbits feel safe and happy, you will see them on lawns and meadows at the edge of the woods, sitting in the grass still as stones. I like to think they are watching God rise from the cooling earth in a fine mist. Then while crickets throb and night descends, I think rabbits leave their bodies like empty locust husks on the lawns and become rapt by the God-mist gathering in soft folds in the valleys. The earth is blanketed with glad and tender rabbit spirit. And in kitchens, boardrooms, and on freeways, here and there, people lift their eyes, sigh and feel the hard bitterness of their hearts and the fear and worry ease a bit. Their shoulders soften. For a moment they are a little kinder and gentler. I believe rabbits do this to people.

The word contemplation comes from the Latin:  com (with) plus templum (temple, an open or consecrated space). It means to gaze attentively or think about intently. As a form of prayer, contemplation generally refers to an attitude of quiet open receptivity to God, a resting of mental activity and surrender into God’s gracious presence.

Originally contemplation meant to mark out an augural space, a place for divination. In ancient Rome the priest auger would mark off holy space by his staff and foretell events and interpret omens by considering the flights of birds, the location of lightening in the sky, and the arrangement of the entrails of animals. The priest’s interpretations guided affairs of state, including when the senate should meet, or a battle begin.

Russell StoverContemplation is the leisurely process of making sense of what is – the world as we know it – by circling around issues or ideas and considering them from varied vantage points. Contemplation implies spaciousness – a willingness not to succumb to anxious grasping after understanding. Contemplation requires some detachment, a divestment of the ownership of truth and letting go of one’s personal agendas and desires. A contemplative attitude suggests a poverty of spirit which is willing to say, “I do not know. Let us look at this together and see what we see.”       

When Captain Midnight is at his contemplative best, he spreads out with his stomach pressed into the earth, hind legs stretched out behind. And he vibrates. His body pulses in tiny rapid oscillations. He seems to tune into an extra high frequency energy source, receiving power, and converting it to rabbit voltage.

As a member of a prey species, Captain understands that contemplation and writing poems, or, for that matter, any creative endeavor, require courage in the face of death. Cramped narrow mindedness and fear close off contemplation. Contemplation flees in the face of anxiety which asserts that if I do not do something, say something, or control something – something really bad might happen to me or those I care about. You can’t get around it. Something I value has to die and it is often my notion of the way things ought to be. Many times a day smaller deaths to self are required in order to live with a contemplative spirit.

Feathers blowing in the breeze
Turkeys roosting in the trees.
A rabbit’s heart is free to seize
its Maker’s  joy on the wing
and behold the truth of any thing.

They began coming this summer. First one large turkey tentatively made its way out of the woods and across the clearing. It pecked at the corn under the bird feeder then lifted its head, swiveling on its long neck like a periscope.  Every few days he would be back. Then one day I lifted my head to count twenty turkeys ranging about the yard -four adults and sixteen chicks pecking, heads bobbing, clucking to each other softly. The cats, Captain Midnight, and I stared in astonishment.

So Captain knew why there were turkeys in the trees. He saw them fly when Chance, the golden retriever, happened to come around the side of the house and began barking at the critters who had taken over his territory. Amid flapping wings and a giddy barking dog, the gobbling ganders rose to balance precariously on the branches as the chicks scrambled into the woodsChance 1. Chance had never seen anything quite so wonderful, and neither had Captain.

 May something as marvelous set you to contemplating and writing poems. 

What practices help you contemplate? Tell me what astonishes and delights you and inspires your creativity.