Learn From The Rabbit

by Mitakuye Oyasin

While I waited in the car for my daughter, my eyes scanned the trees and brush to my left, searching for the cardinal who was praising the morning with his clear trill. ''There you are'' I said softly. ''Thank you for the joyful song.'' Then I spotted the rabbit. He was sitting quietly in the recently cut field of grass adjacent to the copse, which was probably his home.

Apparently he had finished foraging for food, and so now his only ''list of things to do today'' consisted of sitting in the grass, enjoying the warm breeze and morning sun, basking in the joy of being alive. He was living in the moment, and I knew that he was bringing a message to me from the Great Mystery, Wakan Tonka.Take time to live this moment, this day. Worry about tomorrow will not add one inch to your height or one day to your life. (Didn't Jesus say that?) In truth, worry and fretting about the future will not only steal today, it will steal good health.

And so I learned from the rabbit.

When the white men came from Europe, they viewed the wilderness of Turtle Island as something to be tamed. Nature was an enemy that had to be conquered, trees had to be removed so that land could be farmed, wild animals who wanted only to live had to be killed or removed, and the same applied to the people who had lived here for thousands of years.

Native Americans had never viewed nature as an enemy to be wiped out or tamed. First of all, they realized what the white man has always been reluctant to admit. Man is part of nature. ''What is man without the beasts?'' asked Chief Seattle. ''If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.''

Chief Luther Standing Bear comments that the Lakota was a lover of nature. ''Birds, insects and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.'' The Lakota ''loved the earth and all things of the earth, and the attachment grew with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power.... The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth, and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew.'' And is it not in the Christian rite of burial that we hear the words ''ashes to ashes and dust to dust''?

How far removed man is today from the life-giving powers of nature and the wisdom of the animals! With his civilization, he has made himself a prisoner of electronic gear encased in plastic, he lives in a plastic house with his plastic family, uses plastic to buy more plastic toys and speeds through his life in his plastic car without time to live in the moment.

The water has been poisoned. The air has been polluted. The ground has been covered in blacktop and concrete. The children are being sacrificed for material success. The old people are being shipped to holding cells for the dying. Medicine may well have added years to the lives of people, but to what end? Without quality of life, who cares?

Civilized man has also chosen to remove himself from the magnificent works of the Creator by worshipping in man-made buildings. Nothing that man can paint or carve can compare with the beauty of what the Great Spirit has made in nature. In describing the pre-European religion of his people, Ohiyesa, the Sioux who became Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, spoke for most Native American nations:

''There were no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being a natural man, the Indian was intensely poetical. He would deem it sacrilege to build a house for Him who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and yonder in the jeweled vault of the night sky! He who enrobes Himself in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening campfire, He who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth his spirit upon aromatic southern airs, whose war-canoe is launched upon majestic rivers and inland seas -- He needs no lesser cathedral!''

I do not criticize those who find it easier to worship in a church building, but it is not the only way. In fact, the Gospels record that Jesus often withdrew from the people and went into the hills to do his praying. Think about it. He built no church buildings, he had no salary, pension plan or paid vacation, no car allowance, and he could not offer his followers padded pews or air conditioning. And when he needed to restore his soul, he went into nature to pray to the Father.

There is much to learn from the rabbit.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 26, 1999

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