Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Spirituality of Rabbits


My friend has a pet rabbit whom she loves dearly.  They have a connection and gain much from each other.  It is unspoken on the part of the rabbit but he brings a stillness and peace to her life because he just ‘is’.  It is not surprising though that animals have this benefit for humans – not everything in this world has to be articulated to be meaningful.

I am increasingly interested in the use of rabbits in particular to articulate meaning in human lives.  The ‘Duck-Rabbit’ is an image used to express Wittgenstein’s discussion of aspect perception: there is more than one way to look at something, and the head of a duck can also be the head of a rabbit as the following picture shows:

In the brilliant book ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman, Elly asks Arthur if he believes in God.  He replies: ‘Do I believe in an old man in the clouds with a white beard judging us mortals with a moral code from one to ten?…I do not!  I would have been cast out from this life years ago with my tatty history.  Do I believe in a mystery; the unexplained phenomenon that is life itself?  The greater something that illuminates inconsequence in our lives; that gives us something to strive for as well as the humility to brush ourselves down and start all over again?  Then yes, I do.  It is the source of art, of beauty, of love, and proffers the ultimate goodness to mankind.  That to me is God.  That to me is life.  That is what I believe in.’  Elly asks ‘Do you think a rabbit could be God?’  Arthur replies ‘There is absolutely no reason at all why a rabbit should not be God.’

This raises questions on the nature of belief and truth.  We often believe in something because we see its intrinsic truth – the truth of the thing itself, the truth of its discourse.  We believe in something because we are affected by it.  We believe in a person because of what they stand for or what they represent in our lives.  We believe in a pet for the same reasons, and the passage from the book indicates how this could be the same for faith in God.  To believe in mystery is not to sit on the fence but it is to acknowledge that there is much unexplained in the world and that for this we need a different ‘type’ of thinking – we cannot believe in complex concepts like love, and God, in the same way that we believe – or have knowledge of – sitting down reading a blog.

If you ask a question to a rabbit, it will not answer you.  So, when you come up against a mystery that appears to only give you more questions and stare back, remember there is more than one way to look at that mystery, and that the answer may be in the way you look at it.