August 27, 2012

That Wacky Wabbit

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:46 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I have spent a portion of my adult life learning and telling First People stories.  Some of these stories are about Rabbit.  Rabbit, like Coyote and Raven and Bison, are not about rabbits and ravens and such, but about the spirit powers that shape us and those creatures to this day.

These stories are inspired mostly by Native American stories that I find in books, and other folktales.  I tell the stories has having occurred when the world was “made but not yet finished”.  This is a way of saying they did not happen in any literal, historical time, but also that they are happening right now.  I tell the stories not as “Indian” stories or as “African” stories, though I do tell what my source was.  But I tell the stories as Unitarian Universalist stories as a U. U. Minister.  They are very important to my theology in that they are reminders that human animals and other animals are all related.  They are reminders that the same forces that created us are involved in creating everything else.  They remind us that no matter how smart we think we are, we still make mistakes and need to learn.  I tell these stories to remind my people that the imagination is always running, always powerful, always a part of the religious and spiritual life.  Furthermore most of the stories remind us to not take everything so terribly seriously, but to laugh in through our tension and dream through our trials.

Rabbit was a very powerful figure in many parts of North America before it ever had that name.  He was “tricksy” and clever, and a bit more powerful than Bugs Bunny, but not too different from him.  My favorite story of Rabbit starts when he steals from Lynx, and then is chased through the woods.  Each time, before he is caught he takes on a disguise, such as an old grandmother with two long braids, or a shaman with two stretched out earlobes, or a young warrior with two tall feathers in his hair.

So it is with some interest one day while I was touring Washington University, thinking about how that school was founded by the first Unitarian Minister of Saint Louis,  I noticed Rabbit sitting and thinking and looking both serious and silly, as well as a little creepy:

This sculpture is titled “Thinker on Rock” by Barry Flanagan.

The mascot of the University is  a bear, like those on the state flag.  So why was Rabbit so much more prominent on the campus.  His sculpture is even more striking than that of George Washington nearby:


I then saw Rabbit dancing in downtown Saint Louis next to the Scottrade Center arena. The sculpture there is called “Nijinski Hare,” also by Barry Flanagan.

Only a few blocks from there Rabbit takes a very sedate and even cute pose as “Two Rabbits” by Tom Claassen in the City Garden.  These “light” sculptures are made of bronze!

And then there he is as “Earth Rabbit” meditating on “emptiness”.  This likeness is by Catharine Magel:

A few steps away he is amorously entangled with a bird playing the saxophone.  I could not find a good photo of this sculpture, “After Hours” also by Catharine Magle.

After Hours

So, there he is.  Old Trickster Rabbit, even in a town named for a French King, causing smiles, eliciting thought, and reminding us that we are all related.

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