Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Search of the Bunny!

By that title and in deference to the upcoming Easter celebrations, one could be excused for thinking that these words refer to the quest for the Easter Bunny. At a glance, it might appear that I am musing today about the mystical rabbit that is historically associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As an Easter symbol, the bunny likely originated in Alsace and the upper portions of the Rhineland when the Holy Roman Empire ruled that part of Germany. The first rabbit reports in connection with Easter appeared in German publications early in the 1600’s. Later, German settlers introduced the critter to America as they settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch region, during the 1700’s. Since then, the tradition has multiplied like …, well, like rabbits!

But, I am actually on the hunt for another, perhaps less folkloric and less notable of bunnies, known as the Energizer Bunny. Remember him? A marketing icon and totem for Energizer batteries, he actually originated as a parody of yet another bunny. The previously existing Duracell bunnies, first seen in ads in Australia and Europe, were battery-powered, drum-playing, toy rabbits who gradually slowed to a stop until a copper-top battery was inserted. In the “gospel according to Energizer,” however, Mr. Bunny enters that same scene, beating a larger drum, waving a mallet over his head and outlasting all other bunnies. The clear critique was that Duracell batteries, with their carbon tops, were inferior to the alkaline batteries from the Energizer folks. Battery wars!

Since those days, however, “Energizer Bunny” has entered the vernacular as a symbol for a person who seems indefatigable, with a personal power source that “keeps on keeping on!” Somewhat similar to the wristwatch commercial that once applauded a timepiece that “takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” in contemporary parlance, this bunny-type person possesses an endless source of perseverance. That is precisely the bunny that, in my weariness, I am always in need of!!

Although the Energizer Bunny has appeared in more than 115 commercials on our television sets, the honest to bunny-rabbit reality is that this type of vigor within persons is as rare and difficult to discover as “Harvey,” the giant rabbit companion of Elwood P. Dowd, played so convincingly in the 1950 movie by Jimmy Stewart. As a likeable drunk, Mr. Dowd swears to an intimate companionship with a six-foot, three and a half inch, invisible pooka, described in the movie as a “fairy spirit in animal form, always very large; a benign, but mischievous creature very fond of rumpots (and) crackpots ….”

Whether or not we have a penchant for alcohol, rum or crack or are crackpots who are afflicted with some other, more explicitly psychological expression of creaturely dependence, all of us could sorely make use of a colleague like Harvey and an energy source like the Energizer Bunny. I mean, where do we find the companion in our creaturehood who can instill within us the capacity to “stay at it,” despite the inevitable setbacks and trip-ups of life, many of which are self-induced? John Steinbeck wrote of travelling with Charlie, his dog; Robert Lewis Stevenson travelled with a donkey. You and I need an egg-bearing bunny!

Since I live in Greece, I am well aware that the Greek Orthodox Church encourages the giving and receiving of red-painted Easter Eggs, in recognition of the blood of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and the renewal of life offered by the death-conquering, resurrected Christ. So maybe, I am seeking an Easter bunny, after all. But this bunny should not be of the “hippity, hoppity” genre; I need the hard-nosed, hare-brained, grit and determination kind. Ironically, he must, in this sense, be more tortoise than hare; less Playboy Bunny with a cotton tail and more of a tough, street-smart rabbit with a mallet; he must be less Beatrix Potter and more the persevering, stronger than death and life, resurrected Jesus, “energizing” kind of rabbit.

Perhaps you think me a Mad Hatter or as mad as a March hare! Please understand: I carry no rabbit’s foot in my pocket; I expect no magical dispensation from harm. But, by God’s grace, I am discovering in my warrings and weariness, the Companion on the journey who is the Source of that eternal, staying power for which the highest meaning of all of the eggs and rabbits are but symbols. This Easter, I am hoping that you, likewise will be ready to find and anxious to welcome that empowering fellow-traveler for life, despite the snares, lairs and rabbit traps!

In the Jimmy Stewart movie, Elwood P. Dowd says: "Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space but any objections." What objections remain in you?

Got rabbit?