The hawk looks down and sees a rabbit on the grass. The hawk feels excited. Her stomach is empty. Her chicks back in the nest have their mouths open right now and will be so happy to see the hawk return to them with something nice to eat.
The rabbit is on the ground eating grass. It is a sunny day. The rabbit hole is nearby and the other rabbits are walking around eating grass too. The rabbit is on edge. It is a sunny day. He is out in the open, with his big eyes and big ears, eating grass.
The rabbit notices a slight hum in the wind that was not there before. In the time it takes to bite through a single blade of grass he feels a shadow moving and he sees a shape in the air. Terror shocks him to jump and disappear into his hole.
The hawk abruptly drops her tail and pulls out of her dive inches above the ground, talons filled with air. Disappointed. Frustrated. Hungry. She takes off back into the sky. Making lazy circles near the clouds. Seeing everything. Missing nothing.
A tan puff appears against the green. It looks like a tiny storm cloud against a green sky. It is a rabbit on the grass. The hawk pulls her wings tight against her body accelerating, like the arrow of time. It happens fast. She does not miss. Her claws dig deep into the squirming helpless ball. The rabbit dies of fear as it rises into the thin blue air.
The hawk is filled with joy, of triumph, of something to eat, living in a world that really works. A world that says yes to victory, yes to feeding the downy balls of fluff chirping, helpless in their nest.
On the ground the other bunnies go on eating. More alert, now. Still hungry. Relieved that danger has passed them by.
Who is virtuous in this story?
You might like the rabbit. You might like the hawk. You might feel vulnerable. Or you might stop at nothing to get what you want.
Or you might not choose sides. You might think “That’s nature… a tale of joy and sorrow”. From a distance it may be, but when you are in it it’s another story.
People are not animals.
The story of the hawk and rabbits is played out a billion times a day, every day, in their world and in ours.
But we are not stuck with a role.
We are not in nature predator or prey. We do not need to be alone and we do not need to be subsumed in a group or a type. We can act according to virtue any time under any circumstance. If it requires vigorous action we take it. If it requires patience and humility then that is what we do. We are not stuck.
We are free to choose.
But only if we train; only if we prepare for what may happen.
The less we train the less freedom we have. If we default to the same rote response to every stressful situation we are not free. Passivity, denial and delay will not do it. If we muddle through, if we accept deception and oppression, if we blame others, then we trade our dignity for shame, our determination for resentment, our freedom for rage. Not good.
We have given up the direction of our lives and can only hope for change.
If we train well, and use every moment to make ourselves able, then we will be prepared to help where we can.
Not stealing from people or hurting them.
Not trembling, hiding or panicking.
If we train well then every moment is infused with purpose and with meaning.
Those are some good reasons to train.
Animals have no choice.
Post by Jeff Brooks
Photo by Egor Kamelev