Watership Down


The animal fable Watership Down tells of a colony of wild rabbits uprooted from their homes by a construction project. As they wander, they come across a new breed of rabbits huge and beautiful, with sleek, shiny hair and perfect claws and teeth. How do you live so well? The wild rabbits ask. Don't you forage for food? The tame rabbits explain that food is provided for them, in the form of carrots and apples and corn and kale. Life is grand and wonderful.

After a few days, however, the wild rabbits notice that one of the fattest and sleekest of the tame rabbits has disappeared. Oh, that happens occasionally, the tame rabbits explain. But we don't let it interfere with our lives. There's_ too much good to enjoy. Eventually, the wild rabbits find that the land is studded with traps, and death "hangs like a mist" over their heads. The tame rabbits, in exchange for their plush, comfortable lives, had willingly closed their eyes to one fact: the imminent danger of death.

Watership Down is a fable with a moral point. Like the fat, sleek rabbits, we could-some people do-believe that the sole purpose of life is to be comfortable. Gorge yourself, build a nice home, enjoy good food, have sex, live the good life. That's all there is. But the presence of suffering vastly complicates that lifestyle-unless we choose to wear blinders, like the tame rabbits.

It's hard to believe the world is here just so I can party, when a third of its people go to bed starving each night. It's hard to believe the purpose of life is to feel good, when I see teenagers smashed on the freeway. If I try to escape toward hedonism, suffering and death lurk nearby, haunting me, reminding me of how hollow life would be if this world were all I'd ever know.

Yancey. Philip. Where is God When it Hurts? Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995, p. 68-69. Www.amazon.com

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