Last week I bought enough Wild Turkey to get the swamp rabbit through the week, which left me just enough money to buy a real turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But I can’t bake a turkey because there’s no oven in my shack, so I hitchhiked from the swamp where we live to a convenience store to buy turkey hoagies. These turned out to be almost as expensive as a whole turkey but what the hell, it’s a holiday, let tomorrow take care of itself.
My shack has no heat, so we ate on the porch in feeble sunlight. I talked politics and the rabbit talked philosophy. Which means he lectured me on the wisdom of the poet Lucretius, who believed there’s no afterlife, and we therefore should squeeze as much pleasure as possible out of our limited lifespans. Not necessarily by overindulging our appetites, as the rabbit does, but rather by learning to appreciate the modest pleasures — a simple meal, a beautiful sunset, the company of good friends, and so on — that Lucretius believed are conducive to peace of mind.
“You ain’t never gonna have no peace of mind you keep worrying about them politicians,” he said. This was in reference to my ranting about Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, who wants to eliminate overtime pay for hourly workers.
“But this Cantor guy is special,” I replied. “A smug little right-wing weasel, always a smirk on his face, always pretending he’s doing working people a favor by ripping them off.”
The rabbit picked a red pepper from his hoagie and threw it in the swamp. “He’s doin’ what weasels do, Odd Man. You expectin’ divine justice or something?”
He thinks I’m a Platonist, maybe even a closet Christian. “I’m expecting earthly justice. Just because Lucretius was an atheist doesn’t mean he didn’t believe in justice.”
“Them’s nothin’ but words,” the rabbit said. “You’re like one of them frogs in the scum pond over there, croakin’ at the top of your lungs I’m special, I’m special. You don’t even get no hourly wage, let alone OT.”
“That’s my point, you dumb rodent. Things get worse unless we fix them. The fact that the universe is indifferent is no excuse to behave like sheep. It’s a reason to behave like humans.”
I read to him from Stephen Greenblatt’s book about Lucretius, The Swerve:
All speculation — all science, all morality, all attempts to fashion a life worth living — must start and end with a comprehension of the invisible seeds of things: atoms and the void and nothing else.
The rabbit took a drink and said, “That’s my point. Humans, sheep, weasels — what’s the difference? We’ll all be dead in an eye blink.”
“I don’t get you,” I said. “Last week you said those people who work at Walmart should burn down the stores if they don’t get pay raises.”
“Well, I changed my mind.” he said. “Last week I didn’t have no whisky.”
I shook my head. “The times are changing, rabbit. Humanism is back. Even the new pope is down with it.”
He sucked a few last drops from his bottle and said, “Great. Tell that to Rush Limbaugh and his army. Tell Eric Cantor.”
Footnote: In case you missed it, Pope Francis called the current brand of free-market capitalism “a new tyranny,” so Limbaugh called him a Marxist. I’d consider that a compliment.