The Rabbit of Questionable Contentment

Sometimes I think far too much about these cards. This is one of those times. Fair warning that I really, really enjoy taking over analysis way too far in order to come to ridiculous conclusions about innocuous things. I promise to post more random pictures of funny things next time. But for now…this:

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I’ve never understood it. I mean, I get what it’s supposed to say, but the second I let my mind focus on any part, the logic starts going in crazy circles. And I end up thinking that somehow this card is incredibly anti-Christmas. Here’s my reasoning:

The top part says “Much Happiness at Christmas!” MUCH seems to be the kicker here. Not just a conservative, prudent bit of happiness, but MUCH. (See how “MUCH HAPPINESS” is all in caps? DO YOU!?) Fine.

The bottom says, “Content is Happiness.” That’s inelegant phrasing, I must say, but I get it: be content with what you have, and you’ll be happy.

But to be simply content would seem to contradict “MUCH” happiness. So we already have a problem.

BUT THEN, the rabbit has nothing. He’s looking at one tiny little piece of fruit or veg. So he’s not being greedy. I mean, look at the wasteland he’s sitting in. There’s absolutely nothing to eat, no vegetation, not even leaves on the stems all around him in that snowy, claustrophibic hell of a background.

contentwasteland

Nothing lives here. Nothing can survive here. This is a Beckett landscape.

So…what’s the conclusion?

Thesis 1: To be content with what you have is good enough. The rabbit shouldn’t seek anything new or anything at all really because it all comes to disaster. If he even tries to survive by eating the only edible thing in his world, he’ll be killed by a trap. Accept what you have, even if it’s nothing.

contentrabbit

Look at him: innocent, scared, indecisive…

But that’s awful. So…

Thesis 2: Realize that even the smallest thing you desire is more than you need. The rabbit already has life, but why should he want MORE life? To want more, even when “more” seems like the barest minimum, will lead to tragedy. So maybe desire itself is the problem? Now we’re getting very Buddhist. Desire causes suffering. So only contentment can bring happiness. So this is a Buddhist Christmas card? Maybe.

But that doesn’t solve the problem of the difference between MUCH happiness and contentment. The card wants to surf that limit. So let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. This card isn’t Stoic or Buddhist but is somehow a response to a Buddha-like angle that still finds happiness beyond giving up on desire.

And here’s where I get weird. This card is about the trap, not the rabbit. This card is about the person who set out to kill the rabbit. It seems like it’s using the rabbit as a lesson about not wanting too much and how it might be dangerous to desire things. But, no. It’s about the poor soul living in this wasteland who can’t survive without killing something through a kind of deception (offering food that really means the creature’s death). It’s about how the rabbit’s death will lead to the hunter’s survival. The rabbit’s dilemma is a distraction.

This card is about the sacrifice inherent in every moment of nourishment. To have too much contentment would be to side with the rabbit, to empathize with the reality that things have to die in order for others to survive. Is that empathy useful? Of course not. It means that we would die, that we couldn’t eat anything. After all, the rabbit has to kill the vegetable in order to survive. So are we any worse for killing the rabbit? We’re ultimately the same.

contentveg

This carrot/tomato/fruit/vegetable thing is just as tragic as the rabbit. Or us. Or any living creature caught in the cycle of eating things just to be eaten by other things later.

But if we’re supposed to empathize with the dude who laid out the trap, are we still really talking about contentment? A trap has a purpose: to kill in order to satisfy the trap-maker’s desire. That’s the opposite of contentment because it’s going out of your way to destroy something else for your own gain.

Contentment is more like realizing that the tragedy is necessary — it’s not about avoiding tragedy. I mean, are we supposed to give up on our desire to survive? Are we supposed to be like the rabbit who’s apparently afraid to keep living because it’s afraid to eat? Or are we supposed to recognize that any moment of survival is also a moment of something else’s demise on which that survival depends? After all, the rabbit is both prey and hunter (or veg) in the image. The image is ruthlessly realistic and unsentimental. Things die so that other things can survive. There’s no other reality.

Now…if the card, on top of that image, wishes us MUCH happiness at Christmas, it’s violating the cycle of sacrifice and survival it pictures. It’s breaking the cycle by saying that we can be happy without sadness, that we can have MUCH happiness even beyond contentment.

Christmas would be excess. Christmas would be outside of the circle of survival. Christmas, in other words, is unrealistic.

The very idea of Christmas as being about MUCH HAPPINESS goes against everything else pictured in the card. In other words, the card intentionally contradicts itself. But why would it do that? Because it’s malicious.

This card attacks Christmas as an unrealistic sham that creates hope which will only be dashed on the rocky shores of an uncaring cycle of survival. This, friends, is a cynical and evil card. It mocks us, it mocks our pain, and it mocks our celebrations. It points out problems it can’t solve. It wants me to be confused even while it pretends to celebrate my favorite season. It wants me to want impossible things and then to point out how impossible they are. It wants me to value contentment and then remind me that contentment is never enough. It wants me to admit that I can never be happy or fulfilled or content, especially at Christmas time.

I hate this card.

contenteyes

Look at his terror! That is my terror!

I also think I’ve probably thought about it way too much.

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