In Search Of The Self

There once lived a rabbit named Jake. It was a bright sunny morning during spring and Jake was outside, playing with the other young rabbits. He was still growing up and only discovering the world at this point.

All of a sudden, one of the adults overlooking the children shrieked in alarm.“Wolves! Wolves! Run for your lives!”

The little rabbits panicked and started running helter-skelter, bumping into each other but eventually getting themselves organized and speeding away into the forest wilderness.

Except for Jake who eventually decided to stay.“Why should I run from the wolves?” he reasoned. “I want to be strong and feared like them. Instead of running, I shall pretend to be a wolf and join them.”

So he waited. The leader of the wolf pack ran up to him… and stopped. He looked at Jake in confusion.

“Shouldn’t you be running away?”

“Why should I run?”, replied Jake. “I’m a wolf. The other animals run away from me.”

The wolf leader tilted his head and eyed him suspiciously. “You don’t look like a wolf to me.”

“Nope, I’m definitely a wolf.”

“Alright,” said the leader of the wolves while the rest of the pack caught up. (Well, let’s just assume he was the leader because of his speed and strength, not because of his intelligence.) “Hey everyone, this little fella here will be joining our pack. What’s your name?”

“My name is Ja… uh… Jack. Yeah, Jack.”

“Alright! Welcome to the pack. Let’s see if we can catch up with those rabbits that were here a few moments ago, I’m getting hungry.”

And that’s how Jake joined the wolf pack, where he lived with them for many months — learning to growl and prey in due course of time, acting tough and serious enough to be respected amongst the wolves.

During all those months, however, the most notable day was when Jake first ate meat.The wolf pack had just finished a big hunt for deer with huge success. They distributed the prey, and one of the older wolves tore off a big chunk of deer thigh and tossed it to Jake.“Hey Jack! Have some of this. You deserve it, you did really well during the hunt, chasing the deer towards us.”

“Uh…” hesitated Jake. “Eat some of this?”

“Sure! Prime deer thigh. What sort of a wolf are you if you don’t like deer?”

“The biggest and baddest wolf around!” exclaimed Jake, taking a large bite of raw deer meat.

“That’s more like it! How do you like it?”“It’s… ungh… hrrp… delicious!” said Jake, trying to keep the chunk of meat down and trying not to throw up.

“Right on!” said the wolf and walked off. Jake quickly ran behind some bushes and threw up the meat.

From that day onwards, he always pretended to eat the meat they gave him, while secretly dragging most of it away and throwing up the little bit he was forced to eat while the others were watching. He once tried nibbling grass in front of them but was laughed at. Ever since, he always ate secretly while the others slept.

Overall, Jake mostly liked his time with the wolves. He was feared and respected by most animals. It’s what he wanted after all, wasn’t it?

But deep inside, he didn’t feel that great. The continuous pretence was tiring him out. He wondered if the other wolves also often felt anxious and vaguely dissatisfied with life, but he never brought it up with any of them for the fear of appearing weak.

Then, one day while looking for prey, Jake came across a couple of little creatures that looked remarkably like himself.

They hopped and played in the grass, cuddling with each other and chasing the other around. In a state of wonder, Jake completely forgot to growl and look fearsome. He just stood there enchanted, until one of the playing rabbits noticed him.

“Hi there! Want to join us?”Jake was taken by surprise, and automatically mumbled “Uh… yeah. Sure.”

And as he hopped around and played with them, it felt like coming home. Where everyone was doing exactly what he’d always been getting weird urges to do but suppressed because he wouldn’t fit in with the wolves. He even saw a few of the rabbits nibbling some grass, in plain view of everyone.

He tried eating some himself, apprehensively at first. He kept glancing around but nobody laughed at him. None called him a “sissy grass-eater.” If they noticed him at all, they didn’t pay him any attention, like eating grass was the most natural thing in the world!

Jake realized that for all his wanting to be feared and respected like a wolf, he was still just a rabbit at the end of the day. And what really made him happy was doing all those little things that rabbits do. He never went back to the wolf pack. He stayed with the rabbits and lived the rest of his life content and happy.

Quite often we are the rabbit ourselves, making the mistake of losing our real self in our journey towards self discovery. Or that of simply wandering off our own true paths and then finding our way back a little wiser and more appreciative for our meandering.

I still wonder what’s more difficult though. Discovering who we truly are? Or trying to fathom ‘the why’? To each his own.

All men should strive
to learn before they die

what they are running from, and to, and why.
~James Thurber