Yesterday, I found a dead rattlesnake in the gutter a couple of houses up the street from mine. My first reaction was, “there could be one of those in my own back yard – have to alert the kids and make sure they always have shoes on and are careful where they step.” I posted the picture of the critter on facebook where there was a range of responses from “horrifying” to “snakes and cars-not a good combination” to “the other white meat.” My reaction was definitely on the “horrifying” end of the continuum of reactions. Actually, if I plotted the reactions of my friends on a continuum, an interesting pattern emerges:
Horror/defend yourself! →emotionally neutral →snake empathy → humor
My immediate neighborhood→nearby urban area → adjacent state → farther away
I think we find correlations like this around policy issues as well. For example, cuts to arts funding. When funds are cut, those most closely affected might have an immediate reaction of panic and assume a defensive posture; those not immediately affected might not even notice; those who don’t realize they are affected may even poke fun at the very concept of arts funding. One of my friends reacted to the dead viper with a suggestion to “cut off the rattle with a shovel; it dries well and makes a great sound.” I like this idea of taking the thing of which you are afraid and re-imagining it to make a musical instrument. When that thing you fear is the forced re-design of an arts organization, it takes great imagination to cut off its tail and make something new. In the heat of the moment, when you’re staring the snake in the eyes, it’s hard to have that kind of imagination (OK – my snake was dead, but it’s a metaphor). I didn’t go back with the shovel to retrieve the rattle but I did manage to check the backyard for unwanted visitors. We seem to be safe…..for now.