I get a fair number of emails expressing sentiments to the effect of "love the blog, but what's a Raccoon?" I'm not sure I can answer that question in the space of a post, but evidently I attempted to do so a couple of years ago, because here it is:
Let's begin before the beginning. How far back can we trace the Raccoon lineage through history? A venerable Raccoon piety maintains that we have no historical origin, and that we antedate the creation of the universe. We were there, if not at God's right hand, then in his hair. In fact, truth be told, we were even ambivalent about this whole creation business. Why do it? Why go to all the bother? Why a cosmos? Wh--BANG!
Then all of a sudden, here we were, stuck down here in 4D.
(The above cave sketch was found at Lascaux, and dates from approximately 40,000 years ago. The Raccoons left Lascaux shortly thereafter, as soon as they realized it was located in France. It obviously depicts some sort of primitive religious ritual, possibly aimed at the French. Courtesy Julie
, who reproduced it from vertical memory.)
But when God exteriorized his interior and involved himself in the so-called logolilia
, or WordPlay, of creation, we were swept up in the general mayhem and confusion, and ended up in human form. So it definitely could have been worse, which is why Raccoons are always grateful. After all, we could have been French.
But very early in their earth-career, Raccoons had to learn to "pass," something we have been doing ever since. Even today, due to millennia of genetic selective pressure, we are the only humans who, for genetic reasons, instinctively recoil at being a member of a species that would have us.
The Raccoon is distinct from the prototypical human, for he is not exactly a social animal nor is he a solitary animal. Rather, he craves companionship, but particularly with fellow Raccoons, since they are so scarce. The trick down through history has been locating them, especially since the great diaspora from upper Tonga.
For example, it is well understood that our genetic line has become weakened because of the difficulty of locating a fellow Raccoon with whom to maintain proper coonjugal relations. How many readers have both a Raccoon mother and
father? Being that he is a foolblooded Raccoon, my own 3.5 year-old kit is somewhat unusual (a "kit" is a young raccoon). I wonder if this will make his life easier or more difficult? No doubt both, because his longing to find coontemporaries will be all the more intense.
Like the story of the lion that was raised by sheep, the literature abounds with poignant strories of Raccoons who have tried to "fit in" with the world, all the while sensing that something was deeply wrong or missing if they were to succeed. Not a presumptuous breed, all but the heartiest Raccoons have tended to blame themselves for this, leading to the well-known phenomenon of the "self-hating Coon."
As we know, certain persistent traits set the Raccoon apart from his peers, including a sense of essential Truth, a sense of the sacred, a sense of beauty, a sense of the eternal, a sense of grandeur (or dignity), a sense of mischief, a sense of soul-smell (or stench, depending on the case), a sense of the ridiculous, and a tendency toward ecstasy (often at inopportune moments). Taken together, these comprise his "cOOnvision," accounting for his laughably quasi-infallibility in metaphysical matters ("laughty revelations," or "inrisible powers"). But this mystical intuition is balanced by deep humility and charity, to such an extent that many humans don't even realize it when there is an "unassuming Raccoon" in their midst. Hence the title of the unpublishable cult classic, The 'Coon Next Door.
Other tawdry books (often incorporating awful puns that we know could not be authentic) have attempted to cash in on the Raccoon phenomenon. Their titles are well known: The One-Minute Raccoon, Tuesdays with Rocky, Raw Chicken for the Raccoon Soul, Awakening the Hibernating Raccoon Within, Raccooneritis, Jesus was a Capricoon, Deepak is a Hideous Spiritual Psychopath
But as we all know, a Raccoon is not something you can "become," only recognize and actualize. It cannot be conferred upon you (except by Petey through the mystical channel of the sacred "book purchase
"), nor can it be taken away. In truth, nothing extrinsic can add to or diminish one's Raccoon nature (unless you order two
books or purchase an indulgence from Petey). It is a matter of becoming who you already are, or overcoming one's "vertical I-AMnesia."
Now, as it concerns Raccoon dogma, the Raccoon has the well-attested bi-cosmic ability to simultaneously stand "within" and "above" tradition -- but only
within. Thus, the Raccoon does not "fly," nor does he crawl. Rather, he walks -- sometimes on two legs, sometimes on four, but always with paws firmly planted on the earth. Indeed, he is the lowest of the logoistic, hence his "earthereal" nature. The loftiest theology may mingle side by side with the simple "rhythm and blues" of the American negro tradition, or the sentimental "country and western" so loved by the bitter white trash of the "red states."
The Raccoon is an unquenchably curious creature. When it comes to learning, he is an "intelligent omnivore," meaning that his education may be a desultory and chaotic affair, at least upon superficial consideration. But for the Raccoon, the answer is the disease that kills curiosity, and, being that he wishes to be eternally disease-free, he ultimately knows Nothing in order to know Everything. In this regard, he is absolutely distinct from his archetypal opposite, AKA, the tenured, i.e., those who know everything about nothing.
As we all know, the word "raccoon" is actually derived from the Algonquian word aroughcoune,
"he who scratches with his hands," in our case, our heads
. Raccoons vertitably come into the world "scratching our heads," and for many, the itch is never satisfied. Many Raccoon parents will good-naturedly compete over whose kit scratched his head at an earlier age, but research shows that it doesn't really matter, and that late-scratchers normally catch up with their peers.
When one Raccoon greets another with the phrase, "How's 'yer bloody scalp?," it means "what eternal verity have you learned today?," as if to suggest blood emanating from the head due to the incessant scratching and "coontemplating." In fact, it is fair to say that true Raccoon knowledge always comes at the cost of real blood.
As we know, the Raccoon is a nocturnal animal, both literally and metaphorically. Epistemologically, his "night vision" is a complement to the "day vision" of the rank and foul human. Being that his cOOnvision allows him to "see in the dark," theology and metaphysics come naturally to him, whereas certain "practical" matters, such as how to dress appropriately, or please the in-laws, may be a closed book.
As day vision is to the head, night vision is to the heart, meaning that the center of cerebral activity for the Raccoon is in the chest region. This is not to be confused with the unmoored emotionality of his human brethren, especially his liberal sisterly brethren, who habitually confuse intensity of feeling with depth of thought. Rather, the Raccoon heart represents the higher unity of the modes of thinking and feeling. Furthermore, it is always mingled with doing
, which is to say action
. The Raccoon "lives his realization," rather than merely thinking or feeling it. This is the paradox of our "higher non-doodling." We may look like we're just doodling around, but we're not. My in-laws will never understand this.
We have all seen baby Raccoons who sleep "upside down." In fact, Raccoons are born "upside down," which, for us, is "right side up." In practical terms, it means that Raccoons are born with a different textual orientation to the cosmos than our human counterparts (like the Hebrews, who read from right to left, except we do so from up to down). Specifically, the Raccoon comes into the world with figure and ground reversed, so that their primary orientation is to eternity rather than time. Thus, their birthright is a state of being that would represent the culmination of a lifetime's spiritual practice for the non-Raccoon.
But it is not as if this cosmic disorientation represents an unqualified blessing, since it contributes to the Raccoon's alienation, not to mention equivocal financial circumstances. He may not be particularly "worldly," and in fact, it would represent something of an aberration if he were. Much of what the world regards as being of the utmost significance will, for the Raccoon, represent urgent nonsense, or what one poetic Raccoon called "dying of miscellany." The Raccoon is always being "Reasonable," if not necessarily "reasonable," which can lead to friction with other humans. What they call "reality," we call a tight-fitting dream garment woven from the gooey substance of the dreamer.
There is a certain natural "detachment" in the Raccoon, as if he can never completely give himself over to the illusions of the world. And since their primary orientation is to eternity rather than time, they can find it exceedingly difficult to get all excited about this particular
time. At the very least, he won't get caught up in the momentary "tempest of the day," as if it has some eternal significance. It is not uncommon for certain Raccoons to feel as if they were "born at the wrong time," but the fact of the matter is, for a Raccoon, time itself is the wrong time. However, once this is realized, then any time can be the right time. Or at least no worse than any other time.
It is difficult to gauge the historical significance of Raccoons, since their influence largely goes unnoticed by those who write history. Indeed, their contributions cannot be weighed on the scales of the world. Rather, their influence is always qualitative, interior, invisible, and occult. Although not visible to the "historians of the day," one can nevertheless draw a straight line from Raccoon to Raccoon down through the night time of history, and it is the task of each Raccoon to stand in this line, make it "come alive," and hand it down to the next generation. Thus, we have our "tradition" -- tradition defined as the vertical prolonged into the horizontal -- but it is a hidden one, i.e, "the invisible church of perpetual slack."
The Raccoon has one natural enemy who takes many forms, and many supernatural friends who reflect one form. A "coongregation" occurs when any two Raccoons meet "in His gnome." The Raccoons can be from any tradition, but will nevertheless joyfully recognize each other as "brothers under the pelt." Naturally, they will often find that they have more in common with each other than with the human members of their own traditions. Thus, there are Christian Raccoons, Jewish Raccoons, and esoteric Vadantacoons, but the opposite is not true -- there is no doctrinal "Raccoon Christianity," for example.
Although Coons can look pretty sluggish at times, they do not actually hibernate. Rather, they go through a period of decreased activity, which is referred to as the "daily torpor." All Coon children know that this torpor lasts until the school bell rings. It was once assumed that adult Coons outgrew this torpor, but it can often persist into one's work life.
Typical upside-down kit trying to find his way in the world: