“People who claim to know jackrabbits will tell you they are primarily motivated by Fear, Stupidity, and Craziness. But I have spent enough time in jackrabbit country to know that most of them lead pretty dull lives; they are bored with their daily routines: eat, fuck, sleep, hop around a bush now & then….No wonder some of them drift over the line into cheap thrills once in a while; there has to be a powerful adrenalin rush in crouching by the side of the road, waiting for the next set of headlights to come along, then streaking out of the bushes with split-second timing and making it across to the other side just inches in front of the speeding front wheels.”
– H.S. Thompson
I don’t know jackrabbits, but I have spent enough time in universities to know that this same phenomenon can be seen in our undergraduates. Food, sex, and academic games of chicken: these are their highs. I see it moments before a presentation, when what should be weeks of planning happens at lightening speed, sometimes in front of the class before the lights dim. I see it in the last 40 minutes before a paper deadline, when my email box fills with urgent questions about the specifics of an assignment, or dramatic retellings of technological traumas, both meaningful obstacles to assignment completion and glitches insignificant in the face of submission.
I saw it last week: finals week. No amount of reason could have saved them the gut-wrenching horror of waiting till 48 hours after the deadline to submit an assignment. I know because I tried. They love the fear, the intensity, even in the face of impending failure, which they fear with the same hysterical incomprehension as a jackrabbit might fear death.
After years of trying to design assignments that cannot be put off, I now accept that I have no right to deny them this thrill. Instead, I give them the jackrabbit analogy, and some recall the sight of a rabbit, a squirrel, or a dead they have left spread along the highway and exhibit a reticent willingness to work ahead. Others do not. It is a livable compromise.
chiral_mirror. ”Run, Rabbit, Run!” 23 July 2009. Flickr.
Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ’72. New York: Warner Books, 1973.