I Believe in Harvey
I saw Harvey on television for the first time in 1955 when I was a kid in Kansas City Jimmy Stewart, Harvey, and the author Mary Chase changed my life. By the time it finished, I had the tools to fight reality and win out over it.
The idea of a 6-foot invisible white rabbit being a friend to Elwood P. Doud was not only a funny, but full of philosophical overtones. Elwood was a kind man who unreservedly loved both humanity and animals—not unlike St Francis. But Elwood was never saint material. No miracles, he just invited lonely barflies, convicts, and otherwise damaged people to dinner at his sister’s on Tuesdays. He thought it was the right thing to do.
His mentor and friend was Harvey, a Pooka. In Irish mythology, Pookas are malevolent spirits. But Mary Chase’s Pooka had a whimsical, almost kindly turn. It was easier for me to believe in Harvey than St Francis then because it was irreverent, slightly elitist, and it drove my parents crazy. They liked Ike.
It has been more than 50 years since that epiphany, but I have found that I am not alone. There are unmistakable signs of other believers. In the 80s I saw a white Volkswagen Rabbit on the Beltway that had a license plate that read “Pooka.” I could not pass the gray-haired lady who was driving. She might have been a high school drama teacher. Lots of Harvey revivals in the 80s. I’ll bet she had a smile of reason while stuck near Tysons Corner.
There are so many damaged people nowadays. They evidently hold conversations with mainstream Pookas who tell them to do wicked things. Harvey would merely suggest that before they use an RPG or cluster bomb they should have a shot of cheap Four Roses or a cold glass of pomegranate juice. He would then tell a story about a wood sprite he had met in Limerick in 1741 who made improper advances. It is impossible to hate anybody when you are laughing with an invisible friend with a rabbit’s ears.
Elwood said “In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” Based on this revelation, I try to be polite to every one. To never burn a book. To never hate a dissenter nor proscribe a blasphemer. If someone recommends brutish behavior for noble reasons, I check with Harvey to see if he is free, and then ask the zealot to dinner on Tuesday evening. I always check to see if he is a vegetarian, or doesn’t eat pork, or eats only meat and no desserts.
In short, I am glad to have an invisible friend like Harvey. I eventually regain my equanimity with his therapeutic reductio ad absurdum. I don’t care if some agnostic tells the bar tender that Harvey will pick up the bar tab. Harvey did once, but usually he asks me to pay. Materializing money and other worldly things takes too much out of him.
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