Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reality Bites

Back in the mid-'90s there was a movie called Reality Bites. I haven't actually seen it, but the title's always intrigued me. It's one of those little snippets that move through my mind like those little floaty things you see in your field of guys do know what I'm talking about, right? You know, they look like junk you'd find under a microscope...?

Sometimes the strangest stuff will pop into my head. Like almost every time I participate in a group prayer - especially if we're standing up and holding hands - I inevitably want to say, "Keep coming back, it will work if you work it!" While swinging our hands back and forth. That's from my brief stint in Al-Anon. Also from Al-Anon, "Don't be in the middle arranging all the outcomes" (like that's possible), from SmokeEnders, "You're a puff away from a pack a day". Pitiful, I know. Such is the flotsam and jetsam in my head. No wonder I'm in therapy.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking a lot about the Skin Horse. That wise old toy from the Velveteen Rabbit. I say wise, because I can't remember how many pastors I've heard quote him, so he must be pretty darned wise - right?

This is another thing I've never actually read front to back. But I like the premise. The actual full title is: The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real and it was written by Margery Williams back in 1922. Rabbit was a Christmas gift to a boy. The Boy loved him at first, for about two hours, and then Rabbit was quickly forgotten in the bedroom. I love how the author describes him as "shy" by nature, and says that most of the other toys put on airs and snubbed him - basically, this stuffed bunny had really low self-esteem. Only the Skin Horse would talk to him.

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

The Skin Horse Tells His Story

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

You can probably see why pastors like to quote this passage. I think we tend to want to listen to all the prosperity crap some preachers put out or the bad theology we make up ourselves; that we blame God for the mess in the world and in our lives (even the stuff we cause ourselves). In reality, Jesus spoke numerous times about having trouble in this world - He certainly did.

There's another scripture in the Old Testament that says that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men...maybe because that's in there (that longing for eternity), our hearts hurt over all the crap around us and in us. We know in our heart of hearts that it isn't supposed to be like this.

In the meantime, I guess the key is for us to remember that we are becoming Real. And, if we are honest with ourselves, the Realest people we know are the ones who've been through the most stuff and accepted it rather than blame, deny, and avoid it.

But, we all wish we could become it without these uncomfortable things happening.

I love you guys - thanks for listening.


  1. Wow mom I have read all of your blogs and honestly this one is my favorite... ironically I am also feeling this way in my life... yet I am finding many people are feeling this way... that is ALL that I can say...WOW :)

  2. The Velveteen Rabbit was my absolute favorite story as a child- thank you for bringing it back to my mind!! Still have the worn old copy. I think being real is the best way to be! Thanks for a great post.