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“What is real?”—A critical question posed to those seeking authenticity.

This is worked out in The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) by the American-British author Margery Williams. What appears to be the story of a little boy’s relationship with his stuffed rabbit becomes something else. Her toy animals speak.

“What is real?” asks the Velveteen Rabbit, a stocking stuffer ignored by the little boy that Christmas morning in lieu of the more modern wind-up toys in the nursery.

The Skin Horse, the favorite of the boy’s uncle, responds, “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

After the holidays, the grandmother slips the Velveteen Rabbit into the arms of the little boy, asleep in his bed. The next morning, they become inseparable.

Months of cuddling the stuffed rabbit evidence the boy’s growing affection for his pet: bent and missing whiskers, glass eye hanging by a thread, worn patches of velveteen on the haunches, discolored torn ear. Then comes the change.

It comes with the boy’s scarlet fever, and with the single tear from the Velveteen Rabbit’s good eye coursing down its cheek: an arousal of love for his little friend. It also brings on the Nursery Magic Fairy who honors his fresh spirit, kisses him on the nose, then leads him to other rabbits in the forest where he becomes one among them.

This story of transformation appealed to me. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, my body continues wearing down, feelings surface through daily bogs, and grief’s tears water my psyche: all expressions of deepening love for Creator God who has brought me this far in life. I, too, must become real and submit to the stripping/loving in our relationship. To this ongoing process, I bring heartfelt trust.

 

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

So said Michelangelo, sixteenth-century Florentine artist and poet, of the method in which he worked: his sinewy hands surrendered to the fire of his imagination directing his hammers, chisels, and polishers. Unlike his peers who fashioned clay models to work from, Michelangelo sketched his, then inked significant marks upon marble blocks, cut from the quarry near Carrara. What emerged were works in progress, at times, with unintended forms, some left unfinished.

What was significant was their strange beauty.

In my perception, a parallel exists between this anecdote and growing old. Often, the expression, growing old, is voiced in pejorative tones and says much about the one expressing it.

But growing into old age is a critical process filled with discoveries of who we really are and are becoming. Acceptance of new limits, experienced like the Sculptor’s hammering, unsettle the familiar, reveal comic aspects of former behaviors, and shake free the shrouds of relationships. Such acceptance also floods the present with fresh grace to continue exploring unscaled vistas of imagination. Here, the Polisher takes over.

Fine-mesh pads evoke startling dreams from the psyche, smooth over owned mistakes of whatever magnitude, and release colors into what were drab scenarios of experience. The challenge is to remain beneath the Polisher’s tool until the sheen of being catches fire in the light.

Within this light, we see anew and clap hands as we wait for the strange beauty to emerge.  It will come…

 

 

Grace is like ebony wetness seeping into the chinks of my terminal illness: This, too, must be transformed—and so it is, instant by instant.

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