Monday, July 20, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - The Velveteen Rabbit

My friend, Eric, got married this weekend. He is one of my closest friends from business school, someone who got me through many tough assignments and helped keep me sane. We also had a lot of fun together. I’m so happy that he found someone as wonderful as he is and that they’ve started their lives together.

The one reading that he and his new wife, Daphne, had at their wedding is from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The quote considers the very pertinent question “What does it mean to be real?”

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day…

"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. When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once. 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 your 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."

It is the perfect allegory for starting a relationship with someone that is based on love, and therefore the perfect reading for a wedding. It’s also the perfect thing to consider for our lives in general. Our lives, from beginning to end, are based on the art of becoming.

As we grow older we develop new interests and relationships and dreams. Some we accomplish, others die away without coming to fruition for one reason or another, and still others have yet to be found. The end process of becoming is to be real. Authentically, imperfectly, beautifully an individual who will never be replicated nor replaced.

The process of becoming takes patience, with ourselves and with others. It can’t be rushed. We can’t skip to the end to see how it turns out. We can’t work backwards and engineer our way into the best possible ending. It can only be created forward. There will be unexpected instances that must be folded into the process, some will be welcome changes, strokes of luck and genius, and others may be painful and sad. They all matter and all contribute to the piece of art, the life, we get in the end.

Becoming real is not easy. It takes work and perseverance, compromise and sacrifice. And it requires that we take the long-view, always. There will be moments of great triumph and great loss. Those losses are the risks we take and the price we pay for actively living and participating in the world around us, the risks and price for becoming real. And those triumphs and happy moments, big and small, are what make it all worthwhile.

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