The little one chose this book for his bedtime reading tonight. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw his random pick because the story is quite sad and I was afraid that he might be too young for it. It's the story of a velveteen bunny toy that has won the love of a little boy, but had to be burned along with the boy's other toys when the boy acquired scarlet fever. It has a magical ending where a fairy turns the rabbit into a Real one who would later on visit the boy occasionally in the garden.
While I was reading the book, I was watching my little one very closely, lest this would make him cry. It turned out that the reader took the story more seriously than the little one. I had to fight tears back myself.
The story explores the question of what makes one REAL? It turned up in a conversation between the velveteen rabbit and the skin horse:
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 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."
Bottom line is only when you have been at the disposal of another, have been wounded deep down to the core of your being, only then can you become real. In other words, it's only when you have finally fallen deeply in love. Because loving is opening up yourself to all possibilities of the other - including the possibility of being hurt.
I came across a book that said, "True love is not supposed to hurt."
I beg to disagree.
A person who thinks this way only accepts the joys that come with love, but not the pains. It is a love that has not yet reached the level of self-giving. It is a love that only loves the self.
I've always liked going back to Kahlil Gibran's lines about love:
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your
Happy the person who has found the one who can make her laugh all of her laughter, and cry all of her tears.
If you're in the mood for wounding stories, click here.