Monday, November 11, 2002

I've just been adding comments and a counter to Angela and Daysi's blogs, so you should go check them out.

My parents made a grave mistake when they read the me The Velveteen Rabbit when I was a child. I've remembered all my life what the Skin Horse said. "Once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

When I was little, I quite liked to be called pretty. Truth be told, I was pretty. I had blonde curls and I looked a bit like Shirley Temple. I loved it when people would stop my mother in the store to tell her what a pretty little girl she had. But one day, when someone stoped my mother to tell her how pretty I was, I caught the expression on the face of someone I loved. He was sad. Nobody ever stopped to tell him how handsome he was. Nobody ever commented on his blonde hair. That was the day I stopped wanting to be called pretty. I didn't want to be called pretty ever again if being pretty made someone I loved sad.

The Velveteen Rabbit has always been how I understood what it means to be really beautiful. Maybe you've had your eyes loved out, and your hair's all gone, and you haven't any more working parts. But you're real. And that's what it means to be beautiful. I won't deny that I've been known to admire a well sculpted frame. But even though I acknowledge a certain material beauty, I've never considered it real beauty. Real beauty always comes from people who haven't any time to waste looking in the mirror.

I think all the ancient religions point to a few basic ideas. The first, that things aren't always as they seem. Who would believe that the Lord, the Most High God, would be born in a lowly manger? And second, that love is what really matters. As St. John was known for saying: "Little children love each other. If you could do just that one thing, it would be enough." And though those two ideas are at the heart of every religion, they're also the concepts most foreign to the human psyche.

It's easy to say that you're beautiful in the real sense. It's another to seek that beauty out in others. I wonder how many people I've misjudged in my life. I wonder how many friendships I've missed because I couldn't see past the material veneer. I like to think of myself as being less superficial than average. But if you asked to me to describe the people I know, for the most part, it would still be a material description. "He's tall. Dark hair. Glasses." Not, "He's kind. A good listener. A loyal heart."

There are a few people in my life that I couldn't describe materially. I couldn't tell you what color eyes my best friend has. I couldn't tell you how much she weighs, or what outfit she was wearing the last time I saw her. It's my honest wish to see every one the way that I see my best friend. I don't want to see what you look like. I want to see how you are. I want to see what's real in you. And that's what I want to remember about you as well.

The Velveteen Rabbit taught me that lesson when I was a little girl. But it's easy to forget even so simple a lesson. The Superlative Horse taught me that again when I was in early adolescence. But it's easy to forget so simple a lesson even when it's been taught to you twice. I believe that God is everywhere, and in every human being. And so I hope, this third time, I'll be able to remember my lesson. Because, just as the Color Purple taught us, that it "pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." I think it must piss God off even more, if you walk by His brilliance, in the fields of humanity, and don't even notice Him there.