Imagination - 2

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy libraryadventure.com

I’m actually going somewhere with all this information, trying to tie it all together.  Here’s the point:

There was once a woman named Margery Winifred Williams.  She was lucky.  Her process of ‘becoming’ Real occurred while she was very young.  Her father, who was a Real person, encouraged Margery ‘to become.’  He transmitted his love for literature to his daughter, and her addiction to read soon transmuted to an addiction to write, to create something from nothing, using words as her narrative clay.  For writing is the literary equivalent of walking on water. 

When her father suddenly died, Margery was seven years old.  This cataclysmic event closed one door and opened another door.  Behind the closed door stood her father and all he had taught her.  Through the opened door in-walked the shadow of Marcus Aurelius and his philosophy, which, keeping it simple ran along these lines:  ‘becoming’ a Real person means suffering.  Although Margery didn’t consciously adopt Aurelius’ philosophy, nevertheless, it flows through her prose like a river through its banks.  Margery believed being truly human was a highly desirable thing, which contended with impulses of the human heart to remain artificial or denarrated (as Douglas Coupland has called it).  And to become truly human one has to travel through David’s valley of the shadow of death, i.e., woe and adversity.

Thomas Merton called this process of ‘becoming’ point vierge, passing from one state to another, as when liquid goes from motion to motionless, called turbulence, or when humans go from unreal to Real.

According to Merton, point vierge is “the point where conversion begins in the human heart – the point between being and non-being, between darkness and light.”  The Scripture for it might be found in James 4:5, where James, the Johnny-come-lately half-brother of Jesus, wrote “the spirit yearns jealously…”   This ‘jealous yearning’ is where conversion from being a human doing to being a human being takes place.

Margery wrote novels, initially.  They didn’t sell well.  It was while she lived in Turin, Italy during WorldWar One that she discovered the poetry of Walter de la Mare.  She cast him in the theater of her own life as her “spiritual mentor.’  And he played his part well. 

After the Great War, upon returning to America, Margery submitted to her numinous muse, writing her sterpiece, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real.  On one level, it is simply a child’s story.  But on another and more elevated plane, it exposes the mystery of faith to the opalescent light of the human heart.  Without a heart, that is, if one is Unreal, the story is dull; but if one has a heart and is Real, the story attains that ghostly quality called flow; and flow is shape along with change.  Or motion plus form, if you will, like a ball rolling down a hill.  Until the ball rolls, it merely has the form of a ball.  But when it rolls, it ‘becomes’ a ball.  It mixes form and function and achieves Realness.  And flow, of course, is a Platonic idea, wherein things assume reality independent of the particular instant.

In other words, ‘becoming’ Real is not part of historical time, it is part of spiritual time.  And spiritual time is magical. 

Magic is how a person becomes Real.  And in each of all her stories, the Unreal – the toys – find a way to manifest human emotions:  feelings of love and affection:  the Real. 

           

In the Velveteen Rabbit, Margery wrote:

“What is Real?” asked the Rabbit one day.  “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 and 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 often happen 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 when you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”[1]

 

Jesus said almost the same thing.

“Then they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 

“But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”[2]


[1] Williams, Margery.  The Velveteen Rabbit; Derrydale Books, 1986.

[2] Mark 10:13-15; New King James Version; Thomas Nelson Publishers.