Ponderings of the Velveteen Rabbit

Velveteen Rabbit

What is real?  Are we real if we believe we are?  Philosophers have pondered this question for centuries.  We all know of Descarte’s famous theory, ““Cogito, ergo sum.” (“I think, therefore I am”).

The other day I stumbled upon a fantastic audio version of the Velveteen Rabbit.  Let’s face it Meryl Streep sets the bar high.  At its center is nothing less than the seminal question of existence, of prescience, framed in a children’s story.  There’s something magical about the belief of children; its certainty, its purity.  Often we, as adults, get caught up in the knowledge we’ve gained over the length of our education.  We become absolutely certain of many things.  But that worldly knowledge comes at a cost.  We stop seeing the magic of possibility.

This summer we binge watched Westworld.  At its center are the same questions, viewed through the lens of AI.  The hosts, humanoid robots, are so well crafted, guests in the park, interacting with them, cannot tell them apart from the actual humans.  Partially it’s an experiment in human nature: what would we do if we could act with impunity and zero consequences?  But there’s a deeper question, one just as important, regarding the hosts themselves.  What if, as they interacted with human guests, they were able to evolve?  And what if that evolution created the ability to understand who they were, not just what.

The other day my boyfriend asked me what I thought the “soul” was.  Is it our morality, our personality, the life force that animates our physical body?  Obviously, a toy rabbit does not have any of those.  And yet, it believes with its entire being, that if the young boy who loves him, loves him enough, he will become, more.  He will become real.

For me, love embodies this quality as well.  When we are loved, when we are greatly loved, we become more.  It’s a force that is transformative in nature.  One cannot say when it happens exactly.  Or even how it happens, as it’s different for each person.  So why can’t it also happen for our leporine friend?  Or for the hosts in Westworld?  Can absolute belief make something impossible occur?

Isn’t that the definition of faith?


Additional Material:

Winston, George and Streep Meryl. “The Velveteen Rabbit,” Dancing Cat Records, 1984.

Forgiveness

Forgivness.jpgThe strongest force isn’t love or hate, the strongest force in this world is forgiveness.  It’s why the weak and vulnerable among us can be so easily manipulated by those with nefarious intent.  It’s the root of cults and why religion can be so dangerous. We want it badly enough to act in ways that endanger our bodies and even our minds.

We have all acted in ways we are not proud of.  Thought thoughts we would not want to share.  Done things we would not want to be brought to the light of day.  The longer we live the more of these accumulate in our hearts, on our souls.

The world tends to be balanced.  Scientists talk about entropy and randomness but even in that idea, there is balance.  If forgivness is the strongest force in this world, it is also the most fragile.  It takes the most energy and will to create.  You risk the most to offer it.

Too often we are caught up in the whirlwind that is anger, upset, brinksmanship.  Those emotions are loud and pushy.  They encourage you to act quickly and without measure.  Forgiveness is much quieter.  It whispers in your heart and calls you to act with restraint.  So often, we don’t listen.  To our detriment.  I cannot remember one time where I acted without restraint where I didn’t regret it.  Not one.

At the heart of forgiveness is peace.  And that is what we truly most crave. More than money, or prestige, more than being right.  We all wish for someone to tell us “you are forgiven”, and mean it.  It holds a value that is beyond price.  So when you are tempted to act in anger, or frustration, or impatience.  Try to find a moment of silence within yourself and recall a longer game than just winning the moment’s argument.  You’ll be better for it.  Your relationships will be better for it.  And when enough of those moments accumulate you’ll know a peace beyond measure and find yourself at the place wisdom is born.