Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What is Real? asked the Rabbit

I've been reading a lot of children's literature lately, in addition to my Big Kid books. I'm peeking into my Little House on the Prairie series; I just bought a book on the adventures of King Arthur and I am so excited to read it. I've decided it will be a present to myself when I finish this big, important paper I am currently working on at my day job.

Market research is not for the creative. It is straight up fact, analytical and constant diligence. I talk to people on the phone who are interested in money and time, as any good business person should be if they intend to stay in business. I re-write more for structure than style. I keep a running list of article ideas completely unrelated to work; I find it takes tremendous will power not to spend my days developing ideas instead of focusing on clamouring topics like exchanging assets. (And yes, I obviously still write on my blog, but the time I spend on a blog post and the time I spend on an article is night and day.)

Remaining creative is important to me. Not only because of freelancing, but because I need it for my real job-job. Creativity keeps me innovative about "boring" topics that should interest more people, especially in this economy. I like to think creativity gives me perspective, helps me say, "If we don't like this marketing idea, if it's not working for us, that's okay! Let's think of another one. Let's roll." Too many people get caught on one good idea and then stick with it, till it dies, bleating for want of effectiveness.  

For example, I heard on NPR this morning that the Baby Boomers will be able to start filing for Medicare soon, but how many are not even thinking about it because it is an "old person" program, and many people do not consider themselves old at 65. Medicare takes up TWELVE PERCENT of our entire country's budget. Lack of fiscal responsibility aside, I think there have to be a lot more creative, effective and efficient ways to provide health care to the masses without the government micromanaging and then taking a slice of the profit.

The problem with the government and its workers is that they lack creativity. They cannot see anything happening without government intervention. They want to help we the common people, but not trust us to take care of ourselves. They are like the mom who sits outside the grade school all day, waiting for her children to hop in the car and go home. There is no room for boo-boos, no room for scrapped knees. And they are so serious!

In "My Fair Lady" (the musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, based off Shaw's play 'Pygmilion'), there is a great song Eliza sings to Professor Higgins called "Without You." She is essentially telling him off, saying if England will be there without him, if there will be crumpets and tea without him, if Spring will come without him, then so she too can do without him. Of course, Prof. Higgins gets insulted and then takes complete credit for her magnificence. It is a very funny scene:

The thing about the government is that there is a reason they give themselves airs and elite importance: they need people to pay attention to them. They, like all humans, want purpose. This does not justify their government programs or excuse higher taxes and their fiddling around with definitions of society's core foundations, but it does give one pause. They, like the Rabbit, want to be Real, wanted, needed.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “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, 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.”

(from Margery Williams' 'The Velveteen Rabbit')

Alas! You cannot hold the government, or hug it. A government agency cannot provide happiness or contentedness or change. These all come from a conversion of the heart, which comes from God and is encouraged by one's relationships with other people. I had a nice conversation last night with a friend about joy: where it comes from, what causes it, and what holds it there. There is no better way to find joy than through the eyes of children; their delight in the world is a wondrous thing to behold. All the analysis and data proving such-and-such is nothing to surprise snow flurries, butterflies, hugs, coloring and vroom-vrooming a car around the room. 

There is a lot to take truly seriously in this world, but the government is not included on that list. I like to treat the government in the same vein as St. Thomas More's attitude toward Satan: "The devil... that proud spirit... cannot endure to be mocked." Life is serious in the sense that it matters; people matter. But what better way to thumb one's nose at being an adult than to pay one's taxes and then earnestly avoid interaction with those false prophets, who claim salvation through their legislation and executive orders? Now children's literature, on the other hand, is worth seriously reading and considering. Because if Winnie the Pooh can't help respecting anyone who can spell "Tuesday," imagine what other possibilities the world holds!

Happy first of December! May your day be cozy and your view full of snow, like mine is in the North country.

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