by Mark Yaconelli
My daughter, Grace, has two hand-made dolls that she’s named Nared and Filfin. Last night I overheard them talking to one another. I transcribed their conversation below.
Filfin: I don’t understand why he won’t tell us the plan. What’s the point of secrecy? Is he afraid we won’t follow the plan? Or maybe we’ll disagree and subvert the plan? I mean, the way Baby tells it, we couldn’t change the plan even if we wanted to, so why not just tell us the plan so at least we don’t have all this uncertainty.
Nared: I know what you mean. Like our lips being sewn shut. What is the point of that? Why not let our mouths work free?
Filfin: Exactly. I’ve got two teeth hanging out, for no practical purpose. I mean, even if I wanted to bite something, or tear at a wrapper, I can’t do it. They’re sewn back into my lips. Why not just leave them in my mouth? Why bother to give me two teeth and then prevent me from making use of them? It’s like God’s trying to be cruel.
Nared: Don’t say that. You know that’s not true.
Filfin: The truth is Nared, I don’t know. I know Baby is always quoting that rabbit book and saying “love makes us real” and “real is something that happens to you…” and other things like that. Can I be honest? I have no idea what Baby’s talking about. Have you ever read the book? The Velveteen Rabbits or whatever it’s called? For two days I poured over that book. Let me tell you Nared, I felt nothing, nothing but nausea–the burn pile, the sick boy, the Nursery Fairy, the tattered rabbit–Baby thinks it should give me some kind of comfort, but to tell you the truth, I just had more questions. Like why does the boy get all working parts? Why isn’t his mouth sewn shut? Why are some of the characters made without hind legs or at the mercy of some winding key? And why do the loved ones get to become real? I mean, why is that supposed to make me feel better? He’s a soft rabbit for Chrissake! Of course he’s loved! Is it Mechanical Mouse’s fault that he’s made of cold metal? None of it makes any sense.
Filfin: Why is the boy’s love the only thing that counts? Why isn’t the boy, Bobby or whoever, why isn’t he thrown on the burn pile for not being loved by Car or Boat? And really, Nared, when the Nursery Fairy comes in and makes the rabbit real, I mean, didn’t you find that forced? I just found that completely unrealistic, I practically blushed with embarrassment. There’s no mention of Nursery Fairy anywhere in the story, and then all of a sudden in the final chapter, just when the story feels like we’re getting down to the hard core truth, here comes Nursery Fairy to take away the painful absurdity and make everything come out alright. I’ll bet you anything that Nursery Fairy wasn’t in the original text. I’ll bet someone added that in to keep the terror at bay.
Nared: Yea. I know. It didn’t do much for me either. I guess I just don’t get the question the book is trying to answer. Like when Nursery Fairy says, “You were only real to the boy, now you shall be real to everyone!” Baby is always quoting that line to me like it’s supposed to give me hope or something, but I always think, wait a minute, wasn’t Velvee real to Car and Boat and Mechanical Mouse? Who says he was only real to the boy? I mean, does Baby believe God has ordained some kind of hierarchy of beings where those who don’t have sewn mouths, or dangling button eyes–those who are born with greater symmetry and a free range of motion–have greater worth? Is that the “God’s plan” that Baby is always talking about? I mean, if it is, then I guess I’m not interested.
Nared: Well…Well, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but you see this long arm of mine? The one long arm pointing upward in a kind of celebratory manor? Well, I’ve always felt that I have this one long arm for a purpose. I mean, I know the girl laughs at it sometimes, but I have this feeling, this deep feeling, that one day there will be this situation where a creature with one long arm and one short arm is going to be needed, needed in some important way, and it will make sense, and I will feel my purpose and I will understand a little of what God is thinking. You know what I mean? It doesn’t erase any of my questions, it’s just a feeling I have about my one long arm, a feeling that this arm is not a cause for ridicule but a sign that there is a greater mind at work. That probably sounds ridiculous to you…
Filfin: No, no. I know what you’re talking about. I’ve often felt that way about these appendages on my head.
Nared: You mean your horns?
Filfin: They’re not horns really. I used to think they were horns until I felt Rhino’s horn. His is hard and sharp. Good for defending or attacking something. Mine are completely soft, impotent really. I don’t think anyone could really classify them as horns. At one point I thought they might be ears, you know, some kind of special hearing devices that could pick up some kind of special sound or signal that other’s can’t perceive.
Nared: So they’re ears?
Filfin: I have no idea really. They could be. Maybe one day I’ll hear something through them, something no one else notices…I don’t know. I guess it’s possible. Or maybe they serve some other function. I don’t know. And that’s the pain of it all. I too have times when I feel that I’m made for some deep purpose…but, mostly there’s just this pain. A kind of shame really, at who I am, how I’m perceived, a deep self-loathing at my crooked arms, the head appendages, the soft pink rump. I would like to feel this “real love” that Baby speaks of…but most days I just feel like crap. Really, Nared. I wake up. I see myself in the mirror and I just feel worthless, and I just wish I could get five minutes with God or the Nursery Fairy or some kind of Higher Power and say to them, “Please. Please. Tell me the plan. For God’s sake, just tell me the plan. I won’t tell anyone. I won’t try and mess it up. If it’s the burn pile for me, O.K. I can accept that. Even welcome it. I just want to know.”
Mark Yaconelli is the co-founder and co-director of Triptykos School of Compassion. The author of Downtime, Contemplative Youth Ministry, Growing Souls, and Wonder, Fear and Longing: A Book of Prayers, Mark lives in Oregon with his wife and three children. Read an interview with Mark about the spirituality of young people here.