We Need a Horse and how to be weirdly grateful

We Need a Horse and how to be weirdly grateful July 21, 2011

Yesterday, my dear friend Katie (in San Francisco) sent me a package with two letters, a magazine, and three lovely children’s books (I mean incredibly beautiful, you’ve never seen a book so beautifully made) in the mail.

Her husband works for McSweeney’s, the eccentric, progressive publishing house and magazine publisher. Really, McSweeney’s is a literary movement, but that’s beside the point. The point is that her husband has been working lately on children’s books. They’re named after Katie’s family, the McMullens.

One of the books she sent from the “McSweeney’s McMullens” series is a book called We Need a Horse, by Sheila Heti. (Did I mention it’s beautifully illustrated? Clare Rojas.) In it a horse finds a light that asks him what one question he has. The horse responds, “Why was I made a horse and not some other animal?”

The light answers: “Because we needed another horse.”

After befriending a sheep that isn’t content with his being a sheep (he wishes he were a human who could play tennis), the horse finds an apple tree and the apple he hopes to eat says, “I guess they needed to make this horse, so she could come and eat me.”

Though August was a little confused by the ending (after the ground sings a song to the horse), when the darkness of night invites the horse to “accompany” it so that it’s not so lonely. The horse goes, which I’m pretty sure is his death, “But now the horse understood everything.”

This is not a children’s book for the faint of heart, or for those who don’t like metaphor. And it’s totally weird.

But I secretly loved it. I love the light’s answer to the horse. They needed another one! And the apple’s celebration of the horse: For the apple, the horse exists solely to give the apple’s life purpose.

You know I’m always contemplating these things. What does it mean to be loved by God? Where do we find our purpose? And these answers are striking in their simplicity. God loves us. We were made because our life is meaningful. Our interactions are meaningful. The happy among us are those who are content.

And though I wish the grass would sing to me about how perfect the ground is, it doesn’t usually. Gratefulness is not natural, it’s learned. What I loved about this book is that gratefulness is the heart of its weirdness.

I hope that people will one day say the same thing about me.

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