We’re all searching for our true identity. When we’re talking about true identity, we’re talking about soul, that part of us which is most real.
Pinocchio is a story about the search for soul in which the soul is born of your own good deeds. It posits a child who is a moral and spiritual tabula rasa, a blank slate. And Pinocchio is a very blank slate, as easily influenced by total strangers as he is his maker and provider. Bad deeds lead to physical destruction. Selfless ones eventually trigger a metamorphosis, wherein a wooden puppet becomes a real boy.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a profoundly different tale of the search for the soul. The rabbit gains a soul, not by doing anything–in fact, it lacks any kind of agency–but rather, by being loved.
What would it mean to be a soul formed by love, rather than your own actions? My actions form my character, and character is important. But it’s not identity. It’s not core. It’s not what is most real, although it is real, and it is my most vital interface with others.
My soul has been formed by love. It’s been deformed by indifference.