If there's a book that has moved me and my family over the last two years, it is The Boy, The Mole, The Fox & The Horse. Charles Mackesy marks the parchment pages with urgent, yet languid strokes. His words tap into the heartfelt sentiments of a gentler and more endearing age. In so doing, he shows us how we could be. The boy in each sketched scene, engages with nature and with his elders – represented by the animals. They confer a wisdom and a perspective born of natural experience.
I imagine parents, like me, reading the book to their children and running their fingers across the textured pages, getting swept away into a beautiful world. Then, what I imagine happening is that the child falls asleep on the parent, who stops reading. Slightly trapped, the parent closes the book and starts scrolling through social media on their phone. Nothing has really changed; of course, it hasn’t.
With a big heart, Charles Mackesy offered us a world where we live in the present and respect the wisdom of our elders. Look outside your window, glance up from your smart phone, and you will see that we did not take this opportunity.
I know some of you will say that I am killing your children’s childhood. Leave us to our blissful nostalgia. You don’t always have to subvert the stuff that makes us feel good. But I do. I do because we need to take this chance. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
This collection I call, The Boy and the Social Media Role. It is a parody to reflect how the world really is, perhaps highlight that we could change it if we choose to. If we chose to ignore our alerts from a thousand apps and sacrifice the technology-mediated navigation of our lives in the third modernity. Charles Mackesy’s book makes us stop and reflect on love and gratitude for what we have. I want us to stop to think about the socially acceptable madness that is the role of screens in our lives.
Also I have to be honest, it makes me laugh, and laughter is medicine for the madness. It’s endearing to put words into the mouths of animals and toddlers without cynicism; it’s also very funny for animals to give adults a perspective on the dangers of technology to which they cannot answer.
In each edition to this collection, the boy is still looking for answers, but he is not pure, nor screen free. The horse is still advisory, but for the technology age. The fox, still wounded from the trap, gingerly avoids devices. The mole is soft and playful, but also enjoys cat videos.
The collection picture is one that I drew in my notebook of the animals sitting on the back of the horse, which I believe captures the sentiment. The animals do not confer advice, but stare with the boy across the traffic-filled roads towards the sky-scraping cityscape of dark, satanic mills, government offices and the burning red firmament in the distance.
The boy says, “I want something more.”
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