Chip Away!!

When I was a kid, I read a lot of comic books.  Inside these comic books, there were generally ads for all kinds of odd kitsch you could send away for (and “kitsch” is a kindly way by which to categorize the items I’m referring to here — a less kindly but probably just as accurate way would be “crap”).  Some examples of what I mean: magic tricks, practical joke items (like, “bleeding soap,” itching powder, whoopie cushions…), sea monkeys, hovering ghosts, wrist radios, air rifles, X-Ray glasses, toy soldiers, dog whistles…I could keep going for a while, but you probably get the point.  Here’s a visual, though:

A vintage comic book ad page, featuring all the demented kinds of junk we children of the '70s craved...
A vintage comic book ad page, featuring all the demented kinds of junk we children of the ’70s craved…

My parents, knowing how to set boundaries, did not permit me to order every single goofy knick-knack and contraption that caught my young fancy (and looking back, I do have to concede that their suspicions about the hovercraft/air car possibly not actually flying may have been well-founded…)…but on the other hand, they were and remain generous people, and once in a while, I was given the go-ahead for the occasional purchase.  One such score came by way of the Kenner company.  It was called a “Chip Away” set, and it allowed the young arts enthusiast to pretend to “sculpt” various figures…

Basically, it worked like this: the good people at Kenner would create a subject — they focused on either animals or sports figures for whatever reasons — and they’d cast that subject out of some kind of material (probably plastic and utterly toxic, although I no longer remember for sure)…then they’d bury that hard subject within a softer, plaster-like material (probably also plastic, and probably even more toxic…) to conceal the figure beneath.  By the time that you, the young consumer, received the Chip Away set on your end, you’d open up what appeared to be three featureless rectangular blocks of not much.  But then the “art” part would happen: you’d clamp one of the blocks of featureless substance in place, and then you’d use the toy hammer and toy chisel they provided to bash away at that soft outer material.  As you did so, that soft part would literally chip away (see: this is where the Kenner marketing wizards came up with that name!), revealing the figure that had been hidden beneath it all along, and the whole process would give the user this feeling of actually sculpting, of creating — watching this concrete form emerge from a chunk of material that only moments before had seemed completely devoid of detail.

The Kenner Chip Away set -- kind of genius in its way, and actually pretty positive...
The Kenner Chip Away set — kind of genius in its way, and actually pretty positive…

Anyway, the point of all this is that I was involved in a conversation yesterday in which the Kenner Chip Away set popped into my head as this great analogy for us, as humans living in this modern world of ours.  I was analyzing this woman’s birth chart for her, and I was trying to summarize what the Sun means in Astrology.  Now, each and every Planet of course represents an integral part of us — they’re our drives, our urges and impulses, the things we need to do as creatures who are physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social…  The Sun is pretty major, though.  Just as the planets out in space revolve around the real Sol, shining brightly up there, so, too, do the astrological Planets in our charts and in our psyches revolve around our astrological Sun.  It’s this radiant central part of us that’s maybe our truest nature.  The Ascendant (= Rising Sign) is more like the self that we ourselves at least somewhat consciously create and maintain every day so as to get around in the world in a way that we’re comfortable with — it’s like an avatar in a video game that a player uses to exist in that video-world, and navigate around in it, only it’s an avatar we use in the real, physical world.  It’s how we present ourselves, and it’s how other people see us.  The Sun, though, isn’t even close to being so open to our manipulations — the Sun just is.  It shines to almost blinding degree, and it can’t really be changed all that much.  You can try — you can try to change your inherent Sun-self, you can try to squelch it, or to filter it, or to hide it…but it won’t be easy, and if you do meet with even a bit of success, chances are huge that you won’t be happy in doing so…because then you won’t be existing as the true self you were meant to be.

So in telling this woman about her Sun, and the idea that she might benefit from cultivating that true Sun-self, it occurred to me that maybe the Sun is kind of like the hard central figure hidden away at the core of one of those old Kenner Chip Away items…and the soft plaster-like material that obscures the central figure from view would be akin to all the metaphorical dross and plaque and build-up that accumulates around our true Sun-self as we try to deny who and what we are by pretending to be other than us.  And we all do this to some degree, although some certainly less than others…and probably no one on Earth is 100% their true Sun-self all the time, in every situation.  We’re human, and we have our hang-ups and inhibitions and need for privacy, and that’s all understandable.  Maybe someday, human society will evolve beyond that, and we won’t be walking around like living Kenner Chip Away figures…

For now, though, I’m of the belief that it might be healthiest to recognize that this process of obscuring our true Sun-selves does occur, and to then try to understand what form and to what degree our own obscuring processes take, and why they take them…and then see if we can’t maybe minimize them a bit.  It’s my suspicion that if we do cut back on the amount of Sun-blocking that we do…we’ll be happier.  More fulfilled.  When our Suns are well-fed and shining brightly…so are we.


So that’s my general wellness suggestion for the day: consider taking up the figurative hammer and chisel, and chipping away some of your own accretion of fear-based, doubt-based, shame-based, guilt-based Sun-block…and shine


  1. Hi, Steve, what serendipity to come upon this post. Just today I was using the Chip Away toy in a similar analogy — about sloughing off the plaster over our central lightness. My husband didn’t remember Chip Away toys, despite also having grown up in the same era. So, as I plumbed the ‘net for photos or articles about this Kenner product, I came upon your blog post. It couldn’t have been more apropos of our discussion, and I thought I should comment, given this unlikely synchronicity. Of course, you stated it in a much more elegant fashion than anything I articulated. But I wanted you to know I appreciated your discussion here about our Sun selves — especially the challenges involved in finding them again and staying true to those ideas. It’s something I’m working on.

    • Hi, Ingrid – thanks so much for writing! It’s a real pleasure to hear from someone who not only remembers the Chip Away toys, but would even feature them in analogies like I was doing! And hey, I, too, am working on chipping away some of the unhelpful build-up that obscures my Sun-self – at this very moment, I happen to be out on a foray into the desert to do just that. There’s no internet here other than on the phone, too, so thanks for brightening up my limited online moments this evening – I really appreciate the kind words!

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