When I was a kid, I believed in magic. It wasn’t that I was a gullible kid who believed everything. The tooth fairy, for example, never made any sense to me. The version of Saint Nicholas that was circulating during my childhood was already too obviously a product of Madison Avenue and Hollywood to be very believable.
It’s more that I understood as a kid the difference between illusion, which obscures and distorts reality, and magic, which reveals and transforms it. I understood the rules of magic, at least some of them. For all that Disney has done to strip fairy tales of their truth and muddle what we think about magic, they got one thing very right in their latest fairy tale, Once Upon a Time: Magic always comes with a price.
As I’ve grown up, I tend to forget some of the things I knew as a kid. I sometimes waffle between a bitter disbelief in magic, and a cynical settling for various kinds of illusion.
Depression is a kind of illusion. It tells you that the world is a dreary, black and white place, like Dorothy Gale’s Kansas. In midwinter, it tells you that the world has always been grey and cold, and always will be. It whispers like the Green Witch of Narnia that the sun is a tall tale, that there’s nothing out there brighter than an oil lamp. It whispers worse things, too. I don’t know why it’s so tempting to listen.
What is magic, then? For me, magic is that which inspires wonder. It’s when people and events defy probability. It’s when we flip the script, turn the tables. It’s when the shepherd boy beats the undefeatable giant. It’s when the innocent kids destroy the wily old monster. It’s when the beauty of grace and kindness transforms the beast within.
It still happens today, but you have to see past the illusions. You need to believe in magic to see magic.
We’re all stuck in this tragic kingdom, folks. If you think that things are not as they should be, you’re not wrong. Not at all. But they are being set right. Slowly. At great cost. In places all over the world, usually without fanfare or press coverage. (What do you think the media is? Magic or illusion? Does it seek to reveal, or to distort?)
I took a little break this weekend, because the boggarts were getting me down. I was stuck in Underland, and my hope was fading. So I tried to perform a little magic, for me and for Chris. Yes, it was costly, but not more costly than we could afford, especially when we decided not to count the cost of other people’s gossip and judgment. We saw sunshine, and blue skies and green trees. We laughed and played and relaxed, and by the end, we were both willing to reveal some things we’d been too mistrustful to share. We were able to lighten each other’s hearts a bit, so when we came back to our mundane world, it didn’t seem quite so dark and awful.
I wish you guys a magical February. Spring is coming. Hold on.