I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, magic is all around us and so the feeling grows…” (if Love Actually can adapt Wet Wet Wet’s song for their own purposes I don’t see why I can’t).
“Faith was a choice. So it followed, was wonder” – Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold
I recently underwent a family rite of passage; not marriage, having children or enduring yet another mass family event without my eardrums exploding as twenty different discussions compete for volume within a confined space. No, this was very specific to my immediate family, something my parents and brothers had gone through before me. I was tasked with reading ‘Carter Beats the Devil’ and either enjoying the book or never darkening the doorstep of the family homestead ever again.
I read the book, loved it and passed the test. In summary, it’s a fictional tale that begins with the death of the President of the USA, who died shortly after participating in a magic show, and unravels from there. ‘Magic’ is central to the book and whilst there is no pretence that this is real, it doesn’t stop you from being drawn into the mystical narrative and creating a great yearning to be amazed.
However, I’ve stumbled across some texts recently suggesting that as we get older we lose the sense of magical wonder at the world easily experienced as a child. In something I recently read, but have forgotten the source, the author said nothing was magical any more, even things such as a new birth and falling in love, whilst capable of bringing happiness, lacked that sense of wonder he remembered as a child. Another well-written blog I found recently said the “greatest and saddest life lesson to learn, is that we only know true wonderment once it is lost”.
Those thoughts on the dearth of wonder prompted me to think about when I last experienced a magical moment. My mind drew a blank and I started to panic. Perhaps it’s true, I lost my sense of enchantment and what’s worse I hadn’t even noticed.
Certainly as we gain experience in life we tend to trust our own instincts more and develop a certain level of scepticism. It isn’t that we tend to question the world around us more as we age, if anything as an adult I think we often fail to question things as much as when we were children. (Great blog about the difficult questions children ask)
Have you ever played a game of ‘but why’ with a child where you try to explain something and everything you say results in another ‘but why?’ response? After an hour or so of going round and round you realise you no longer know the answer you were sure of when you started.
I was that child with the endless ‘but why?’ and I still have an annoying tendency to question much around me. A few years ago I visited a friend who’d built a kitchen table with her partner. It was a fine table but I wasn’t content to sit-back and admire their handiwork, no, I had to get on the floor and look underneath the table to figure out the how.
I now question those blatant untruths I once accepted so readily. I no longer believe my uncle has a tiny invisible horse called Dobby. I will question the reality of Derren Brown’s latest antics, although that won’t necessarily detract from my amazement. If I’m interested in something curiosity overcomes me and I like to know how it has been achieved, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost sight of the magical.
As part of my 2015 resolutions, I’ve started ice-skating on a regular basis and every time I skate it’s the same story. At first I start off very tentatively, unsteady and unsure on my feet. After a time I gain my confidence, pick up speed and my fear of falling over and having someone sever my fingers with their skates wanes (although I always wear leather gloves as a precaution).
Once I’ve let go of my fears and start to enjoy myself I experience what I can best describe as pure freedom, which is magical, and I’m not sure can be expounded upon better than that. Gliding along the ice is inexplicably wonderful to me and perhaps that is so because I allow it to be. I don’t eagerly anticipate those magnificent moments and I don’t try to hold onto the unique sensation beyond it’s natural duration.
Ice-skating regularly brings a bit of magic into my life although I recognise on the surface it is essentially a rather meaningless act that cannot be transcribed and shared with others.
Frequent walks through the beautiful countryside around Geneva and experiencing the light hitting the canopy above, illuminating the woods in a certain way, have also brought about that same sense of unadulterated joy. I try to savour the uniqueness of such moments that cannot be recorded for posterity (no matter how hard I might try with the camera) and will never be exactly the same again for myself or anyone else. If that isn’t magic then I don’t know what is.Those are just a couple of examples.
I know that what I find magical may be mundane to others and what is wonderful to you may seem woeful to me. But I think the trick to maintaining a sense of wonderment, whatever this means to you, is just to be open to it and to appreciate it when it arrives, without drowning it in over-analysis or crushing it in a too-tight embrace.
If in twelve months I write a post about wonder being dead then we’ll know those other authors were right, but in the meantime I’ll press on in the belief that magic is and always will be all around me. Maybe that makes me a fool, but I’ll take a pinch of naivety over a bucket of cynicism any day.