I know that because you were a Catholic priest, you were supposed to take vows of poverty pretty seriously. Images of old black and white televisions propped up on kitchen counters come to mind, as do rabbit ears, and beta machines (precursors to the VCR, for readers scratching their heads; and just to cover my bases, VCRs were precursors to DVDs). Instead of organic flax bread, you'd suffer with Wonderbread. Oh sure the former would honour your body a little more, but it's all about sacrifice, correct? Wonderbread it was.
Still, what magic did you let into your life? There must have been some! Everyone believes in a little bit of magic. Oh sure I know how you talked about a relationship with God being more than magic, and I agree with much of what you penned.
“I have found it very important in my own life to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen for me." -Henri Nouwen, Finding My Way Home
But that's not what I'm talking about here.
I'm talking about childhood magic, innocent magic: how Frodo came into possession of the One Ring, how Aslan created Narnia, how Scully always seemed to doubt Muldur's theories but possessed a strong inner faith of her own, how Hermione Granger and Ron Wealey proved that Harry Potter couldn't be 'The Chosen One' without them (and how Dobbey showed us all how to be a good friend), how parallell universes could potentially exist, how demons could be slain, how magic isn't really a cure-all, and how flying is possible.
I'm talking about the enjoyment of myth and creativity and imagination.
I'm talking about loving fairytales because anything could happen. Anything.
“You don't think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” -Henri Nouwen
I love this.
In a world that seems to accuse thought as something separate from person, accuse people of thinking too much, or accuse the world of vibrating only at certain levels, this suggests that our lives determine our thinking. It resonates with the ancient Hebrew perspective of a person: we are whole. One cannot have a thought without the heart being involved, and once cannot have her body in motion without the mind being involved. The heart referred not to the seat of emotions, with thought being sold separately. The heart was the core of a person: all of ourselves. And in this place, God meets us. Our lives then create the flow of thought, feeling, or whatever differentiation one chooses to use. It's in this place that innocent magic comes forth.
I sat at a table again today, Booster Juice by my side, and tapped out a far-fetched story for my nephews. They are already learning about the world from a variety of perspectives: natural, spiritual, relational, physical, sugar-ful (ha!). Yet it's in a child's nature, whatever his or her culture, to pretend… to make fanciful… to add magic where no magic was before.
Why do we insist on smothering this imagination out of kids?
There's natural maturity, I grant you, but I think too often we squash this beautiful, delightful world out of ourselves prematurely. We lose our magic far too soon. We ridicule those who hold on to it. We even make up ideologies and doctrines around the evil of magic.
Listen, I'm not advocating for placing The Book of Satanic Verse on preschoolers' shelves. By the way, despite repeated accusations, Harry Potter does NOT a satanist make. Another story. Another day.
What I am advocating is: I don't want to grow up too fast.
It's too soon.
Sure I have to balance my bank accounts; I have to get for work each day; I have to treat people that I would expect to be treated; I have to drive a car; I have to do all these grownup things, but nowhere is it written that I have to give up my fanciful worlds in favour of reality.
Besides, who says all of these worlds of pretend aren't a part of reality? Hopping over to Hogwarts or Middle Earth or Narnia for a while adds to our lives. There's a richness in letting in a bit of magic. And when our lives are enriched, we enrich the world around us. The magic flows on.
Not only that, but it also lets me have just as much fun with my preschool-age nephews, who pretend to be pirates, race car drivers, beekeepers or superheroes. We're all in that made up world together, filled with couch cushions, blankets, capes, forts, macaroni art, cardboard boxes and wide open space.
I hope you had some secret magic in your life, Henri. Too many people live without it.
Until next time,