My favorite stories are fairy tales and fantasies. I read them when I was younger, but I didn’t appreciate then the real sweetness behind them. Now, I devour them, and they’re all the more delicious because I have a deeper understanding. Then, I would put them down and be met with boredom. What was so great about school and chores and home compared to those stories? When I read books about magic, my regular life seemed dull. But reading about the magic in Harry Potter doesn’t have to make life seem any less magical, anymore than having your birthday makes the rest of the days in the year less wonderful. (Lewis Carroll’s idea of an “un-birthday” often comes to my mind, but I don’t usually share those thoughts, because people would think me very silly indeed if I celebrated my un-birthday three hundred sixty-four days a year). The best thing, the hope, about making magic seem familiar, is that maybe what’s familiar will become magical. Because, really, it was always magic, and we just couldn’t see it, or rather we’d lost that sight. G.K. Chesterton said it like this: “…nursery tales only echo an almost prenatal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found out that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” Life must be, or ought to be, mixed with adventure and comfort, the magical and the familiar. But it took me time to see that it can be just that in the same town you’ve always lived in. One needn’t run off to explore the four corners of the world to find adventure; magic and wonder are to be found everywhere, if you can only remember how to open your eyes wide. And maybe then we’ll learn how to see, how to live Life.
Sometimes I get stuck in the mundane-Mondays and terrible-Tuesdays, finally-Fridays and already-Sundays. Sometimes ruts and routines get me trapped, and I just know that another life would be more exciting. For an example, to many a young boy, imagining themselves to be soldiers fighting for good is their idea of adventure, to be preferred to household chores. Well, I haven’t been in any battle, but I’ve seen a few movies. War is war. It’s ugly, and heart-breaking, and I bet the fighting gets old. It may not be uneventful at the front, but the fighting happens day after day, and war takes its toll, and it’s not the same adventure the boys picture. But though the fighting isn’t good, the fighting is for good, and so one keeps fighting. And the same is true in a “plain” life. Whatever our current complaint about it is, now is never as sweet as we imagined it would be back then when we dreamed about it and called it the future. Your fight, your routine, may not be sweet in this moment, but you are fighting and working for good, and so you keep at it. Though once upon a time I probably wished I could have been one of the many wonderful characters in my books, there is a reason, and it must be for a fantastic, comforting, adventuresome reason that I have been written, spoken, into this part of the story. The Author gave me this role–why? That is the quest I’m best suited for, the question to which I must find the answer.
If I ever have children, I will absolutely encourage wild imaginations and the adventures of pretending. I will buy them books, fantasies and fairy tales with wizards and magic and kings and kingdoms, books that are more than just a comment on life now, or of life in the past. They will know lands like Middle Earth and Narnia, Hogwarts and Wonderland, and further. We will read (oh yes, I will join them on their journeys for as long as they will have me) to find that there is more than meets the eye to the biggest mountain, where goblins might live, more than meets the eye to that rabbit in the garden who maybe keeps looking at his pocket watch. We will dream up what might be at the bottom of the deepest ocean, what might be at the tops of the tallest trees, what might be across the wine-dark sea, and what might be across the stars. We’ll go and visit and find out for ourselves on Saturday afternoons. Because those tales will run together, and maybe they’ll see all life is one sweet story. Because they’ll get an idea of a much bigger picture than their little corner of the world, and maybe they’ll see that the story has ancient beginnings and goes out beyond the edge of their dreams. Because maybe their discoveries will leave them with a longing to find more. My hope is that they’ll go deeper into that longing. That happy, thrilled longing, I’d teach them, is called joy. I want them to want it, and so we’ll pretend, and read stories, and imagine. And I want them to see that the Author of the story is a King, is the King, and I want them to know him and call him friend. And even if I never have children of my own, I’ll encourage such stories and discoveries for other young travelers.
A very merry un-birthday to you! Unless of course it is your birthday, in which case I wish you a happy birthday!