Magic and Imagination.
There’s a special magic that exists within the world of childhood. In literature and life in general this is often referred to as innocence, but many people, including myself give great backlash to the word innocence when used to describe the magic of a story about the wonders of childhood. Part of this is because these individuals and I hold to the view point that children are not morally innocent. That said, in seeking to be philosophically correct with our language I think we run the risk of missing the beauty of what happens in children’s stories.
There are a couple things I think we need to note when we think about these things.
- Hind sight is 20/20:
It’s easy to look back at childhood from an objective third person view and with rose colored glasses so that we forget the uncomfortable situations and romanticize the things that we as adults see as magical. We see these whimsical happenings and decide that we miss them- whatever they may be- and that if we could just have them back life would be perfect. We can think of reading fairy tales, or fishing in a lake on a cold winter’s day, or cuddling up by the fire to drink hot chocolate on Christmas Eve night. I know immediately go back to fields full of fireflies, catching butterflies with my insect net, and chasing dragonflies through the grass. No matter what you think of these things, the perspective of an adult and a child on these things is different.
- Childhood innocence is real, but in this case it’s not necessarily a moral issue.
Philosophers beware. This is an issue of the knowledge that a child has about issues both moral and immoral. A child knows little if nothing about sexual morality, about moral and immoral uses of language, or about the applications of social codes. Socio-cultural and religious morals are imposed upon a child by his or her parents as they seem to raise him or her up to be whatever they believe an ideal citizen should be. However, over all, coming of age stories and the loss of childhood innocence lead to a different brand of story than one that glorifies the almost whitewashed, unconscious lack of abstract morality that exists within the brain of a child. That doesn’t mean that the child is morally not responsible for evil actions, but that he or she may not have fully reached the cognitive ability to understand morality. That’s why they have to be taught what morality is.
I remember the morning I woke up and realized that Christmas wasn’t magic. I was not quite a teenager yet, but I went to bed on Christmas Eve night and was not excited. I woke up the next morning and did not have motivation to get up and run out to the next room to rip open presents. I don’t quite know what happened, but I do not recall any traumatic happenings that discouraged me. Mostly, I think, I just hit and age where the magic died.
But that magic comes back. And when it comes back it comes with the full force of howling winds in a blizzard. It comes with the force of the heaviest rain storm or the burning passion of a wildfire. See, at some point during adulthood we realize that it it OKAY to feel the magic. It is OKAY to have a separate world that is different from reality. It is not even escapism per se, rather, it’s an alternate reality where our complete and uninhibited imaginations can create vast landscapes of yellow rapeseed fields inhabited by strange fairies or talking prairie animals. In these mystical lands we can dialogue with our thoughts in a way that may not seem to make sense to the sensory world around us.
Imagination a land where a human and a strange creature that is part human part god (or, for people who like non- European art forms, a human and a half-demon) can fall in love. These strange individuals can express our feelings when we don’t have another safe space to vent them. They can take unrequited love and give it a place to grow and blossom and then finally die and be laid in a grave. Imagination takes heart ache and gives it life so that the human mental state can remain stable without festering in emotions that can’t be fulfilled.
I think that so much of the problem that people have with functioning in the real world comes from a lack of ability to activate the creative imagination as a means to cope with and make sense of the every day life. If we can compare and contrast the magic of childhood innocence with the dull and painful aspects of the loss of innocence that age brings then we can activate the creative imagination in order to bring the magic of human emotions to life so that we can use them to create meaning and beauty from messiness.
So, with all of this said, when I’m not busy fulfilling my daily duties to people around me I’ll be living in the secret world that is in my head.
It looks something like a dark forest with a purple and blue twilight and a thousand glittering lights floating around the horizon. I see the lights through the trees as they fly gaily through the air. It’s quiet, and a cool breeze blows enough to ruffle the leaves in the trees and some of them fall lazily to the ground and create a carpet over the floor of my imaginary forest. There are clusters of purple flowers on which brilliant blue butterflies spend their days spreading pollen and making life. The air smells dank, but also sweet and smoky. I can climb into my favorite tree where there is a door that is just the perfect size for me and I can sit in the hollow of my tree and drink tea and read books. Of course, the tree in which I live is merely a tree, but some of the trees around my precious home are living nymphs who have been around for hundred of years and hold the wisdom of magicians and sorcerers who fought battles of old. If I don’t want to read I can go speak to the wise old trees and hear of their tales.
So now I ask you. Where do you go in your head?