Sometimes a conversation with a child can be enlightening.
It went like this:
8-year-old: Do you believe in Santa Claus? I don’t.
Me: You don’t have to believe in what you don’t want to believe in. But whatever you believe should feel good inside of you. You get to choose what you believe; just make a choice that feels good and right for you.
8-year-old: Do you believe in magic? Because magic is not real. (And he said this emphatically!)
My heart crumpled. It’s one thing to outgrow a belief in Santa Claus. But it’s another thing altogether to not believe in magic, especially at the tender age of 8.
Me: I totally believe in magic. You don’t? What kind of magic do you not believe in?
8-year-old: There’s only one kind of magic. You know, where they pull a rabbit out of a hat or make something disappear? They’re not really doing that. It’s not real.
Me: Oh, I see. You mean illusion then. Not magic.
8-year-old: What’s illusion?
Me: Illusion is when you’re seeing something that looks real, but it isn’t. Illusion is believing what someone else is trying to get you to believe. Yet, in your heart, you know it isn’t true. It’s like when you get tricked and you think what’s not real IS real.
8-year-old: Oh. like pulling the rabbit out of the hat?
Me: Right. Like pulling the rabbit out of the hat. The truth is that the rabbit isn’t in the hat. It’s hidden somewhere else, and the illusionist is distracting you from where the rabbit is really hiding by creating a big show, because he needs and wants you to believe in his tricks, to believe that what you couldn’t see before was really there all along. Illusion can make you doubt yourself. But it’s not real.
8-year-old: So it’s a trick!
Me: Exactly! It’s a trick. But the rabbit is real, and where-ever he’s hiding, he’s definitely pooping in there too. I guess illusion is a dirty business!
8-year-old: Yeah. (he laughed)
His attention quickly turned to something else. I wanted to keep on talking to tell him my view of what magic is, to help reignite his belief in the miraculous and beautiful, but I decided to let him digest illusion for now and save magic for another day. I hope it comes soon though. I want to tell him that magic includes the supernatural and mysterious forces sometimes beyond our explanation. That magic can be found by looking at the goodness that resides in the heart of humanity. It can be found by gazing up at a towering Redwood Tree or by seeing the white ribbon of The Milky Way on a clear starlit night. That magic lies in the swell of my heart when he climbs up into my lap to cuddle and in the sound of his laughter when he’s completely unguarded. The sunrise, the sunset, the human body, the way the ocean obeys the pull of the moon. All magical.
Ok, so maybe the last one is gravity, but it feels magical. And believing it’s magical feels good to me.