Here is where I attempt to tie up all those loose ends.
What I believe a book can do is end suffering. Not the once and for all ending like I was once searching for, but again and again. I see how the myths around religions are rooted in the desire to end suffering, and I see how fairy tales and fiction of all sorts can do the same. Long before written language, oral traditions would pass on stories because the stories contained tried and true tidbits of wisdom and hope on facing and overcoming suffering. (This comes to mind - an event I remember fondly from my college years.)
When I enter into the fictional portal of a good book, I am living a parallel life, an alternate reality. I am seeing the fictional characters' lives overlaid on my Real World, like those old anatomy books with the plastic sheets where you could layer skin over muscles over organs over bones.
The Magic School was a natural transition for me after crawling through a spiritual crisis because what I, as an Artist as Magician, was searching for was a way to end suffering with my own spiritual myth. I, as a Homo Sapien, wanted my crack at the brochure's question, "Will suffering ever end?"
What if I could say, "Yes it will end again and again, every time I open a book."
Suffering keeps showing up a new way for me, in new facets. It's like the way Tami Simon talks about Julia Cameron's Art Censor, Nigel as a computer program. I feel anxious a lot and when I feel anxious I suffer because what I think I should be feeling is happiness. If we did want to equate it to familiar spiritual terms, reading fictional books could be considered my form of meditation. All I need is one strong secret message (something that speaks hope to my suffering) sandwiched in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a book and I have a new mantra that will carry me through until my next bout of suffering.
I am more immediately concerned with the enjoyment of ending the suffering than fixing a problem. I actually get joy from the treasure hunt. For instance, my car steering wheel has been pulling funny, and today I made up a story that my car, which I happen to call The White Rabbit, is growing stronger, and soon she will be capable of determining my course. I will have no choice but to Follow the White Rabbit. When I told my daughter this story she said, "Oh, so you're excited that your car can cause you to get in a crash?"
"What? It wouldn't do that. She won't cause me harm. It's not like an evil robot who is out to get me. She only chooses a course that will benefit me in some way. She is like Kitt in Knight Rider."
My daughter was instantly able to poke holes in my ImagineNation story. I told her that adults would poke even bigger holes, offering up their helpful and concerned and good intentioned Real World speak at me by saying, "So, did you call the repair shop and get an appointment?"
I told her as an adult, I've had enough trips around the sun to know if you can't handle people poking holes in your enjoyment, you just don't share your it with them.
Now, if my car truly starts to show dangerous signs, sure of course I'll get it looked at, but at this point I will be in the right frame of mind to deal with the Real World stuff of broken cars and potentially expensive repairs because I've first imagined a tale that takes the suffering away. The struggle of real life can have its own form of enjoyment because I know I have a way of dealing with it that I prefer. The priority for me is the magic. The Real World stuff follows after.
In my life I want to find the path of least resistance. The path with the least guilt, the least baggage, the least rules, the least expectations, the least protocol, the least steps, the least headaches, the least sacrifice, the least brow furrowing. Doesn't it sound like what I want is the least amount of suffering? I want to do life as childlike as possible with all engines of wonder firing. Fictional books (and the particular ones I'm drawn to) do this for me. They are my shrug and my twirl in a world that says, "But you must suffer together with us. It's been agreed upon."