I enjoyed the interesting parallel look at American vs. British tales, the former centering on moral realism and the latter allowing space for mythical fantasy. However, I don't want to spend too much time pitting one against the other or declaring one superior over the other when I just want to enjoy the stories I enjoy.
What I appreciated the most was the overall agreement that fictional stories help us process our reality. The phrase "metaphorical reenactment" was something I really keyed in on and it is crucial to The Magic School.
I believe fiction does allow us a space to play with content. To experiment, through reading, how different our world could be if X, Y, or Z were possible.
Yesterday I heard my son and his friend reenacting The Avengers outside, using collected sticks as weapons.
I said to them, "You are so creative."
To which my son's friend replied, "Nah, we're just copying from the movie."
But they weren't "just copying." Sure, they were borrowing storylines and characters, but they weren't muscular men able to lift cars, pound bad guys into the ground and save a whole city from destruction. They were small boys with collected sticks in an average neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon. They had to be the ones to believe in the reenactment and play with the details. Minutes later one of them would throw a tantrum when he had to leave his place as Captain America for a required errand to Lowe's with his parental figures.
To be able to imagine a world where you are more than just the kid who has to tag along wherever your parents say you have to go is a necessary and worthwhile skill. It gives you a chance to test out your own powers, your own potential, your own feelings. It is far different than solely sitting and watching Captain America do it all for you on the big screen. YOU become Someone.
The fictional story is VERY helpful for a child when used as a tool to discover your own capacity and make sense of your own relationship to the world you live in. It's why I used to pretend I was Princess Leia.
I don't think this changes as we become adults. What does change is no one is forcing us to get back into the ring and make something of our actual real lives. We don't "have to" go to Lowe's. Although it might feel like we do.
Adults may escape into fantasy worlds and completely abandon their real world. Or adults may completely write-off the idea of fantasy worlds as childish and below them. I've seen extreme cases of both. I'm sure you have too.
What The Magic School teaches is that whether or not we even let fictional stories into our lives AND the kind of fictional stories they are says a lot about our beliefs about reality. And the decision to go one step further and BE the magic (rather than merely consume the magic) takes a tremendous amount of vulnerability, presence, intention and passion.
I had an adult tell me once that though he LOVED films, he didn't go see movies anymore because they were destroying his real life. "They were becoming my escape." I wondered. Did he have someone in his life tell him to "grow up" or was he repeating that demeaning language to himself?
The Magic School believes in harnessing the power of a well-created story, not as an escape but as a way to transcend the awful normalcy of our lives.
What if you could be your own version of Captain America AT Lowe's? What if their didn't have to be such a cold cut-off between ImagineNation and the RealWorld? Or between childhood and adulthood?
What if what the man loves about films is that it sparks in him a sense that his life could really mean something and he could really be something, but instead he turns away out of fear he's lacking "what it takes" to make his actual life matter.
The genre of fantasy and fiction isn't bad or good. It's a tool. The artist as magician decides what to do with it.
When I ask if you believe in magic, I am really asking, "Do you believe in yourself and your own creative capacity?"
The Magic School is a way to practice Make(ing) Belief.