For our son Eli’s 9th birthday, we got him an honest-to-goodness magic kit: a top hat, wand, red sequined vest, black cape, and a number of props. One of the best parenting memories I have is of Eli—with the help of his 12-year-old twin sisters—performing a laugh-and mistake-filled magic show for my wife and me, in front of a makeshift curtain rigged out of an old blanket.
We watched, rapt, as he made handkerchiefs disappear and even pulled a stuffed bunny out of his hat, with the panache only a 9-year-old can muster. At least when it comes to how we inhabit our environment, most of us grown-ups are still fascinated by magic.
We tend to believe, on some level, that we can make all our waste magically disappear, or to assume that science or big business will pull a solution out of its hat.
That kind of magical thinking is just an illusion, of course, but another kind of magic might actually help us create a more sustainable and beautiful world.
What if we found a way to reenchant our landscapes, remembering that in a Catholic sacramental imagination, every bit of creation on earth is drenched in spirit and points to its Maker? What if, for example, we looked at a tree with new eyes and saw not just lumber, but angels perching in the branches? Could we harm the world so thoughtlessly if we began to see it as a place of magic and wonder?
And what about the “deeper magic” about which C.S. Lewis wrote in The Chronicles of Narnia? This is the magic, written in the fabric of the universe before the dawn of time, by which Aslan the lion defeats the White Witch.
To my mind, the deeper magic is the paradoxical power of God to turn despair into hope and to bring new life where there seem to be only death and destruction.
To believe in the deeper magic is to believe that the hand of Providence (not the invisible hand of the market) is mysteriously guiding all of creation toward fulfillment—that “all manner of thing shall be well,” as St. Julian of Norwich put it.
I do think it’s going to take magic to begin to live rightly in our common home: the magic of an enchanted world and the still deeper transcendence of the God revealed in Jesus, who sustains our precious and precarious lives.
Bask in the Earth’s Splendor
1. May is a perfect month to get your bicycle out of storage. How often might you take your bike instead of your car this month? 2. Most farmers’ markets start operating in May. It’s a great way to get fresh, local produce.