Let it be known that I do not believe in magic. I believe in science, which by definition is not magic. But OK, there was this thing when I was 5 ....
The facts are these. I had a pair doll-sized wooden shoes, just like the little Dutch girls in the books wore while they milked their cows, and all I wanted was for them to be big enough to fit me. I made this complaint to my mom for the 100th time, one day, and to my surprise she said, "Well you know, Aunt Barbie is coming over, and she might actually know a magical spell that can help you out."
"What? No way." Even then, I was dubious. But if this scenario ended in me scoring a pair of bona fide me-sized wooden shoes, I was willing to play along. Aunt Barbie came over, and she casually said, "Oh, yeah. Little-to-Big spell, that's easy. We can do it right now."
She took me outside and had me place the mini shoes on the grass between us. She drew a circle around me and them with a big stick, and I scoured her face for some sign of improvisational doubt. Nothing — she was master of her craft. She had me go through a series of super-secret hexing motions: Stand on one foot, put your finger on your nose, and when she got to the part where I closed my eyes, I knew I had her — I'd listen like a bat. But mere seconds later she gave me the go-ahead to open my eyes. Too soon, I thought — but there, gleaming, was the most beautiful pair of big-girl-sized wooden shoes I'd ever seen.
"What? What?!" I yelled.
I grabbed the shoes to see that they were real — so real. Real wood, just my size, hand-painted with little brightly colored scenes of Dutch countryside. Tulips! Cows! Windmills! And I burst into tears. The tears of someone whose world view had just been drastically realigned. In that moment, the magic was real because the result was so magnificent.
So does that mean magic is real if we all believe in it?
"Magic" is what happens when somebody doesn't do her research. It's like the line in the Insane Clown Posse song, "Miracles." While I agree that, yes, magnets are amazing, isn't it cooler that we can explain them? Isn't that the miracle?
Because that's the thing that's magical to me. Our capacity to not just understand but actually facilitate the happening of cool things.
I'm not afraid that the world's about to end, but I am kind of afraid that, after the Mayan clock runs out, nothing will change at all. If we all wake up and there are no brimstone asteroids, no lava flows through the stock exchange, if no veiled prophets appear on horseback ... what are we going to do with our day? Wouldn't it be cool if we all looked at each other and said, "Hey, second chance. We're all in this together!"
I know. That sounds hard. It sounds like magic. Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world," but that was easy for him to say because he was magical, right? No. No more so than those wooden shoes that showed up in my backyard; it wasn't magic, but it felt like it.
Here's my mantra for 2013, when the world doesn't end: Be the wooden shoes you want to see in the world. Do the thing. Say the spell. Move the shoes.