Category Archives: The Practice of Enchantment

Why Practice Enchantment?

In the genre of literature called magical realism, stories are set in worlds that seem like everyday reality, except that amazing, seemingly unreal things happen. Magic erupts into the mundane.

Ever since I read fairy tales as a child, I’ve been convinced that this kind of story shows a view of reality more complete than realism alone. For instance, you can be plodding along, paying bills and going to work, when you fall in love and the world glows. Or someone dies and your heart bursts into a flower with deep purple petals. Or impossible coincidences pile up, and the birds sing their clamorous song: Awake! Awake! Awake!

Jeune fille en marche, by Marc Chagall
Jeune fille en marche, by Marc Chagall

On one level, magical realism is a metaphor for creativity — the surprise of it, the sense of the miraculous that accompanies an insight or breakthrough, the conviction that the world is in fact pregnant with as-yet unimagined possibilities.

On a deeper level, magical realism shows that life is real, and life is magical. Neither realism nor magic alone tells the whole story. Realism by itself tries to spread the half-truth, “Life sucks and then you die.” Magic by itself tells its own half-truth, “Everything is wonderful and amazing!” The whole truth is that they’re both true. Life is difficult and wonderful, and yes, then you die, but there’s always the possibility of amazement, all along the way.