AND Magic Is Real

April 19th, 2015

Sweet Briar College, a small liberal arts women’s college in Virginia, announced that it is closing its doors at the end of this year. Alumnae and students describe the feeling they experienced when visiting or attending the school as magical.

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recounting the painful process of reviewing the financial straits of the school, relative unpopularity of women’s colleges today, and socioeconomic makeup of entering classes that drove the Board to close the school at the end of this school year, the author wrote something to the effect that, after all, finances are real and magic is not. The statement stopped me in my tracks.

Children know, before we teach them otherwise, that magic is real. Small and large miracles appear every day. New birds hatch from the eggs in the nest, honeybees make honey, trees grow beautiful leaves that change colors in some climates, flowers bloom with glorious splendor, babies grow into children and adults, the sky changes colors, and rainbows appear in the sky. If we can describe the science behind something, is it no longer magical?

We have grown so numbers-conscious and data-conscious today that we sublimate our sense of wonder and awe to the logical and rational. AND when we do, we dismiss the miracles and magic of life. As ee cummings wrote in one of his poems:

Q: how numb can a numb world get   A: number

I have no doubt that the young women who attend Sweet Briar, like children who annually share transformative experiences at summer camps, experience something magical. We touch the awe and wonder of who we are at our core when we participate fully in the shared humanity of an experience with others in a setting that feels safe and nurturing. In today’s world, how is that not magical? When we stop believing that magic is real, we dismiss our inner wisdom, child’s wonder, and lose our ability to live with delight and awe.

Let’s keep it real by not denying the existence of one thing—magic—in order to argue for the necessity of another, in this case the closing of a magical place. Whether the finances are available to justify providing a particular magical experience or setting is a question of value proposition. Sometimes we deny what we know in our hearts in order to justify a decision that we don’t want to have to own. I would argue that numbers can be manipulated to tell whatever story we choose. AND the experience of magic is very real.

For all that it possible and all that we know in our bones, let’s remember that magic is a word we use to describe an experience. The only ones who can judge the reality of an experience are those who actually experience it. AND for many, magic describes a very real experience.

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