When I was little, I put faith in fairy tales.
Wood nymphs, naiads, you name it, I believed in them all. Maybe not in this reality, but I knew they were out there. I loved Greek and Norse mythology. I loved books that painted the stories of the world behind the curtain, classics like The Golden Compass and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
I knew in my bones that a shimmering world existed just beyond the one that I could see. I knew it as deeply as I knew that love was good and fire bright. Nobody else shared this belief–not that I knew of, anyway–but that didn’t matter. As the saying goes, you know the truth when you hear it.
When I walked in the woods or stood by the sea, I felt so close to this other place. As if all it would take was turning my head or shifting my gaze, peeking around the right tree trunk, and there it would be. Beautiful and boundless and full of light.
I never stopped believing in the magic and the mystery. How could I? The world brims with it.
In time, I realized that lots of people loved the same stories I did. I wasn’t the only person who believed. But most people, it seemed, gave up believing in any reality beyond the one they could see or touch. Fantasy was not concrete or tangible, incompatible with the practical requirements of day-to-day survival.
I’m not sure when this shift occurred. Maybe when we stopped using playground as a time to run around and act goofy. At some point in middle school, a call seemed to go out, demanding that we pony up and prove our coolness and smartness and total maturity. Maybe magic reeked of babyhood and belief in Santa Claus.* Or maybe it came with the pressure of finding and keeping a job, of paying bills and doing the dance we thought peers and spouses and hiring managers wanted to see.
In any case, outright embrace of a multidimensional world fell out of popular favor. In my mind, I decided that it was truth in the literary sense, that only storytellers had the tools to draw the curtain back from fantasy.
But lately I’ve felt this connection to truth more strongly than ever before. I’m reading books and talking to people who describe it as a level of soul.
“Picture a fish swimming in one direction,then in a flash, all the fish change directions. The fish don’t think, ‘The fish in front of me turned left, so I should turn left.’ It all happens simultaneously. This synchrony is choreographed by a great, pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature, and is manifest in each of us through what we call the soul.
When we learn to live from the level of the soul, many things happen. We become aware of the synchronous rhythms that govern all life. We understand the lifetimes of memory that have molded us into the people we are today. Fearfulness and anxiety fall away as we stand in wonder observing the world as it unfolds. We notice the web of coincidence that surrounds us, and we realize that there is meaning in even the smallest events. We discover that by applying attention and intention to these coincidences, we can create specific outcomes in our lives. We connect with everyone and everything in the universe, and recognize the spirit that unites us all.”
When you go to a good college and run in socially adept circles, the subject of religion rarely comes up. When it did, I always described myself as spiritual, not religious. In other words, I have deep faith that something greater than me exists, that I am connected to it, and it shapes the rhythm of everything. Now it occurs to me that the fantasy world of my childhood and the spiritual oneness I believe in might be the same thing.
These days, I sense the curtain thinning. I catch glimpses of light shining through. I’m again convinced that if I turn the right corner, a new world will be revealed. And if it feels like a fairy tale, well, so does everything.
*By the way, I still believe in Santa Claus. Even if he doesn’t come down the chimney, we’ve cultivated a story so powerful he exists as an echo of our energy and love. So if we hide presents for our children and sign “from Santa Claus,” we’re not telling them a lie. We’re making the story come true.