“Well, I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since.” –G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“How come the Muggles don’t hear the bus?” said Harry. “Them!” said Stan contemptuously. “Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.” –Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I won’t lie to you. I’m obsessed with the idea of magic. Probably much more than any grown person should be. But I just can’t help it. From the first time I saw Matilda ordering around all of the flying dishes in the kitchen to stepping into the wonders of Harry Potter’s world, the thought of magic completely captivated me.
This is going to make me sound insane, but sometimes I read something I love so much that I can’t immediately make myself believe it’s only fantasy. I will myself to forget that this is simply a story written by someone else, and that it’s really happening somewhere off in the universe.
Then about 2.5 seconds later I realize that is insane and I should probably never tell anyone that. Ever. But here we are.
Magic is lovely though, isn’t it? The thought that we could travel somewhere in a snap, or sit in a cozy train compartment on the way to Hogwartz while eating charmed trolley chocolate, or step through a piece of furniture and find an enchanted snowy wood. I’m frankly intoxicated by the thought of it all.
I love the idea of magic so much that it got me thinking: could it possibly exist in real life? Like how Muggles (non-magic folk, for you non-HP readers) can brush shoulders with the wizarding world and not even know it?
Now before you start to think I’ve completely lost it, I’m not speaking of “magic” in terms of cauldrons stirring themselves or sorting hats that point us in the right direction. No one with a firm grip on reality would say that magic flows through the world the same as it did for Harry, or Lucy, or Aragorn (however unfortunate this may be). But still, does that necessarily mean that magic doesn’t exist at all?
My answer? Of course it doesn’t.
Of course magic exists. Only the most jaded and pitiable souls could ever think it didn’t. I believe J.K. Rowling based Muggles off of these people, the ones who are so caught up in the mundane that they’ve stopped looking out for magic. People who have let themselves forget what is is to be astounded by wonder.
Every day, the world gives us any thousands of reasons to callous over in cynicism and lay down in discouragement. There are the small ones, like fluorescent lighting, road rage, and credit scores. But then there are the big reasons, the things that trap people into an airless, joyless vacuum: depression, exhaustion, rejection, addiction, inadequacy, depletion, loss, anxiety, anger, loneliness, grief, fear of failure, or fear of making any move at all. These things are all like the Dementors in Harry Potter, sucking out the soul and life of a human but still leaving an empty, breathing shell behind.
Listen to this description that Rowling gives of them: “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them.”
I read that Rowling based the Dementors off of real torments from her own life. Before she was published, she escaped domestic abuse and became a single mom struggling with severe depression and poverty, not to mention rejection from publishers everywhere. If anyone’s life was filled Dementors, it was Rowling’s. But—and this is so important—Rowling also believed in the possibility of magic. She believed in the story of a sad little boy living a horribly unremarkable life until the day he turned 11 and realized he was destined for wonder after wonder.
And today, the Harry Potter franchise is worth an estimated 15 billion.
There’s no question that Dementors exist in real life. But Rowling showed us just what can happen when you turn and face your Dementors instead of cowering: Magic.
Magic starts to happen when you choose to get out of bed in the morning, despite the anxiety stacked up in your brain. Magic happens when you fight back. Magic is focusing on building the beauty in your own life rather than living through someone else’s. Magic is still believing in possibility even after walking 1,000 impossible days in a row.
Magic is realizing you have something to say. Magic is typing through the anxiety. Magic is being able to say THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH when battling perfectionism. Magic is completing something, anything.
Magic is forgiving yourself. Magic is knowing that today has nothing to do with tomorrow. Magic is refusing to continue doing the same thing just because you’ve done it for so long. Magic is realizing you can beat addiction.
Magic is doing literally anything when you’re depressed (seriously though–you went to the store? You deserve a medal. Cooked for your family? You deserve a cake). Magic is taking the medication you need without feeling shame. Magic is saying yes to self care. Magic is speaking kindly to yourself. Magic is fighting the voice that says you don’t deserve anything good.
Magic is trying again. And again and again and again. Magic is being proud of your progress. Magic is celebrating small victories. Magic is never comparing yourself to others.
Many of us obsessed with Harry Potter dream about what it might be like to get a real letter from Hogwartz in the mail, telling us that magic awaits. But I’m here to tell you that you’re getting letters every day—they just look like a good cup of coffee in a quiet moment, a slice of birthday cake, the support of a friend, the glow of a candle, the hush of a new snow. Magic is all the time and everywhere; it’s simply a matter of keeping yourself open to the possibility of joy, and allowing yourself the freedom to feel it when it comes.
Stop sleeping. Become aware. Take down your Dementors. Slay your dragons. Dump the frogs. Wait for your prince. Kiss the princess. Fight the darkness. Believe impossible things…How could we ever have come to think the stories from our childhood were not the only stories that ever really mattered?
I leave you with possibily my favorite quote of all-time: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” –Albus Dumbledore