I still believe in magic.
Maybe it started a little over a decade ago, when my friend Micah and I decided to throw a magic show for our parents on his birthday. Micah loved magic, and I've always had an affinity toward performing, so we made a good duo.
To me, real magic isn't these tricks and feats. Instead, it's what happens when you get lost in a book, or spend a whole weekend binging on a TV show on Netflix. It's the feeling at a concert when everyone's singing the same song and you feel like you know the hundreds or thousands of strangers in the room with you.
Take a trip over to Neyland Stadium or Thompson-Boling and tell me that's not magic.
Take movies. You go to a theater, the room darkens and for two hours you experience someone else's life and feel someone else's emotions. Movies, music and books change people's lives. What else should we call that?
In his play/movie "Shadowlands," William Nicholson chronicles the life of C.S. Lewis, the Oxford academic and author of the "Narnia" series. In the screenplay, Nicholson gives Lewis' character the most famous line—"We read to know that we're not alone."
What's hilarious and ironic about this line is people now (mis)attribute the quotation to Lewis himself. But in a way, this affirms the idea behind the now famous quotation. When we read stories, or watch movies, the characters become real — real enough to remind us we're not alone and to believe the character of C.S. Lewis is the same as the real guy.
The moment I realized this was magic was when I was reading Michael Chabon's 2000 novel, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." I picked it up because it won the Pulitzer and was famous and respected and other bogus hipster stuff.
But as I read, I began to realize this was a special book. It had one thing to say — we all need to escape sometimes. The main characters, a pair of poor Jewish boys in the early 1940s, need to escape from a number of things — Nazism, the Bronx and adolescence. The way they do that is by writing a comic book hero aptly named The Escapist.
As the novel goes on, the kids grow up and become successful and romantically involved and find themselves. But Chabon doesn't leave it at that. He shows that for all our lives — whether good or bad — we're trapped. Trapped in broken bodies, or slow minds. Trapped in crappy circumstances and bad memories.
We're trapped in ourselves, unable to really think or experience or feel from anyone else's perspective.
I've written before about that story and how it is inseparably linked to humanity. But stories are also just plain magic. They absorb us, even if just for 30 minutes when the latest episode is on TV. They let us feel what others feel, and show us how to grow up. Perhaps most important of all, they let us escape.
Being a snob about music and movies and all of that, I often rail on "escapism" as a pretty crappy form of art. Some of it is (ahem, John Grisham), but sometimes we don't need art. We need escape.
I'll wrap up with a quote from Kavalier & Clay, talking about how comic books (and entertainment in general) were despised for being just a means to escape— "As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life."
Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.