The other day, I did something described as ‘so silly’.
I was passing through Paris, arriving in the afternoon, and leaving the next morning on an early Eurostar.
The train was due to leave Paris around about the time boulangeries open, and get into London around the time people have breakfast at their office desk.
So I messaged a friend I knew would be working in central London: ‘Fancy croissants for breakfast tomorrow?’
‘You’re so silly for doing this.’
The world can be a very prosaic place. It is full of offices and commutes and the tiresome effort of staying alive: breathing, eating, sleeping.
There is very little magic, it seems, in day-to-day life. We don’t expect it, so it never comes.
What do I mean by ‘magic’? I mean those moments when the world seems bigger and more connected than it ordinarily does.
Magic imbues the world with meaning where before there was none. And who doesn’t want to live in a world suffused with magic and meaning?
When you notice the size of the moon, when you write someone a letter, when you hand-deliver croissants from Paris.
This is magic.
It’s different for everyone, but you know magic when you feel it. There are other words we could use: ‘romantic’ is another good one, but that gets confused in our heads with sexual objectives.
Young children rarely see much that is unmagical, but for us adults, the world is often stripped bare like the lighting in our most ghastly supermarkets.
The world has been unmagicked. And by whom? All by ourselves.
It’s a shame because magic costs so little. As any child will tell you, the only obstacle to magic and the only limitation on your spell-casting is in the vigour of your imagination.
We get out of the habit of casting spells, so our imagination dullens, and we miss the opportunities for magic that are all around us.
What did it cost me to cast the spell of croissants for breakfast? Almost nothing; only the exercise of a little imagination.
The boulangerie was on my way to the train station. I was second in line after it opened. Not knowing how many people my friend worked with, I bought five croissants and paid an extra ten centimes for a sturdier paper bag to protect them on the journey.
Then I caught the Eurostar and fell asleep. I woke up two hours later in London. I picked up my bags and took the Underground two stops.
As I walked the eight minutes to my friend’s office, the rain fell in a drizzle. It was refreshing after a month of continental baking. I arrived at 8.50, ten minutes before my friend was due. I read the last pages of my book.
Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate. Adventures do occur, but not punctually.
― E.M. Forster, A Passage to India
She arrived. I handed over the croissants. She smiled. I walked to catch another train, to catch another few hours’ sleep.
The world desperately needs remagicking, but we forget that we are the magi.
Ingredients for spell-casting:
- It takes practice and a little imagination to spot opportunities for magic, but they are all around, all the time.
- We need audacity and courage to step outside of the limitations of self-imposed adulthood.
- Magic is founded on delighted surprise and the joyful unexpected. Or silliness.
- You’ll need empathy and thoughtfulness so your spell makes the kind of magical connection you want.
‘You’re a legend in my office now.’