I posted a bit ago about being surprised that so many parents are somewhat depressed when their children stop believing in Santa. They say that their children 'need that magic.' It's a phrase I hear often but never quite understood. I've been thinking about it recently and wonder if I have part of the answer.
When these parents use magic, they seem to mean innocence. Innocence from suffering, innocence from limitations, freedom from the restrictions of reality. I think this 'magic' may be tied into a parental sadness that their children are eventually going to have to become adults, with all that entails. Such as recognizing that they may not be able to fly, or that wishes cannot come true just because you want them. For parents who believe that humans are flawed or unworthy in some way, whether due to religion--where we are constantly battling our 'base' desires--or even environmentalism, where every human is a blight on the Earth and we are then sinful in a secular way for destroying the 'intrinsic' value of the natural world, it means their children are going to have to come to grips with being a negative thing or at least always having to battle being bad in some way.
I think this is also parent's recognizing that their children will not believe something just because someone else says it's true (they themselves are looking for physical proof) or that they have discovered that the fiction that they did believe was made up. That goes right to the idea of an unwavering acceptance of a God or any other mystical force (can anyone say 'The Secret' or New Age beliefs). If one begins to think of Santa as a bit of a testing ground for faith, belief not just above what you know, but despite it, of course the discovery that Santa is not real would be a sad time in the life of those parents.
On a positive note about 'magic', everyone wants their children to feel powerful and capable. Some people think that can only be accomplished through magic. I disagree. I empower my children by helping them recognize their own powers--of reason and being able to do things with it. That is why the discovery that there was no Santa was a great game in our family and greeted with joy--it was like a mystery that Hanover could solve and feel accomplished in the doing of it.
Given my positive view of mankind, no wonder I don't feel my kids need any kind of magical thought. What do we have to escape from? That people can't fly on their own? We made airplanes so now we can. That people can't appear instantly in a place? That would be great. Perhaps they can study science and be the first to do it. That people can't travel through time? Well, we can't, but isn't it wonderful to imagine what it would be like?
Mankind is wonderful! We have a government of hundreds of millions of people where we discuss problems and use reason to convince others of our points, instead of violence. That is a fabulous creation of mankind, even if I don't agree with some of the laws passed. We have developed methods of farming that allows for so much food to be produced that some people think we produce too much. Humans have discovered a way to allow millions of people to live on a small island! They discovered a way to build skyscrapers and actually did it. We have walked on the moon. We have explored the outer reaches of our solar system. We have ideas that explain huge swaths of physical phenomenon. We can have fertile golf courses in the middle of a desert--uninhabitable land until we developed it. We don't just survive, we thrive.
I know that there are going to be people saying, 'yeah, but we killed people in the past and still have wars,' or 'what about slavery,' or 'we're exploiting the earth,' or 'insert generic complaint here.' Especially silly are those who think humans are so powerful we could make the planet uninhabitable and yet, if we're so damned powerful, how come we couldn't come up with a technological solution? I say that those people have a very limited view. That there are bad things does not make humankind bad. We've come a long way, baby.