I saw the big-screen adaptation of “Into The Woods” over the holidays. I loved the interweaving of the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, each tale representing a quest for something enchanted: magic beans, golden eggs or glass slippers.
Why do we love these stories so much? Why do series like “Once Upon a Time” and the Harry Potter chronicles still fascinate us, satisfying our desire to see and know something beyond what we see and know?
David Rose of the MIT Media Lab and author of “Enchanted Things” believes that these stories speak to our deepest longings (such as immortality, omniscience, telepathy and safekeeping) and often portray items that can offer such gifts. Then he points to the “internet of things” as the potential fulfillment of such longings. The “internet of things” refers to the Internet’s next big wave: the intelligent connection of people, processes, data and devices. By 2020, there could be 50 billion products connected to the Internet. Cars will locate parking spaces for drivers, tennis shoes will send text messages when they’re wearing out and trash cans will give verbal affirmation when one eats organic or produces less waste. In this future, Rose believes that such “enchanted items” will carry something of a sense of magic, allowing us to do things as never before and satisfy our deepest desires.
I get that his take on technology may be a bit embellished to help us see the value of such items and to dream how such products can make our lives better. But will we ever discover “enchantment” in a “thing”? No.
The tech items that impress us today won’t impress us next year. Many products, such as step trackers, get our bodies in shape but will never create wonder beyond our initial fascination with their capabilities. One can take ten thousand steps and miss a thousand wonders along the way.
Enchantment, or that which brings a sense of “magic” to our eyes, still finds its greatest reservoir in three areas: human relationships, a sense of purpose and a connection to the Divine.
Human relationships offer security, maturity and hope. A sense of purpose offers meaning and a belief that we are making a difference. Our connection with the Divine, however we may conceive that relationship, offers a linkage to ultimate things, peace with our own mortality and help in troubled times. The quest for these three, with passion and abandon, creates a lifesource of enchantment within.
Along the way, we do collect some enchanted items: a family quilt, a grandmother’s well-worn BIble, or some other treasure that may be worthless to others, but one that we hold as precious. What makes these items enchanted is the story they tell, the relationship they represent or the meaning they carry.
So in a way, I believe in enchanted things and I believe in the possibility of an enchanted life. I guess you could say that I believe the fairy tales.