Hi there. Nice to see you again.
Tell me: When was the last time you suspended disbelief? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be fully carried away into an idea, a feeling, a scene, a song, or a moment?
Most of us rarely let ourselves believe in magic. Most of us rarely let ourselves sacrifice reality for amusement.
I’ve always been a strange cross between Type A and soft-focused romantic, with plenty of “woo” factor. What is “woo”, you might ask? “Woo” is a belief in alternative healing, like Reiki and EFT. “Woo” means that you can describe what Reiki and EFT are. “Woo” means that your home smells like essential oils, that you’re “spiritual” but not religious, and that you appreciate a beautiful batik. Those are some of my woos at least.
It's a spectrum, of course. But, overall, I’ve noticed a slow personal trajectory away from the woo. I find myself rolling my eyes at phrases like "mind-body-spiritual-goddess self-love". Those are all well and good, but show me the numbers!
It’s strange, I’m not sure what it’s all about, and I don’t really like it. Luckily, I’m not a hardened cynic just yet: There’s still plenty of woo floating around in there. My soul still smiles at things like healing stones and rainsticks.
I will say that I greatly appreciated The Shape of Water, which I watched this past weekend. Describing it to my dad, I talked about the beauty of the story in that you somehow believe the bizarre love affair between the female protagonist and her Creature from the Black Lagoon.
My dad, ever the romantic, said, “Of course it works!” followed by some sweet, artist’s-mind reflection on how love is love, and then, finally, “You don’t really have to suspend disbelief.”
To which I replied, “Actually, that’s exactly what you have to do!”
And, for that, I was incredibly grateful. My time-managed, task-oriented brain needed a long walk through lavender fields that ended with a Mad Hatter tea party.
Suspending disbelief helps you think like a child, which can be a pretty magical mindset.
When it comes to holiday magic, I floated in my bubble of belief far longer than most. I attribute it in part on our rabbit-eared, “don’t move or the picture will go fuzzy” three-stations-on-a-good-day television, which forced me to watch primarily PBS until around the age of ten. I considered Mr. Rogers a friend, and I excitedly whisper-talked back to him as he sang, “Will you be my neighbor?”
I also attribute it to books like The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. (For all you parents out there, it’s a gem.)
I wholeheartedly believed not only in Santa Claus, but also in the Easter Bunny, until around age 12, a fact that continues to mystify. I’m quite sure that no one else my age believed so long in a jolly present man, or for that matter, a basket-carrying rabbit. But it never made me even slightly question my reality. If anything, I felt sad for them, because they no longer had such a happy bubble in which to float.
It was a magical time, and I lived in a happy, magical world of belief in things great and small where Santa wrote in curly red letters, Rudolph left bite marks on the carrot I left for him, and an Easter Bunny packed Elvis Presley cassette tapes into my basket (which he did when I was nine).
Suspending disbelief relieves you of the need for hard science, the need to prove and justify, by helping you let yourself be carried away into imagination.
When you believe, you usually don't have to try. It comes easily, and you feel it in your gut. Believing gives you a sense of hope and wonder, because you often can't describe exactly why you believe. All you know is that it feels better to believe than to not. In a way, it eases your mind.
That’s part of the magic of a film like The Shape of Water: You don’t really have to try very hard, as long as you go in with a suspension of disbelief from the beginning. You have to enter the story fully, with all of your mind and all of your heart, and leave reality behind.
When going in with this mindset, you might catch yourself zeroing in on reality during moments that defy science or logic. “That’s not realistic!” you think – before remembering where you are: Fully immersed in a magical world where nothing is realistic.
In my case, watching The Shape of Water, I thought, "Of course she can fill up a room with water and make out with her emotionally appealing fish-man! He has to breathe, after all! Good grief, woman. Get your head on straight."
Suspending disbelief helps you quiet all of the ongoing buzzing in your brain and all around you by pulling you into a simpler space.
It helps you practice creativity, and it helps you remember that magical things can happen – as long as your open to them. Plus, it feels really good. Therefore, it must release those feel-good endorphins, right?
So, you release the logical thought, and you choose instead to suspend yourself in the story – in my case, in the water, right alongside the fanciful lovers.
You choose to suspend yourself in disbelief.
Suspending disbelief keeps you clapping.
There was another piece: Being so accustomed to CGI, I had just assumed that the bizarre fish-man was CGI throughout most of the film. Therefore, learning that the creature was, in fact, a man in costume – complete with mechanically-operated gills – was yet one more layer of magic.
It was as if the Universe (yup, there’s that woo) was saying, “See? There’s still old-school magic left! Clap your hands if you believe!”
I clapped. And, when the film ended, I wondered why I hadn’t wandered so far into that bliss sooner. What a fun place to wander into.
I hope you’re clapping, too.
These days, it’s much easier to be a cynic, isn’t it? It’s harder to keep choosing the faith. But we need to.
We need to keep suspending disbelief – if only to remind ourselves that we still can.
This past weekend, a film reminded me that I need more magical thinking in my life. I'm working on that shift, and I'm working on catching myself when I fall too hard into the numbers and into the cynicism that modern culture breeds like flies.
There's plenty of room for numbers, for woo, and for pure and beautiful imaginative creations. And, of course, there's always room for love, in all of its forms.
What about you? Are you a believer? How do you keep the magic alive? And what stops you from suspending disbelief more often?
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.