To re-enchant the world implies that it has been disenchanted. The concept of disenchantment appears to have been coined by a turn-of-the-century German Sociologist named Max Weber, to express the loss of mystical, magickal, or religious worldviews in favor of purely scientific, mechanistic, and capitalistic worldviews.
While this is very appropriate for our time, it is not a new phenomenon. Over 200 years ago, the English poet William Wordsworth wrote
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
As an engineer I know the benefits of science and rationality very well. As a Unitarian Universalist I applaud the use of reason in religion (though that very same disenchantment is behind the fundamentalists’ insistence on a literal interpretation of scripture). As I’ve stated many times, I like living in our technologically advanced world with smartphones and hybrid cars and air conditioners and general anesthesia.But it’s not enough – we need to re-enchant the world. The question is how?
In an e-mail to fans of her band, Sharon says we need “a little more Harry Potter and a little less bank fraud.” She’s right – the arts play a huge part in re-enchanting the world. Books and movies and music allow us to travel through time and space, to bend the laws of Nature (but not the laws of human nature – that’s what makes good fiction so believable), and they show us what life could be like if we didn’t waste so much time “getting and spending.”
Spending time in Nature helps to re-enchant the world. The great outdoors is just as big and just as awesome as it was when you were seven or eight or nine. There are adventures to be had in your back yard, messages in the clouds and stars and wisdom in the trees. Getting outside is the easiest, simplest, and cheapest way to put a little magic back in your life.
Re-enchant the world by doing some enchanting. I don’t talk a lot about spells and charms and potions, mainly because my practice is primarily religious, not magical. But folks, magic works. Sometimes it works by changing your circumstances. Sometimes it works by changing you. Sometimes it works in ways you wish it wouldn’t – in the words of Stephen Sondheim, “wishes come true, not free.” Magic is no substitute for hard work… but hard work is no substitute for magic. Do both.
We cannot and should not deny reality and live in an imaginary world – remember Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised. There are things that must be done. Do them. But don’t let them eat up your whole life.
Keep an eye out for Proteus rising from the sea, and listen for Triton blowing his horn.