When I think about the future I want, I use my imagination a fair bit. I have a lot to draw on because the imaginal cells of what’s to come are already here. I am not expecting any magi to show up and hand over their gifts. Instead I trust my inner mage to recognize and amplify images of this magical future.
Is this fantasy?
Word origins are fun to explore — not to tangle us up in definitions but to illuminate the trail of breadcrumbs that came before, so we can double back sometimes to make sure we haven’t lost our way.
For instance, if you double back to the first paragraph above you’ll see I used six words that contain the same root — mag — the meaning of which comprises a heady combination of “ability”, “wisdom”, and “greatness”. The word “power” gets thrown in there, too.
Seeds becoming plants have been modeling this magic for billions of years. The acorn is the oak. It seems fantastical, but it is just basic magic.
An acorn is, literally, magic. It contains the ability — aka the coded plant-wisdom — to become the greatness that is an oak. That little capped nut has the power to become a mighty tree. That is all magic is: an innate potential to become much more.
Whereas fantasy is about making things visible. This can be from our imaginations. And it can be wise and great. But it doesn’t have to be tethered to anything at all. It just has to be visible. It can be completely invented — as long as we can see it, fantasy “exists”.
Rainbow is magic, unicorn is fantasy
Why does this distinction matter? It matters because when we hear huge ideas about radical change, the response is sometimes a disparaging, “This is all rainbows and unicorns”. As in, it’s…