Rainbows, yes. Unicorns, no.

Bring on the magic, let go of the fantasy, notice the difference

B. Lorraine Smith
6 min readNov 2, 2022


Rainbow does not equal Unicorn. (Art by me.)

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…



Between Heresy and a Hard Place

4 min read

Jun 4

Rethinking our Roman peace with Boudica and Manda Scott

66 min read

Mar 11

Treeplanting: As Unsustainable As Sustainability

8 min read

Jan 17

I don’t know how to do this

4 min read

Nov 22, 2022

What should I eat?

4 min read

Oct 17, 2022

When Online Dating Meets Economic Transformation

9 min read

Aug 26, 2022

Money Can’t Buy Reality

5 min read

Aug 30, 2022

The Meaning of Life is Not 42

6 min read

Aug 23, 2022

Three ways you can stop corporate climate insanity

9 min read

Jul 16, 2022

Why I Wish I’d Followed My Instincts As a Climate Denier

8 min read

Jul 14, 2022

B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at https://blorrainesmith.substack.com/