“Willful Suspension of Disbelief”

One of my favorite English teachers said this in class about reading good books and seeing good movies. I had not heard the phrase “willful suspension of disbelief” until that time. It means knowing that what you’re seeing or reading isn’t real, but just allowing yourself to relax into the fantasy and enjoy that time out of reality.

I love all of the Harry Potter books and movies. I know that the kind of magic in them isn’t real (or IS it?), but I am too involved in the story or movie to care. Reading a good book or seeing a movie that you just love does wonders for us. They can take us away from the humdrum and worries of daily living.

Who wouldn’t love to fly like Peter Pan, or perform wonderful spells like Harry Potter, or meet the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland? We know that we can’t do all these things in real life, but isn’t it fun to imagine that we can?

When my granddaughter, Ava, was about three years old, I gave her a pair of gauzy green fairy wings. There were elastic cords that kept them on her back, and Ava loved them. She had heard of pixie dust from one of her Disney shows, so each time she wanted to fly with her new wings, she would shout “pixie dust–AWAYYY!” And her dad would pick her up and “fly” her around the room.

She would shriek with laughter, yelling “I fwying! I FWYING!!!”

Now THAT’S “willful suspension of disbelief.” I recommend it highly. It’s a whole lot more fun than interrupting a good read or a good movie by constantly muttering, ‘this wouldn’t happen in REAL life!’ Well, of course it wouldn’t, but for a few precious hours, whom does it hurt?

When I was in grade school, I was crazy about horses. I had a collection of plastic horses that I loved. One of them, a caramel-colored horse with a black mane and tail, was my favorite. I named him Shamus, and he could fly. He was my constant companion, and we flew many times together into many magical lands. We saw the pyramids, the “*great grey-green greasy Limpopo River,” elephants in India, huge whales in the ocean, dinosaurs, giants, fairies, and visited many magical places.

When my family moved to a new house, the box Shamus was in was lost. In fact, my entire horse collection was lost. But I never lost my imagination. Many times to this day, I feel Shamus with me; I cling to his night-black mane, and he tells me in horse-language what adventure we are off to this time.

The willful suspension of disbelief can be pure magic if you let it.

*From the “Just So” Stories by Rudyard Kipling.


2 thoughts on ““Willful Suspension of Disbelief”

  1. pamkirst2014 says:

    I’m imagining how big the loss of that box must have been to you! But I love that you can still cling to Shamus’s mane…

  2. Jodi says:

    such wonderful magic!

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