My four year-old nephew was over recently and immediately drawn to the tower of books in my living room. He was amazed at how high the books were piled and his parents marveled at how sturdy the books seemed.
I said, "Hey let me show you something." I brought him over close to the tower and kneeled down to his level next to it. "Look, you can take a book out without the whole stack collapsing." He looked at me with wide eyes; even at age four he understands gravity.
I suggested he try and pull out a book. He leaned into the stack and slowly pulled out a thin blue volume, waiting for the books to tumble. They held their position, as if suspended in air.
"It's magic!" he screamed, "It's magic!"
He was so excited he did a little marching dance in place - his whole body shaking with delight. He was suspended momentarily, like the books, in the wonder.
He paused a beat and then his hungry little mind started to explore. He poked at the books, his eyes greedy for the cause. He wasn't content with the magic, he had to understand how it worked.
Within 30 seconds he figured out the stack of books was in fact a book shelf with metal sleeves that were shallow enough and spaced so it gave the illusion of a tower of books with no support.
"There's metal," he said. "That's how the books stay up."
He turned, his curiosity satisfied, and switched his attention to other matters.
I re-shelved the book he had extracted and smiled. Mystery solved. But in the weeks since, I keep visiting that moment in my mind. The moment he shrieked, "It's magic."
The purity of his belief, the surprise and wonderfulness of it - the possibilities. His pure joy at the idea of something magical. And my joy at witnessing his experience.
I long for that feeling myself. Not just the unexplainable, but the unexplainably good. Where has the magic gone?