Fairies in Philly

I'm a big believer in fantasy. There's an old story...I'm not sure if it's true or not...but it's all about how a woman who worked with the physicist Albert Einstein wanted to get information about her son's educational career. She figured she'd go to the smartest guy on the planet and ask him how her son could become smart. So she asked him what he should be studying.

Einstein asked her what kind of career she was planning on for her son. She said particle physics, to which Einstein was very pleased. He told her the field was wide open and that if she wanted her son to do well she should give him lots of reading material like fairy tales. The woman said: “And what should he read after the fairy tales?” Einstein replied: “More fairy tales, of course.”

You see, he understood that while technical knowledge is extremely important, the greatest advances are made by the people who know how to imagine what is not visible. What is not apparent to everyone. In fact, the Theory of Relativity would have been impossible without that quality.

So I really do believe in the power of the fairy tale. To entertain us as well as to inspire. Whether it's inspiration to create or inspiration to preserve. To be an innovator or a hero. Whatever the case, the fantasy of fairy stories is exceptionally important.

Which is why I'm wholeheartedly supporting my wife tomorrow and taking her on a trip to FairyCon in Philadelphia. She's a sprite at heart, and to say that inspires me is an understatement. Such irrepressible energy is inherent to her, and the people like her who appreciate, dream up, and actively participate in the realm of the fairy tale.

Alas, I will never be elf-like. I'm a big galoot pushing six-foot-four with a large bushy beard and a barrel chest. Stick some glittery wings on me and it's going to look like a poor and corny joke rather than an amusing fashion statement. While elves and fairies can get away with wearing gossamer cloaks and circlets of silver wire I am prone to wearing woolen field-coats and big clunky boots.

I will never be part of that slender, lithe crew of fairies. I'm more like the woodsman. Gruff. Gritty. Clumsy. Lumbering through the forest with an axe in one hand and a knapsack over his shoulder. Perpetually snickered at by the graceful elves, an outsider to their lives.

But the woodsman isn't without purpose in fairy stories. He never seems to get lost any more than backtracking a few steps won't fix. He knows some good old-fashioned songs. And he always seems to show up at the right moment when the Big Bad Wolf is about to chow down on an innocent. And I can settle for that lot in my life. One of constancy. Someone to be relied on for the things he does well. Steady and solid as a tree, a ubiquitous if unfashionable character in a play meant for other people.

Yes, I can be content like that. Just so long as I have those stories and songs to spark my imagination and inspire me. There is the world that is, and the world that could be. It's not so bad to know your place in one, just so long as you work for the best of the other.

Uploaded 10/10/2008
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