Eden Scrafford, '20

When I was five years old, I got into a heated argument with another little girl. The debate was on the existence of fairies. When the preschool teacher intervened, she sided with the other girl and promptly told me that “There is no such thing as fairies.” I must have cried, I was a lot tougher as a kid — wouldn’t even wince at doctor shots — but I know that I must have cried then, because no one, in my half-dozen years had ever told me that something I believed in with every fiber of my being wasn’t true.

When I told my mom what happened she told me that there were some people in the world who just didn’t believe or didn’t want to believe. Then she told me about how her and her grandmother Opal used to track fairies: “If you look really closely on the tops of mushroom caps you can see their footprints.” To this day my mother refuses to tell me that anything doesn’t exist. I would love to ask her why, but whenever I try she immediately catches on and asks if I’m implying that those things aren’t real. I am 17 years old and she is determined to preserve all of the childhood beliefs I ever had.

It’s been 12 years since the fairy incident and—apart from the fact that I’m nearly 3ft taller—I can’t say I’ve grown up much. I was one of those kids that vowed never to grow up, an oath that was 100% inspired by my childhood hero. If I had a bad day, I would fall asleep staring out my bedroom window at the stars, hoping that it would finally be the night I could fly off to Neverland. I didn’t want all of the responsibilities of the grown-up world, I heard words like “job” and thought of the mundane life of an accountant or banker, a fate I was determined to prevent at all costs. My sister wanted to play school and I detested it. I had nothing against education, but I didn’t want to sit in a small wooden chair and watch her write the alphabet on a chalkboard. I wanted to play hide-n’-seek in a garden that was too small to provide any actual cover. I wanted to sword fight with every stick, switch, ruler, rod, and cane I could get my hands on. I wanted to search for Narnia behind every single door I saw. I still do, and can you blame me? What if the next time I went to grab my leather jacket from the closet I grip a snowy tree branch instead? What if the next time I jump I stay off the ground? What if the next mail load contains my long lost Hogwarts acceptance letter?

It is not likely in the least, but it wouldn’t be very much fun to brand it as impossible. Kids have the right idea, some call it being gullible or naive, but they see the world in a way that is beautiful and full of magic. They don’t think of the worst possible outcome for every situation. They don’t want to sleep because the world is so vast and full of wonder they don’t want to miss a single second and at one point or another they all outgrow it. That is the moment I would consider to be the end of childhood, the day when dreams become more appealing than the world around you. That’s how you know the rose-tinted glasses are gone. All magic and wonder either drained away or used up.

Imagine, if you will, two children lying down in a field staring at a summer sky. One of them points upwards and exclaims “That one looks like a dragon!” The other, following his friend’s gaze, objects to the statement and argues that it is instead a pirate ship. The two bicker for some time and ultimately consult a passerby for a third opinion. Their judge: an elderly man out for a prescribed stroll. He dismisses their “childish antics” as rubbish and informs them that the thing in the sky is simply a cloud. A formation of water vapor that lacks in both life and tangibility. His lecture is coupled with his cane gesturing overhead and delivered without a single glance upward. Had they caught him on a good day he might have been inclined to indulge them or at least cast his gaze towards the sky, but since not, he continues about on his gloomy way. All the while grumbling about having been disturbed for such an insignificant matter.

They stop for a moment to watch him leave in silence, but as soon as he rounds the block they resume their bickering. It never really mattered what he told them, he could have sided with either and the other would still not have been swayed. Belief is stubborn.  At this point, all arguments are invalid because the cloud has dissipated. Besides, who is to say that the wings of a dragon cannot also be the sails of a pirate ship, or that the figurehead at the vessel’s bow is not a dragon head? Perhaps the first kid was fascinated by mythology and fairytales, and the second was in love with the sea. They saw and believed what they wanted to. We all do. If I told you that the pair remained lifelong friends; that the first became a fantasy novelist and the second an oceanographer; that they meet up as often as possible to just sit in a field and look at clouds—you would believe me. And if I told you the last sentence was a lie; that they drifted apart over the years; that one died young and the other grew bitter; that, when he was approached on the street by a young group of friends asking him if that cloud up there was a duck or a rabbit, he scorned them for being foolish and naive—you would hate me for it. So, believe the first one, there is no realistic or logical reason to believe either—this tale could be but a mere fabrication, a selfish invention designed to support my authorial claim—but there is nothing to stop you from believing it anyway.

Belief is not about what can be proven, belief is not about who’s right. Belief isn’t even about what’s real or what’s true. The concept of truth is one that is too commonly associated with fact to define belief and by the words of yet another fictional hero of mine: “Just ‘cause something isn’t true is no reason to not believe in it.”

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love…true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.” — Hub McCann, Second-Hand Lions

Belief is completely intertwined with everything, yet the concept itself is commonly overlooked or forgotten. Belief  — or lack thereof — in a higher power is religion, held so close to some people’s hearts that wars have been waged over it. Some believe that they are so insignificant and don’t matter one bit, and that idea alone ended their lives. Some people believe that everything will be alright, and that’s enough to get them through the day. With that in mind, it is impossible to deem belief as anything other than powerful. Whether it’s believing in fairies or believing in yourself. We believers, dreamers, and optimists are armed with an impenetrable shield. Others say it’s foolish and naive, and it probably is, but—for those of us who choose to see good, beauty, and magic in everything—it’s hope.