“If there’s no practical difference, there’s no difference;” this was my pragmatist motto by the tender age of 17. Yet, through a series of fortunate events, I found myself just five years later slipping into the least pragmatic of places: fairyland. How did it happen?
One afternoon, in my search for fresh streets, streets I had never visited, something happened. One moment, I was in my workaday world and the next, I was in fairyland. A glimpse of a troll would not have surprised me. What happened in the intervening years? With the help of G. K. Chesterton, I realized that we live in fairyland.
The first hitch in my budding pragmatism came during engineering school. I decided to study engineering for the noble and honorable reason that I breathed math like a fish breathes water. At engineering school, however, I ran into creatures stranger than any troll and more mysterious than any unicorn: my fellow students. I found them saying things like, “I want to study engineering so I can make a lot of money.”
At engineering school, however, I ran into creatures stranger than any troll and more mysterious than any unicorn: my fellow students.
At first, my pragmatic retort was, “There are many professions which make more money, why not study one of them? Secondly, why money?”
This was the first instance where I found that the elves were right, and that my classmates were wrong. The elves know that things are worth doing because they are worth doing; not even trolls try to justify coming out and eating whoever passes over their bridge for some pragmatic end. Trolls eat people that pass over bridges because that’s what trolls do. Bacteria multiply because that is their purpose — to multiply. Hamsters run on wheels because it is the joy to do so. Engineers do engineering because they like making stuff. My pragmatism was cracking.
The second blow occurred my senior year of college. In accord with age-old tradition and habit, all the college seniors were freaking out about what they were going to do next year. Who was I to reject decades of ritual and convention? I joined in with great fervor, but I discovered something troubling inside myself. I found that I had no desire to pursue employment as an engineer. It is hard to convey how much horror this discovery brought to my pragmatic self. It is like biting into a delicious, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, only to realize that the “chocolate chips” are actually raisins. My confidence in pragmatism was shaken; if I can’t even get a degree and a job in that field, what good is pragmatism?
Bacteria multiply because that is their purpose — to multiply. Hamsters run on wheels because it is the joy to do so. Engineers do engineering because they like making stuff.
The final blow occurred soon after graduation. Without quite realizing how, I found I was staffing for Worldview Academy. I walked onto a plane, and ended up in fairyland. It was as if all the words of the Bible were magic spells, and I had found the land where they had their effect. “Readers are leaders,” proclaimed one that looks a bit like Yoda. The speakers awakened desires that I had forgotten — desires to read, see, taste and touch — flickering snapshots of what, in essence, it means to be human. I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude. I was thankful that I got to even visit such a place on holiday; grateful that such a place exists. If everything suddenly seemed magical, it was only because everything is magic, and it if is magic, there must be a Magician.
My dreary days of pragmatism were shattered by a brief venture into fairyland. Engineering school, ironically, taught me the ironic impracticality of pragmatism. Worldview Academy taught me the glories of fairyland. The fact is, God has made a strange and magical world for us. The world is full of things that exist but look like they shouldn’t, like rhinoceroses. The world is full of riotous tastes and wonderful smells for us to enjoy. Reality is stranger than any fiction and wilder than any fairy tale.