Written by Derek Scott Keys and clocks, lamps and brooms, these are but simple, ordinary, commonplace items. Why the fascination with them? Why do many of our great stories imbue these objects with the most fascinating traits? Take, for example, the classic tale of Aladdin, a story that follows a lowly street rat and his discovery of a magical lamp and flying carpet. By themselves these two items are nothing more than mere dust collectors, undeserving of much attention, and yet with the magic given them, have instead captivated audiences with their thrilling intrigue.
And this phenomenon of turning quite mundane objects into items of awe is not new in the least. From Plato’s magical Ring of Gyges in the Republic, to the alchemic Hand of Midas in Arabian Nights, to C.S. Lewis’ enchanted wardrobe, and all the poisoned apples, talking mirrors, and magic beans in between the great epics and fairytales of all time have consistently gripped us with fantastically plain objects.
As I stepped back and thought about these objects, I first considered the possibility that perhaps we generally pick them because they provide us with a place to fulfill our intrigue and creativity; that in the pouring out of our ideas, we give shape to our passions and fancies.
Of course, one must not forget that the objects we pick do in fact possess roles in the commonplace, which in turn play a part in our choosing them. For instance, a key is meant to unlock something and a mirror finds its importance in providing a reflection. Staircases lead to doors and doors to rooms. In and of themselves these items do not mean much, however, the moment you add a pinch of the unbelievable into the picture, these things come alive with excitement. The mirror now reflects envied beauty, the stairs go on forever, and the glass slippers hold onto a frail promise of marriage and happiness.
The more I considered it, though, the less I began to think these stories’ objects were solely chosen to provide a container for our mysteries. I think there is something more to it than that.
The answer, I believe, lies not in man’s need to find a fill-able hollow, but rather in his desire to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. And of all the ordinary things out there, the most intriguing object to us is ourselves. We are the wannabe heroes, knights, and rescuers. We are the hopefuls wishing we received our invitations to Hogwarts. We are the ones wishing we could fly, stop time, and disappear. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t think it is absurd to think that people want to be unique, even better.
Now often such desires to be more can in fact be founded in our own insecurities and fears, but below all of that, I believe that there does in fact exist in each of us something greater than the commonplace, a thread woven through our very being.
A long time ago, humanity was entirely that, extraordinary. Though we were made creatures of the created order, we at the same time were also given divine life by God who made each person after His own image. Following His design, what made us unique from the commonplace was to be our resemblance to Him. And though we fell into the stained black uniformity of sin, that memory of what once has since remained. God, refusing to let His image in us perish into nothingness, held on, and through his victory on the cross, has been taking back what’s rightfully His. His desire to renew us and make us beautiful and marvelous once more echoes loudly in our souls and though we may not realize it, spills over into our own love of the ordinary we see everyday.
And so as we continue to read our stories of magical rings of power, or of a flower’s juice that inspires love, may we remember but one thing: that the desire to make the commonplace special comes from a desire not of our own. As we look down on things below, may we take a glimpse upwards to the above, to God, who desires the same thing of ourselves: to make the imperfect, perfect; and the ordinary, extraordinary.