Defying gravity

In the air
Is a world of my dreams,
A story come true

Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson

Imagine living your life with the feeling of weightlessness. Imagine floating gently with the breeze, moving with softness and ease. Imagine this is how you live your life, with little ability to bring yourself down from the clouds.

George MacDonald, a Scottish author, published his fairytale The Light Princess in 1864. This fairytale weaves together fantasy, science and witchcraft and tells the story of a princess who is cursed to have no gravity. Living her life like a balloon floating in the breeze, the Princess does not have gravity to weigh down her body, nor her soul. She has no empathy or understanding of emotions, never cries and never thinks seriously on a topic – this may very well have been the introduction of the term “head in the clouds”.

The Princess does have a favourite lake where she loves to swim. This seems to be the only time gravity returns for her. One evening as she’s swimming, a Prince passes by and believing she’s drowning, he attempts to rescue her. In doing so, he falls in love with her but of course it’s not reciprocated as the Princess is incapable of being serious or feelings.

The twist in this fairytale is the character Makemnoit (who happens to be the Princess’ aunt) finds out about the Princess’ love for the lake and further curses her – she empties the lake. It was Makemnoit who cursed the Princess in the first place, all because her brother the King overlooked sending her an invitation to the Princess’ christening.

The lake can be refilled but only if a man is brave enough to give his life and plug the hole with his body. Naturally, out of love, the Prince obliges and sacrifices himself so the Princess can continue to swim in the lake. However, it’s this selfless act of love that sees the Princess’ curse broken – she sees the Prince drowning, she becomes upset and pulls him out. The next morning when he wakes, she’s so happy he has regained consciousness that she’s filled with joy and love.

There are a number of lessons we can learn from this fairytale, with a couple of them being perfect reminders given the events happening around us.

Lesson 1: ground yourself

With so much disruption happening and how we live, work and play changing on an almost daily basis, we really need to ground ourselves and reconnect. It’s important we remember to feel, to be empathetic to others and understand our own emotions. We can get swept up into the sky and quickly forget those emotions and thoughts that help keep us grounded.

Lesson 2: face what you need to

Floating away from the reality of something, escaping or avoiding what it is you need to address or do, well this isn’t going to help you at all. We all want to be effective, whether that be at work or at home; however we need to be self aware of that split second moment when we could float off into nothingness.

It’s a little like being a helium balloon trapped in a box; as soon as the lid is opened, you’re off into the clouds to drift wherever the breeze takes you. It’s a fine balance to understand the feeling of gently pushing against the box lid wanting to escape, yet being contained. Being contained within the box means you can still be serious and focus on what you need to.

Lesson 3: reconnect

In a May post, The Tunnel of Love, we explored the need to break the crystal tunnel connecting lovers and how this was a good analogy during the initial phases on the pandemic situation. The Light Princess now gives us another analogy that’s perfect for what many of us are currently experiencing – reconnection.

For a few months many of us have distanced ourselves from family, friends and work colleagues, but in doing so, we’ve also retreated into a place of social isolation. We’ve lived with an emotional distance, however the longer the pandemic goes on the more effort we need to make to reconnect with people and with our emotions. It may even be that reconnecting with emotions means finding our ‘normal’ state again in an effort to keep ourselves grounded. Remembering of course reconnecting may have through technology rather than in person.

Lesson 4: creativity

This isn’t strictly a lesson from the fairytale, rather from the author. It is said that George MacDonald was a major influence in literature, including of authors Lewis Carroll, J. M. Barrie, Mark Twain, L. Frank Baum and J. R. R. Tolkien just to name a few.

What do all these authors have in common? They’ve written some of the most celebrated fantasy adventure literature – everything from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and more. Stories that weave science, magic, imagination, fantasy and in some cases nonsense together. After reading the fairytale The Light Princess you can start to understand where some of this creativity may have sparked from.

For a more modern age, this fairytale inspired musician Tori Amos to write the music and lyrics for an adaptation of the story for musical theatre. A creative musician, seems only fitting for this story to be the influence and to introduce this quirky little fairytale to a whole new audience.

Being inspired to be creative can come from the oddest of places, most unexpected people, dreams, conversations, observations or just about anything. You may even be the creative inspiration for someone else.

It’s really whether you’re grounding yourself to be open to the possibilities to be creative, or remaining airborne and weightless whilst floating right past, or if you’re the gravity grounding someone else so they can be effective and creative.

Which do you choose to be?

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