In The Light Princess by George MacDonald, a 1864 Scottish fairy tale, a young princess is cursed by her witch aunt because of a blunder by her king father. The result of the curse is the princess goes throughout life lacking gravity. A mere gust of wind sends her to the heavens. Only the last minute effort of a careful courtier saves the princess from a slight push in the wrong direction. The loss of gravity includes more than physics. The princess can take nothing serious. She laughs at the pain of others. She laughs at her own plight. Well, she laughs about everything.
The sages of her land work hard to detect a cure. Some suspect genuine grief or tears might be her salvation. Others suspect true love. The narrator explains, however,
“Perhaps the best thing for the princess would have been to fall in love. But how a princess who had no gravity could fall into anything is a difficulty—perhaps THE difficulty.”
Even honest to goodness joy seems impossible, for the girl who laughs about everything can never really comprehend when something is truly joyous. Worse yet, the princess would have had to take a break from her frivolity in order to be shocked by intense pleasure. MacDonald explains why this never occurs by observing, “Perhaps that was because a great pleasure spoils laughing.”
We live in a world as desperate for gravity as the “light” princess. Cynicism rules the day. We are so busy mocking every person, institution, and human experience that we do not have time to stop laughing and experience true joy. We cannot cry at natural disasters or the shame of high profile figures because we would have to turn off the comedy and pause to contemplate. Why be sober when you can be silly? Why mourn when late-night television allows us to chuckle?
Come to find out the world’s diversions have actually diverted us away from reality. We are drifting without an anchor in a wake of diversions. There is no North Star. We have cursed ourselves without gravity, and are too busy laughing to see we have floated beyond the atmosphere into a sea of false tranquility. Is there a way to come back to earth?