The Magic of Downton Abbey

I’ve never been one to be so devoted to a TV show that I must drop everything and watch. In fact, I missed all the fervor on Facebook and elsewhere during the first four seasons of Downton Abbey.

But I was curious. So I downloaded the episodes to watch during my international travel last winter. And ended up hooked.

This past weekend, Dan and I have been cuddling up and watching all the episodes from the beginning. Again. And it’s like I was transported to another world, a better time.

There is something about the pre-World War I era – and the years that followed it, up until World War II – that offers a sense of magic and beauty of the world. The blush was off the rose with World War II and everything that came after, but there was still an air of innocence floating around the globe in the years before the Great War.

That is, I believe, the allure of Downton Abbey. The fifth season starts in the U.K. this coming Sunday, but not for us here in the U.S. until January. Bummer. I am so ready for the next plot lines, the continuation of story.

It’s like a good novel – a built-in vacation, a step out of your tangible world and all of its worries and ills and a step into someone else’s world. The journey of the voyeur is to coast along on the narrative and enjoy the dips and turns of the story.

Why can’t we do that in our own lives? We have highs and lows, we have emotional swells in both directions. And we take it like a punch to the gut.

Except none of it changes who we are at the core. The sudden sadness, the extreme happiness, a tender moment with my daughter, an argument between a teenager and a parent, none of it changes the core of our relationships or the trajectory of our lives. And yet we treat it as if that were the case.

We don’t do so when we are watching from the outside. We let the waves overtake us, as if that can shake the ultimate outcome of our lives. Or who we are.

I love the costumes of the time. The relationships – though many are methodical, not driven by love, but by status, money and reputation. Ultimately, as the seasons progress, romance does win out, and love.

The world changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes drastically in the other direction. And the running theme through it all is loyalty, depth and connection. The story of life.

There is a magic to this series that does not exist in most of the television selections available. So much is silly, surface. Not Downton. And not many of the PBS shows for our choosing. (I am partial to Mr. Selfridge, too.)

We can choose the influences around us, including our TV and books. We can choose to dabble in the stupid or dwell in the lofty. In everything we do. I feel so much better when I choose higher-grade stuff.

When I look at the world around us today, I fall into utter disbelief at the cruelty and ongoing conflict that pervades our globe. Forgive me for wanting to dip out of it for a while and linger in the illusion of story. It’s a saving grace, a promise of resolution.

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