A Touch of Magic

For the most part, Tumblr is just another thing that automatically posts links to my blog. I don’t really get Tumblr, I guess. But this morning during my usual blog-reading I followed a link to Trish Causey’s Tumblr and fell down a rabbit hole of beautiful pictures.

Some of those pictures have naked people, and some are explicitly sexual. Now you’re been warned and can’t blame me if you click on that link and get fired or have to answer awkward questions or break into a thousand tiny porcelain pieces from the shock of seeing an erect penis or something.

Somewhere, as I delved deep into that archive of neat pics, I saw things that made me think of magic.

I’ve already written about this at least a little, how in younger days I searched for the paranormal and wanted so badly to be able to cast spells. Eventually, as I looked farther and learned more, I came to see the world as a far more complicated place, filled with processes on unimaginable scales both large and small. Processes so intricate and complex that we assumed there must be minds behind them, for why else would a storm rampage through two cities then turn away from a third, or smallpox ravage a community ignoring only those who’d had cowpox?

As I came to accept that I’d never be a mysterious & powerful magician, no matter how good I look in black clothes & occult jewelry, I found myself in a strange paradox. Because in a lot of ways, this world of matter & energy is a better one than the world of spirits & magic I once searched for. While we are threatened by titanic forces in this world, often stranger and more terrifying than those found in the myths of old, there is no malice to them. Consider that a vaccine is an unthinkable thing in a world where spirits cause disease. We need not bargain with germs, and worry that they may break their word or weasel out of the deal.

Viewed as a mindless natural phenomenon, Hurricane Sandy is no less dangerous than it would be if it were the wrath of the gods, but we know that it isn’t personal. We know there’s no need to consult oracles to find out which gods are angry and why, and there’s no need to place blame. Some will regardless, of course.

But at the same time, there’s a sort of longing for such things. A feeling that a world without spirits & magic lacks mystery or romance somehow.

It’s almost funny, because in a very real way we have more mysteries than ever before, simply because before we didn’t know how much we didn’t know. But they don’t seem to count, somehow. Perhaps because the joy of a mystery is in the unraveling of it, and that’s now the domain of people who have spent years studying just to catch up with the story so far, so to speak, so that they know which mysteries are still relevant.

Compared to reading ancient tomes and consulting spirits summoned through an elaborate ritual, studying layers in ice core samples or the output of detectors in a particle accelerator seems almost painfully prosaic. What the material world lacks in high drama it more than makes up for in health and pleasure and standard of living, and yet we find ourselves yearning for that high drama. For a world that works like a story.

Of course that’s backwards, the stories work that way because we made the stories. But that’s the interesting part, and the wonderful part, because finding a world with no natural magic, we’ve gone on to create our own. We pack magic into every crevice of our lives, often not even noticing it.

It’s in the private joke that no one else can understand, or the way a picture painted a hundred years ago by someone who lived and died halfway around the world can make you think of your childhood. It’s in the way a ridiculous movie monster can still scare us, and then we deliberately watch the movies knowing that we’ll feel fear, because of it, even. It’s in the stray thought that makes you smile, that you couldn’t possibly explain to anyone else. It’s touching an eight-hundred year old stone wall and feeling a little thrill of connection to the people who built it, a tiny sense of contact across the centuries.

It’s a very human magic, recognizing that things won’t always be good, and that someday we all die, and eventually the Sun will go out and at some point there won’t be anyone left to remember us… but here and now we are alive.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on October 30, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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