I'm always intrigued by the mystical "I" things--incense, incantation, inward directedness. I once went to a rather high Anglican church service in England at Wakefield Cathedral, where the fellow wore a giant mitre and the incense wafted from swinging swing-things. I read about automatic writers and mystical, short-lived opium-laced mendicants, gifted in sketching and witty phrases, thirteensomes of Edwardian magicians and frenzied diarists. That sense that everything has treble meanings, and yet ends badly--I do not regret that my life lacks much of that.
When I was young, magic was spelled without a "k". There was magic in all sorts of curious places. The hallway doorknob caught the glow of a distant street light, and a demon's face appeared. I could fall asleep and dream of flight. I could imagine that I heard thoughts. I could send a kite aloft, and watch it flutter, miles away.
This kind of magic was practical magic, rather more like the hobbit magic in the Tolkien books than the
movie magic with Sandra Bullock in it. I've always valued those non-magic but magical-seeming skills, like woods lore and that deep intuitive sense--I know this feeling, I know this place.
It's now a science fiction truism that technology mimics magic--the notion of the "techno mage" has now descended from novel to nearly trite. But when I open my personal book of Life, then what if no incantations are present? What if I cannot summon thunder with my fingertips? What if I'm not fated to move mountains, or draw blood with a scratch of my palm, and see the future open before my eyes? What if that thing I see when I close my eyes is the inner portion of my eyelids? Why is it important to move mountains, when merely obtaining enough faith to fill a mustard seed would be Heaven enough?
"I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, 'What can get through from such snares?' Then I heard a voice saying to me, 'Humility'."--St. Anthony the Great.
I'm intrigued by the need to be special. I have a fair dose of it. A sort of grandeur-wish, a Gandalf moment.
Imagine Merlin, aging backwards, knowing what is to come--a power wrapped up in Fate.
But lately I see the frustrations that arise for people for whom the Fates refuse to measure and plan their destinies. Imagine Clotho, decling to spin, but just allowing the yarn of life to spin out everywhere.
Imagine the other Fates, waiting patiently, one with scissors, one ready to measure length, but the thread emanates in no particular order, and has no particular length or destination.
My own inclinations do not run toward the notion of a chaotic universe, governed only by laws not particularly enriching or useful to know. But I do wonder, somehow, why this being significant matters so much. I don't mean that in some deep, metaphysical sense--of course so many folks, including myself, want life to have meaning. I mean instead that I wonder "what if" one had to live as if one did the meaningful things, without any great assurance of the big picture. I never fully connected with that John Lennon song in which merely by imaging no Heaven or Hell, all the people would live life in peace. I suppose that I am less an optimist than John Lennon was in that song. Yet I am an enormous optimist.
So what to think if I imagine that my book of incantations raises nobody from the dead? What if my particular spells run no deeper than the ability to light a sparkler using a match, provided I am outside city limits? What if my book of the dead really has no life in it?
Perhaps if I knew that my spells cannot raise Lazarus,
then I'd have to focus on more practical things I can do in the face of death. If my life is to be more than winning some train ride to Heaven, then I will have to live life as though I'm doing more than trying to raise the fare at some mystic ticket counter. Perhaps one does lose oneself to save oneself. I imagine, sometimes, that if I could have one extraordinary power, it would be to have a cool flame come from my palm. I have no idea what metaphor that idea enacts within me, but it would be my "super power". I remember the old Inferior Five comic books, where the heroes all had nearly useless "powers". I choose for my useless power a radiating, heat-less, useless light--about palmward, please, radiating upward.
So if I live a life in which I only chant songs (and then, only if they are within my narrow vocal range) and in which I am neither the Wizard card, nor the last trumps, but instead the non-magical deck of cards that I see by the check-out line at Dollar General, with the requisite (but no more than the requisite) number of Jokers. I love, by the way, that Old Maid cards cost half price.
I sometimes think that the magic of inner calm is the strongest magic there can be. I remember sitting on open fields, staring up into passing clouds in blue skies. I remember driving down winding country roads, gasping at fields of susan flowers or tiny country churches, and feeling as though I'd found something for which my soul was longing, though it was nothing but a view from a Colt Vista wagon, with "Prairie Home Companion" in the background on public radio.
I imagine closing my eyes, and travelling to other dimensions, only they are not dimensions from Serling, Lovecraft or some elven-addled fantasy writer, but instead merely the dimensions of my imagination, staring at the red-hot insides of my eyelids.
I think that imagination is such a deeply desirable thing. Dreams are wonderful--and so powerful--but require so much work to control. I have never had the patience to be a vivid dreamer. But I am an entirely vivid daydreamer. I can fly in my daydreams. I can salt march and cure polio. I can even sometimes find the resolve to do the things I need to do when my daydreams are over.
I imagine the poet Poe, pondering weak and weary, then scribbling words about "nevermore"-ing ravens. I lack the tintinabulations to ponder ravens, and my weak/weary times tend to focus more on deadlines and the need for a diet soda. My pondering might be aided by getting out my cheap shortwave, just as my sight might be aided by my 7 dollar Mohrson binoculars. I can't see the exotic birds, but nearby butterflies come completely into focus.
I don't think my magic has pentangles, nor summoned spirits, nor ringing bells. I have never seen book nor candle, outside a late night movie. I am more at home in the dollar cinema than in trance.
Sometimes I think that I want less magic and charms in life, and fewer people killed on the street in Monrovia. I do not mean to criticize anyone's beliefs, as magic as I use it here is not a literal thing, or even a spiritual thing, but a metaphor for all the artificial ways in which one stalks grandeur, but finds it an elusive prey.
What if the solution is not going to be found in some trumpet which knocks down Jericho's walls, but in people who live as if no deus et machina will fix this mess? What if I'm just supposed to get out my broom, and sweep rather than fly on it?
I have never been to Tibet, and I have no personal mandalas. But what if my own symbol is less a mystic
image, and more a way of escape from this humdrum?
I choose a life in which I have no ability to get the Holy Ghost across, but in which I live as if I can give a little comfort.
I love the idea of a quilt. A hand-made thing, which inspires so many hopes and wishes and warmths and even prayers. I love to run my fingers along the pattern--wedding ring, crazyquilt, whatever it may be. A person planned and plaited it. Yet it casts a spell of its own. It's a little incantation, I suppose, a thing of beauty, if one only has the Second Sight. I have no third eye, which is too bad, because when one has three cowlicks, one should have 3 eyes.
I would say I want to be Shaker furniture, but it is always so pricey and expected, when it is supposed to be just simple and filled with grace. But let me instead be someone who relaxes in joy and does the right thing, and that's charmed enough for me.
via edit Nothing in this post is intended to imply that magic does not exist, that those who practice magic are in the wrong, or that a way of looking at the world which includes magic is in any way wrong. The "negative reference" above to some of the tragically short-lived folks in the early decade of the last sentence who encountered certain difficulties is intended to refer to a narrow range of persons, and not to the concept of magic, paganism or the earth religions in general. The "no magicks" in the title and text refers to my own lack, and not to some desire to denigrate those whose beliefs are different than mine.