Magic in My Life
In the process of transforming the appearance of my Web site (technology, as always, proceeds at a faster rate than personal growth), I noticed how often I use the word "magic" to describe things in my life that I don't understand. The two notable examples are community magic and musical magic. The "magic" in community has been a focus of my effort for a long time, pretty continuously, and solving the mystery has been a deliberate process. The "magic" in music has been something I've accepted, and I haven't had any particular urge to solve that mystery. I'm happy that it's there for me, the feeling, and of course the music itself. My "project" in music was a concrete thing, involving the rational understanding of what happens physically in the hearing.
Reading a lot of Ken Wilber on psychological and spiritual development, I'm aware that "magic" is an aspect of a phase of personal development. A child goes through the phase in which he or she attempts to get control of the world, and magic is a way to do that (or so it seems to the child). There's a confusion of self-other that hasn't been worked through yet. Most of us outgrow it, and learn that some things in our world are simply not amenable to our desires. So it's interesting to me now that, even though I haven't believed in magic for many years, I would still use such a word for something in my own experience. All well and good that I use the term figuratively; it makes me wonder how much of that childhood phase is still operative in my adult life, perhaps unconsciously. I wonder if I still believe I can control the world in some way just by my wanting to. The example that comes to mind is in driving a car, and feeling some apprehension about the closeness to death one comes, almost constantly, on the highway. Sometimes just a few feet away, a slight movement of the steering wheel, a moment of inattention--is death itself. My wondering is: Do I "not look" so as to pretend it isn't there, and thereby prevent the lurking catastrophe? (If I look--if I make eye contact with danger--will death take my challenge?) No, I tell myself rationally, death is not a matter of making eye contact. In fact, the closer I pay attention, the better chance I have to avoid a collision.
Still, when it seems overwhelming, when I realize that most of my safety depends not upon my actions but upon those of others, I tend (figuratively, at least) to close my eyes and hope for the best. Only in my dreams can I choose to fly, when necessary. Those dreams may play a more important part in my waking life than I'd like to admit.
Wonder if I'll ever grow up?
March 1, 2000 Comment on this essay? Send me an e-mail, please.
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