Do you believe in magic?
I sure do. How could I not?
I paid attention in science class. Hell, I even have a graduate degree that focused a great deal on cosmology. No, not hairdressing and make-up artistry, that’s cosmetology…also a very magical field. I’m talking about studying the origin and evolution of the cosmos. If you can grasp the sheer magnitude of what’s floating around out there and the virtually impossible set of circumstances that have brought my fingertips to this keyboard right now and not somehow grok the magic at play; quite frankly, we won't be friends.
Do you remember being a child and everything was magic? Do you remember what it was like to witness the world in ardent wonder before those crummy teachers, well-intentioned parents, and societal norms systematically demystified your reality?
I remember because I’ve spent my entire adult life re-enchanting my reality, repeatedly altering my state of consciousness until the state of societally imposed sterility breathes awash in vibrant technicolor. My aim is to perpetuate a state of consciousness where a flower isn't just some biological derivative, it’s an impossibly brilliant amalgamation of quantum chaos brought into existence by our own observation. It's a photosynthetic miracle feeding on infrared wavicles beaming from a massive fireball suspended in a vacuum and dancing with our occipital lobe. Its splendor is only eclipsed by our own lack of attention to detail. Science shmience…that shit is magic!
Admittedly, I am a huge fan of reason and logic. I sincerely believe that they are great tools of learning, helping us to understand the mechanics of our universe, planet and bodies. The Age of Enlightenment, which caught hold of Europe and spread to the British colonies of North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, championed the novel concepts of science and reason. Tugging on the coattails of the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment dragged the western world out of the slog of superstition and ushered in a new, fertile mindset practically begging humanity to sow its creative seeds. And sow we did. Look at all this cool shit we have! The scientific method flat out works! It’s a process extremely well adept at constructing theories of how infinitesimally small stuff tends to organize itself and for how unfathomably large stuff tends to do its thing. Plus, it’s a kick-ass technique for pulling shit out of the ground and turning it into pure awesomeness. However, it pays little attention to consequence. Science, too often, views itself as an end; when in all likelihood, it is more accurately a means…just like everything else in the known, manifest universe. Our brilliance blinded us from progress’s destructive wake and deafened us to the cries of the living, breathing creature that is our Earth, our home on the long arm of this spiral galaxy.
Oddly enough, a couple centuries after science and reason took the controls of spaceship Earth and nearly half a century into Margulis and Lovelock’s Gaia warriors never ending attempts to usurp the captain’s chair, the pleas of the planet continue to fall on the deaf ears of superstition. I find it so hard to fathom that we’ve come this far as a species and yet, so many of our kind insist on perpetuating medieval dogmatic drivel.
Please do not mistake my confusion for religious distain. I am a life-long student of humanity’s religious traditions and have a strong proclivity toward certain aspects of all the myriad of beliefs I’ve encountered. I, however, cannot abide the destructive remnants of dark age interpretations of genuinely beautiful faiths. This white knuckled grasp of obsolete ideas turns up its nose at reason and seems to abhor post-modern inclusivity. How then do we reach these wayward individuals? How do we simultaneously support their faith while encouraging them to examine the more harmful consequences of antiquated beliefs? And what of the folks practicing draconian scientism? How do we honor their logic while encouraging them to examine the harmful consequences of an assumedly mechanized universe?
Ken Wilber has an exhaustingly thorough, if not elegant, system known as the integral model. If you’re unfamiliar with integral theory, it is well worth a perusal. Wilber draws from the latest research, historical scholars, and generally proven wisdom in the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, physics, biology, religion, mysticism, art, linguistics, ecology, etc. Basically, if someone has studied something related to the human internal or external experience on planet earth, it has a place in the integral model. While Wilber has absorbed his fair share of criticism for the theory’s adherence to hierarchy, it stands as a great philosophical accomplishment and a remarkably adaptive tool for improving the quality of experience for individuals and organizations in fields such as business, art, education and medicine. Long story short, his answer to the question at hand is a culture moving toward a more integral perspective. A perspective that promotes inclusivity and recognizes all perspectives as valid without judgement. Sounds lovely, right?
I have a suggestion as well. It may not be as meticulously comprehensive as integral theory, but it is, likely, far more fun. (Because getting through Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality was often like trying to wash down a mouthful of saltine crackers with a glass full of sand.)
How about magic?
Could a re-enchanted interpretation of reality find some semblance of amity between the seemingly disparate poles of fundamental religion and arrant reason? How difficult is it to reintroduce wonder to scientists? How big of a challenge is it to show religious fanatics how much they depend on technology? How naive and overly optimistic do I sound? These are all very appropriate questions. How does one even set out to find the answers? Hell if I know. I’m just an idealist with big dreams of pragmatism. I can visualize a gargantuan mattress strewn with soft cushions of every shape and size and flooded with a deluge of viscus authenticity. I’d plop all the leading perpetrators of the world’s various destructive belief patterns down on this soupy, cushy mattress and have them roll around this magical bed for days on end until they completely understand and sympathize with each other’s perspective. Forcing change seems neither productive nor necessary. Fostering respect and empathy, however, seem imperative.
But alas, I’m just a dreamer. I want nothing more than to witness the citizens of Earth united in awe of the cosmos and our uniquely human role in its unfolding. I wish for all people to recapture the childlike astonishment of a novel world revealing itself one miraculous moment at a time. For the more magic we allow ourselves to see in every blade of swaying grass, every step of a traipsing deer, or every eddy of a meandering stream, the more we can recognize the magic in the hearts of every person we encounter. Where does the magic end and reality begin?