• October 4, 2010
  • Georgia Keighery
  • Blog

I am not a believer. Religion, mysticism, Gods, Goddesses, Allah, Jehovah, Jahweh, paganism, ghosts, ghouls, apparitions, fairies, elves, spirits, sprites, demons, hell, purgatory, heaven, nirvana, et cetera. Not for me. Just, not for me. I’ve tried, believe me I have. I’ve tried my hardest to believe in the magical, the mystical, the divine. I just can’t do it. There was one time when I thought I could, but that involved illicit substances, and is therefor beside the point.

On occasion I’ve found myself being rather jealous of believers. I like the look of their faith. It would help with a lot of the over-thinking, answerless-question-asking I imagine. There are nice rituals attached to religious belief too. And generally, a lovely set of parameters that are enviably well-defined.

I hate to espouse an over-simplified and naive view of religion, but I am an over-simplified and naive woman, so that’s just how it looks from here.

What I’ve found myself envying the most in the believers I meet is something other than ceremony and prophesy however. What I’m jealous of is the possibility for magic stuff to just … happen! People rising from the dead, animal headed men with multiple sets of arms, saintly visions and enlightenment flashes, the all-seeing eye of new-age-life-coaches and their limitless, crystal-wielding powers. Stuff like that. The “ta-da” of believing in a bit of something other than scientifically measurable facts. I’ve found myself wanting at least the possibility of the miraculous. It’s childish I suppose, but I’m longing to believe in magic and miracles like I did when I was a kid.

It’s not that I want my life to be guided by external moral forces, or that I need to believe in my own importance beyond my mortality. It’s to do with remembering what it was like as a child, to honestly believe that if I was still and quiet enough, I might just catch a glimpse of a fairy in our garden. It’s about longing for a reason to light incense that is a little more mystical than odor masking. It’s about the fact that I fancy myself as someone who should believe in magic and in miracles! … Except, it has always seemed too illogical to me, and I just can’t pretend otherwise.

One of my favourite authors, Tom Robbins, once said “Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.” I think he’s right. And it frightens me. I do not fancy myself as someone who believes in either of those things … So what I’ve been trying to figure out is, where that leaves me exactly? Where’s my miracle? Where’s my potential magic? Where is it? Hm?

Well, I’ll tell you where I’m left dear friends. Between disbelief and a healthy loathing for government and business, I am left right here. Praise be! … Lean in close now because I’m about to tell you about the realest miracle ever … It’s undeniable, even to the greatest disbeliever … lean in, I said, this is a miracle where talking about …

If you’d be so kind as to indulge me by turning your mind’s eye to a large and glittering lake. We’re standing, you and I, on one bank of this lovely body of water, and we’re admiring the play of sunlight on the water’s surface. Pretty isn’t it?! Sparkling like that. We can raise our eyes a little and see the lush green grass on the other side of the lake there, see?! … Now, if we focus hard, you and I can clearly see a large ripple begin to form in the water from the bank we’re standing on, just near our feet. The ripple is extending from here in a straight line over to the other bank of the river. A ripple slicing the width of the river … Now that ripple is growing larger … deeper, and wider … and … OH MY GOD … THE WATER IS ACTUALLY PARTING! … IT’S PARTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!

You see, I’ve realised this: using only some words on a page you and I can part seas. We’re miracle-makers right now. As you read these words you open up every kind of universe imaginable. Literally. Battles can be fought in those universes between you and the page, creatures can come to life and impossibilities can play out. Little pink rabbits can appear out of no where (there’s one there!) and winged pigs can flap past at eye-height (look at that one! I know you saw it!). In the space between you and me we made a world where we stood on the bank of a river and parted the water … And I’m not even in the same room as you. I’m not even in the same time as you!

You tell me that’s not miraculous?! It is! Hallelujah brothers and sisters! … As C.S. Lewis once put it, before he strolled us through the back of a wardrobe,  “Miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of nature.” … Magic!

3 comments on “Magic & Miracles

  1. Georgie, you reminded me of this conversation with a friend the other day and the topic of belief systems came to the conversation. I revealed that I was a non-fanatical atheist and didn’t believe in anything mystical (fortune tellers, mediums, fairies*). I may have been asked if I was worried about losing the child-like nature and joy of life. At that point I realised I wasn’t and knew why.

    Even if you discard all your childhood belief systems – as you say – something will probably fill the void, and usually that thing will be of a similar shape and colour. Hopefully government and business isn’t the same shape and colour as a childhood belief in fairies.

    For me the void fillers were many things like: The beauty of the natural world, the meaningful relationships I have with my friends or the magic that is always happening on the boundaries of our scientific knowledge. The latter being something I enjoy greatly – and I’ve realised why.

    It seems to be that the child like joy of the magical comes from situations where seemingly irrefutable evidence challenges our current understanding of what we believe is reality. It’s like seeing the simplest magic trick performed before your eyes and having no explanation as to how it’s done – all we know is that something happened in a way that was not possible. The same thing occurs for me with science when I discover something new that doesn’t make sense. My lack of enough factual information prevents me from understanding a given situation correctly. Arthur C. Clarke has a great quote which summarises this: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    I don’t think it’s possible that we will ever lose magic from our lives, it is naive to believe we can know everything, therefore there will always be things that we don’t know and thus it follows that there will always be things which seem to be magical.

    *Except the Oxford street kind.

  2. Magic and miracles are happening everywhere.. everyday..
    You could trip over one and still not notice…….. if you had your eyes closed.

    I don’t think it takes belief for magic and miracles to happen. Just awareness and attention to life.

    A beautiful piece of work Georgia. Thank you.

  3. @ azman – Ow I couldn’t agree more azman! Science especially toots all the right horns for me. Just last night I was a documentary about the nature of matter and those big, shiny particle accelerators. I thoroughly recommend it, it’s called “Through The Wormhole” and it’s hosted by the divine Morgan Freeman. Makes me tingle just thinking about it … Magic indeed my friend!

    @ deb – You’re the perfect example of a little bit of magic deb! Thank you for that. x

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