ex metum…

It seems to me that any thinking, rational humans have decided for themselves that life is precious and good – perhaps without knowing this choice has been made. An alternative view, that our sense of survival and self-preservation derives merely from instinct, would mean that none of us are more than creatures.

The universal view of how wonderful having a life and living it for as long as possible is best represented in legend by the world’s various Flood myths. Noah’s story and that of Utnapishtim (in the Epic of Gilgamesh) are the most well known but the concept is a worldwide and long-standing one – appearing in the lore of at least a few dozen cultures.

Most involve the construction of a boat; those that do not indicate that survivors climbed tall trees or the highest mountains to reach safety. In Greek mythology, there was a deluge of incredible magnitude at least three times, two of which marked the end of a specific Age. The first of the three was considered an ancient event by those we now call the ancient Greeks.

After the second the line of Deucalion and Pyrrha to the end of the Heroic Age consists of ten generations. The chronology of Archbishop James Ussher places the Genesis Flood at 2348 ʙᴄ. This can’t be made to match timelines of Greek myth as the end of the end of the Bronze Age is estimated somewhere between 1480 and 1450ʙᴄ. It is interesting to note that the 2nd Christian Age also lasts ten generations – from Noah and Emzara to Abraham and Sarah.

generation

I don’t mean to suggest here the Flood myths and traditions are all the same. Further, I do not support the claim that a very widespread myth is in and of itself evidence of an otherwise unsubstantiated event in prehistory. The dates can’t be forced to match. Hesiod’s list of Ages does not align with that of St. Augustine.

What all the world’s epic disasters do seem to have in common is the reaction to the perception that things are getting worse all the time. The philosophy of “life sucks and then you die” and the complaint about “these kids today and their haircuts” are nothing new but they become amplified when society is seen as being in decline.

The notion that might makes right also has a long history and gains strength in such times whether the decline is real or not. In essence, the diagnosis of social woe is: “The Divine has forsaken us for we have lost our righteous way.” From this point the reaction in myth and sociology follows a similar pattern.

realmyth

This is all shockingly familiar in today’s political climate – but really not the point of these stories if life truly is precious and good. Not to be too cute about it but I think we’ve missed the boat.

Hesiod did not suggest what Age would follow his own times. And the implied 7th Age of St. Augustine starts with the End of Days. In the first formulation one might expect something worse than the Dark Ages but even that would be preferable to the prevailing current meaning of apocalypse.

Since Hesiod is silent and we believe life is so precious and so good we’ll go to heroic lengths to preserve and maintain it, let’s not assume that the best days are behind us in an ever more remote Golden Age. Such an Age should be held as an ideal to strive toward rather than a long-ago lofty perch from which we’ve fallen (and continue to fall). If we can’t actually reach Ages of Silver or Gold, I’d settle with joy for a new Heroic Age.

Rather than paint the sort of heroism required by who is condemned and who is spared I’d prefer to define righteousness by who best points the way and lights the path.


The Laws of Magic…

got-magicIs it fair to suggest that we each have an innate desire for life to be worthwhile? The possibility that we might waste our finite time with something inconsequential is irritating. To find ourselves so considered is infuriating. Are we born to the search for meaning or do we learn to seek it?

Regardless of its source, that need may be the origin of the concept of fate. The idea of having a destiny (and presumably a good one) appeals to our sense of making some sort of difference. A fate simultaneously helps us feel more secure about our future and our mortality. Without specificity, however, it also can aggravate our fear of the unknown. We want to be optimistic and so we hunt for data.

Our collective sense that the Cosmos can be known – or, at least, better understood – leads us to communication and quests for experience. It’s a far better motivation than merely alleviating boredom. And whether the alchemy that transforms experience into wisdom results from quiet contemplation or by a more public affinity, it is that magic that matters. How we share with a community, and it with us, is less important than the sharing itself – the act and the content.

Some believe that anything described by the term magic is evil. To an extent this view can be understandable (but not justifiable). Magic can both hearten and unnerve us. Emphasis on the latter, particularly when combined with ideology, can lead to book- and witch-burnings. The burning of a book that is believed to “teach” magic is in and of itself a ritual practice.

“…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Hamlet: Act II, Scene II. William Shakespeare

Others dismiss magic as being a primitive or irrational belief. Science, in effect, sides with religion in wanting to drive away the magical.

But what magic is and does depends on what we think. If I were going to propose that there be Three Laws of Magic, the first would be “Magic is a personal force.”

In my fiction, fate and magic play key roles. I have been wondering why. Having been a scientist, the answer is suddenly obvious only as I write this post: it is part metaphor and part escapism. Magic in my fiction has nothing to do with what I really believe and practice day to day. Outside of writing, were I to actually define my magic, it would probably be closer to the following:

that which contributes to understanding and/or ameliorates negative emotions (including fear of the unknown) especially if sudden inspiration is a factor.

Hey Presto!

Do I believe in magic? I do in mine.

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