November 10, 2015

Why it Makes Sense to Believe in Magic.


I have a confession to make: I believe in magic.

More than that, I think it makes total sense to believe in magic. I think it’s a fully adult, rational choice.

I’d even say that when we lose touch with the magical pulse of life we become impoverished both individually and collectively, and that if we’re to tackle the defining challenges of this century, such as mass ecological destruction, species extinction, and ocean acidification, we urgently need to rediscover our sense of enchantment.

Yes, I’m saying that, if we’re going to address climate change, we’re going to need magic on our side.

Allow me to elaborate. I’m no climate scientist, but I think I can give you a fairly accurate summary of the latest expert prognosis. It goes something like this: we’re f*cked. Or, if you prefer a little more detail, we’re getting more and more f*cked, more quickly than even the most pessimistic amongst us anticipated. This has been the news.

And yet, what are we doing about it? We’re like a 40-a-day smoker, gleefully sucking in his daily dose, oblivious to the increasingly gruesome photos and dire warnings emblazoned on the box.

Meanwhile, there are sunrises, and pine forests, and ocelots. In a fathomlessly vast universe, this small planet has, somehow, produced waterfalls, venus flytraps, and poison dart frogs. Not to mention, of course, the mind-bogglingly unlikely phenomenon of humanity itself.

Evolution can tell us how all this came about, of course, but that doesn’t diminish the majesty of the Himalayas or the Grand Canyon one iota. More tellingly, I think, we can trace the origins of this universe back billions of years, but try wrapping your mind around the concept of a moment before time, or the appearance of a nascent cosmos from the void.

I sure can’t. It’s as much of a mystery as it ever was, perhaps more so for remaining impenetrable in the face of such intense enquiry. For me, the conclusion is inescapable:

The existence of whale sharks? Magic. Nightingales? Magic. Orangutans? Glorious, dazzling magic.

Which brings us to the reason I’ve bothered writing this post: the contention that a belief in magic isn’t mere whimsy—it’s a necessity. We need the sacred and the wondrous, because we will only save what we love. If this world is a mere mechanism, well, who cares if it breaks down? Let the forests burn and the seas bubble. Let the fertile fields become deserts and the human project grind to a halt. Nothing essential will be lost.

If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to be awestruck by the beauty of creation, then we will surely recognise a sacred duty to protect it. We will see every act of ecological destruction as vandalism, and every lost species as a tragic failure.

When we truly believe this, I suspect, we will find the will to change. How could we do otherwise?


Relephant Favorite:

Where Do You Find Ordinary Magic?


Author: Robert Wolf Petersen

Editor: Travis May

Photos: Instagram/Anna & MIchal

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