Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our Magical World

 Our Magical World

This is something odd I got to thinking about last night when browsing some opinion on miracles, visions and whatnot. 

Many people seem to lament that we do not live in a world where we see visions, dream prophetic dreams and have miracles happen all the time – like in fantasy otherworlds, or in legendary times (or for some, like in Biblical times.  I read somewhere – can’t remember where, about some scholar saying “of course the Bible is full of miracles and special events, those were the things that got *written down* while the mundane stuff that happened all the time wasn’t of note”).  Whether or not dusty old books and legends are true in any sense is beside the point… if true, it would make sense, just because – think about it.  In a thousand years time, will people think that every day was a terrorist attack for us? The violence and revolutions and society-shaking things are what gets written down, not Shadsie and Bob go grocery shopping and do their laundry.

Though, considering the advent of blogs and Twitter, that may be changing.  (No, as yet, I don’t Tweet – I have neither a capable phone, nor the desire to). 

It seems to me, the more I think about fantasy worlds, the more it seems that our world is pretty magical, too.  I think we only see it as mundane because we are used to it and because we have explanations for it. 

Magic, in fiction, seems to be distinct from both “miracle” and “technology / science,” yet the differences between them all can be quite subtle.  Magic seems to be opposed to Miracle because Miracle is something that you implore of God/the Gods and hope for or is an unexpected gift from the Powers that Be, while Magic is something that people control, wield.  Technology is something that people control and wield, but unlike magic, is something explained, something that’s understood and doesn’t come from mystery, but from scientific knowledge. Then, of course there are magical creatures and artifacts.  These things can all meld together in fiction (so much that there’s the term “magitek” – magical technology ) but it seems that the distinction is mainly in “level of control” and “level of knowledge” combined. 

In our world we have technology where we used to have magic.  I don’t think this means that the “magic has gone away” merely that we have other terms and other ways of thinking about it.  In fact, in a way, I think our world is a world of “arch-mages.”  

I can speak to someone across the ocean in an instant via phone or via the Internet when a century ago, a letter sent from Pennsylvania to Great Britain would have taken weeks, and would it have even gotten to Singapore? If I get sick and someone for some misguided reason decided mine was a life worth saving, I could get a new kidney transplanted into me from the fresh corpse of some poor accident victim and go on living.  I’m going to go off to my rather old-fashioned job in a speedy wagon lacking beast-of-burden powered by the remains of the long dead.  (Or if you want me to get really fantasy-ish, “long dead dragons”). 

Yet, these things are mundane to us (and some of us are still whining “where’s my jet pack?” and “where’s my flying car?” or “why can’t I set you on fire with my mind?”), because to us they are very ordinary and (we think) we know how they work.  Honestly, I don’t know how exactly, this thing I’m typing on (computer) works, though my guy knows…

This is becoming something of a known trope in fantasy fiction wherein someone from our world goes into another world.  A favorite example for me is in the anime and light novel series “The Twelve Kingdoms” – a Wuxia (oriental fantasy/Chinese mythology based fantasy).  The first part of the saga deals with a teenager from 1990s Tokyo being transported to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms.  The Twelve Kingdoms are based on a great many spiritual laws – the kings and queens (“lady kings” in the books, to denote their authority) are chosen by Kirins (sacred animals born upon a sacred mountain), immortals walk among men and babies (all babies) grow on sacred trees.  The girl from Earth, Yoko, meets a half-rat person (Rakashun) who lives in this world she finds amazing, yet is open about his disbelief in the gods.  When Yoko starts telling her friend about her world, Rakashun, upon hearing about things like cars, highways, airplanes and elevators exclaims “Surely, yours is the Land of the Gods!” 

An example, (again, from anime, I watch too much of that stuff…) of “the extraordinary becoming ordinary” comes from a quirky half-comedy/half-melancholy series titled “NieA Under Seven” -  that line “the extraordinary has become ordinary” is spoken of in the first episode!  The series is the story about an impoverished student and a freeloading alien who squats in her apartment.  Most series’ where a person has a space alien in their closet would portray it as an amazing, spooky mystery. Not this series.  NieA is an annoyance / awkward friend and not much more because in the series’ story, aliens crash landed on Earth years ago, they’ve become integrated into Japanese society and it’s just not a big deal anymore.  (It’s a bit like a much less serious “Alien Nation,” … kinda.  NieA’s people weren’t slaves, just very oddball, though the series does deal with class-issues).     

In short, I think looking for miracles is overrated.  I do believe in them, but I don’t think they’d be special anymore if they were common. In fact, they would cease to be miracles by category.  Also, while we look for magic and enjoy the wonderful ways of magic fiction can afford, we shouldn’t find ourselves too put-out that we live in a “mundane” world. Change your perspective and realize the magic of where we do live.  Try to see some of the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

As much as we get bored with the day to day, if we met people from some of our favorite other worlds, they might see us all as arch-mages or gods and our world as quite exciting and extraordinary, indeed. 

I’ll leave you with this from “Futurama” – “Your BORING time?  Fry, didn’t you live when they cracked the human genome and boy bands roamed the earth?!” __ Prof. Farnsworth to his 20th century uncle.

1 comment:

  1. It's like how lot's of people, including me, want to be mermaids, but the little mermaid wants to be human.

    There's no such thing as watching too much anime.

    AND "We ALL feel that way ALL the time!" -Bender