This is not about video games, at least no more than anything else is.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
- Arthur C. Clarke, “Clarke’s Third Law”
Thoughts have been percolating, and the page, she hugs me! Some people live their lives in a world of magic. Wonder lies around every corner, and things we don’t understand are miraculous, unopened doors could hide some deep secret of life. Others are far more pragmatic; all that matters is what is solid, concrete, provable, and dependable.
Of course, most of us live somewhere in the middle, but I think there are both great values and tricky pitfalls that come with this most pervasive element: Magic.
To distinguish between the two sides of this concept, I will call them by two different names: Magic and Mysticism.
Mysticism is the application of magical thinking to the unknown in such a way as to suggest, “what is not known is not known for a reason and *cannot* be known, [at least not reasonably, if at all].”
Why does the Sun rise in the East and set in the West? There was a time when the movement of the Sun was attributed to a god driving a chariot to pull such a mighty and powerful celestial body across the sky. At the same time it was common knowledge that the world was flat.
The former is not something that could remotely be proven or disproven, it wasn’t remotely attainable for someone to travel to the Sun and find this god. However, that didn’t stop entire cultures from worshiping this god with the unshakable faith that he was there and doing his job. After all, the Sun did make its journey every day, very reliably!
The latter, however, was absolutely provable, and it was eventually disproven when someone took the task of sailing to the end of it, and was actually able to return and explain that there were more things. Eventually someone even got far enough to double-back! The paradigm was shattered. No great lip over which you would fall into the void. No monstrous sea serpents that would devour your entire boat (well, not that common an occurrence anyway). The question is, however, would the common person ever imagine that it is worthwhile to travel to the edge of the world? What’s the point? We all know the world is flat, you would only find your death!
Mysticism is applied by a great many people around the world as a way of cutting off mental advancement. It is willingly employed by some, but casually employed by most people. It is the moment at which you say or consider that anything is discontinuous, unreachable, or incomprehensible to we mere humans. It is simultaneously recognizing that you do not, but affixing something with a name that lets you feel like study has concluded. Go on about your business.
Mysticism is a tool used to create the moment at which we throttle our desire to learn and grow.
Many people are diminutively referred to as employing “magical thinking” when they describe things that they don’t directly understand. Instead of showing us the proof, they describe a behavior and say, “I don’t get how it happens, but isn’t that cool?!”
The world, in fact, is full of things which we do not truly understand. Science is the act of creating an ordered system of our “best guess, so far” understanding. Confusing the “laws and rules” of science for the Truth of the world are giving them more weight than any scientific philosopher would. There are a lot of things that we do not even have a functioning theory for. Some of these things are amazing and hard to comprehend, and they are like that mysterious door: holding a realm of possibilities.
Magical thinking is the recognition that anything could be possible, we simply haven’t figured out *how* yet. It is an acceptance of the state of realizing that there are doors you haven’t even found yet, and many doors you have found but have not opened.
I was trying to explain to a (not-blood) little sister of mine why I love Science Fiction, as it was an interest we shared and neither of us could say exactly what was so appealing about it. The thing I realized was this: anything you can imagine you can write into a Science Fiction story. This far-reaching imagination is not frivolity, but a sort of long-range search. We are looking for the things that could be, and inspiring people to look for the doors to reach those places. We are building the sense of magic in the world.
Here is the power of Magical Thinking vs Mysticism:
Unknowable, impossible, unattainable. These are barriers to intentional discovery. By setting this as an impassible wall, you set a limit to your thinking. You will not approach that wall at break-neck speed if you believe it is unbreakable. Here you will terminally suffer Zeno’s Paradox. This thinking will actively or subversively limit what you can and will accomplish (on purpose, science still advances with the great “Oopses”).
Anything is possible. Thinking this will not *make* anything happen, nor will it miraculously materialize things that you do not understand. However, it leaves the mind open to possibility. There are no true boundaries that you respect, consciously or subconsciously. Embracing this mentality opens you to finding and opening any door, flush with the wonder of a child that *anything* could be on the other side.
“I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about…”
- Patricia Pelesco, An Enchanted Life: An Adept’s Guide to Masterful Magick