A Chapter by Paul

Section 3 of The Me Primer







            My taste for invention gives me away. I must admit that I am thrilled by the thought of magic in the world. I don’t want card tricks or disappearing monuments. I am talking about those magical moments in life that burn at me, when I am filled with wonder at a mystery of any kind. I don’t want to be able to explain these moments with equations and chemicals. Science for me has always felt cold. If I truly know myself and make an honest assessment, then I am a romantic. I want the intuitive hero to defeat the chilly autocrat. I want there to be benevolent fairies spinning around the woods and I want it to be true that I can overcome anything by simply believing I can.  I am, however, a romantic with an analytical brain. As a child I had to know why my toys from Santa Claus came from Sear’s toy department and why some kids, who I knew were nicer than me but poorer, got cheaper gifts. I had to recognize that all the magic in the world has an explanation. It is sleight of hand or a grand illusion or a part of nature waiting to be discovered. I might enjoy it as magical until it is explained but I realize that it can always be explained by something occurring in the natural world. This did not and does not come easily for me.

            What I know as the natural world is my reality. If the natural world is an illusion, then it is the illusion I am in. I choose this path because, in my experience, facts present themselves and can be eventually explained. This choice was not capricious. I am confident that it is the best choice, for me, now. My belief in the discovery of facts, over the invention of explanations, does not keep me from seeking an ideal. An ideal that perhaps gives a magical feeling when I strive for something that does not occur, as far as I know, anywhere else in the natural world. I want to put this invention, this ideal, to the test of discovery. A human animal can imagine a perfect form and then try to mimic it in reality. The ideal I am imagining is a just society. A society that is fair for all individuals. I know that for me to maintain this magical feeling, in striving for my ideal, it is necessary for me to co-exist with others and it is necessary for me to understand that there is no obligation for humans to live in this society. I can claim no magic to guide it or to give it supernatural merit. It has as its foundation the magical feeling that comes with describing something that I know can work. It has as its framework the support of those who also strive for this ideal.

            I have asked myself that if I only believed in one kind of magic, a kind of magic that did not leave room for other types of magic, would I want to form a society that works for everyone? I have imagined how I would be if I could really convince myself again that a magical elf watched over me and brought me presents each Christmas. I have memories from childhood in which I would blame siblings and neighbor children for making me act, in the jargon of the cult, naughty. A month or so before December 25th I can remember striking others in anger at their part in my transgressions and thereby doubling my naughtiness. I can remember fighting with a classmate who insisted I was a moron for believing in a magic elf. It felt like a betrayal, an affront to myself and my kin. If this skeptic were right, then I had been a fool. That was too much to bear, so all my venom was sunk in this skeptical person. I had invested too much time and energy in my fat elf and I would rather have beaten someone silly than look silly.

            I am trying to remember if I felt this same way when it came to religious matters. When I was guaranteed an eternal reward, based on my own behavior, was I angry at transgressions around me. Did it seem necessary for me to insist on everyone accepting my viewpoint on religious matters? I am not aware of any religion that insists that a person cannot gain favor unless everyone around them is following the rules of that religion. Isn’t it a kind of blasphemy to try and make secular rules and regulations to force people to follow the rules of a religion? If I believe in a supreme being and yet the world is full of choices, hasn’t the world been set up, by this supreme being, for individuals to be allowed to conform of their own accord? If I insisted on secular rules is it not like saying that I know better than the supreme being? That I take it upon myself to make others follow the “proper path” as a matter of secular law. That I make them fear punishment here in the natural world. Would this be looked on favorably from above? The religions I am familiar with, and especially the one I grew up with, may have encouraged preaching to the “fallen”, the uninitiated, and guiding the young, but I don’t recall any punishment for those who follow the rules if they are surrounded by sinners. I don’t remember any concerns as a child that if I were good, while those around me were naughty, I would suffer on Christmas morning. Perhaps it was just the temptation that I resented or perhaps I was too proud to tolerate being thought of as behaving foolishly.   

            I have said several things about the belief in religious magic affecting the natural world but I don’t know if I have adequately explained my concerns about a non-religious belief in magic; the magical man among animals. For me magic is the same whether I believe in a religion or disdain religion. Magic convinces me that I am more than an animal; that there are possibilities outside of the natural world. I can ask similar questions to both groups: do you believe in a god or do you believe that there should be a god? Do you believe that there is more to life than living or that there should be more to life than living? These are important distinctions for me when I talk to believers in a supreme being and believers in man as a magical animal. Is something true because you need it to be true? This notion of magic is probably offensive to both groups. Perhaps people who are religious are okay with the concept of magic. They may not appreciate the word magic associated with their deity but may be okay with the notion that there is something greater than nature. They believe there is something that does not have to follow the rules of nature. But secular thinkers can be quickly put off at being seated in the same pew with religious thinkers. I have been in this position and I still am involved in conversations today that bring to light this magic. In these discourses it is assumed human animals are special animals. Not just an animal with unique attributes but special in the sense that human animals must be held to a higher standard. Not the standards set down by a given society but a standard that is objective, a given. It is assumed that it is wrong for a human-animal to act certain ways, ways that are deemed unnatural, fundamentally, absolutely. In the past I have insisted that there is a model for beauty. I have insisted that some art is legitimate and some is not. I have tried to find magic in evolution and I talk to non-religious people regularly who still look for magic in evolution. There is a conscious or subconscious need to give evolution a goal. To give evolution a personalized will of some kind rather than the simple survival of the best suited mutations. I have wanted to be more than an animal. I have wanted to be the bearer of a magic within myself that will be the answer to all of the questions of human animals. It is very difficult to give this up, to look back at beliefs that appear foolish in the natural world.

            It took a long time for this notion of being an animal to sink in. I now expect it of myself because it makes everything easier to understand. But I must co-exist with those around me and I cannot expect them to accept my beliefs. Maybe it would be best if everyone just believed that their beliefs were magical, or if this term is offensive then they should believe that their beliefs are special. That their being part of a belief system is making them something more than an animal. My hope would be that they would not expect anything from outside their group other than tolerance. I prefer to live with an understanding that we each put up with the other’s ideas of truth, rather than policing and fighting endlessly in order to quash ideas we each find distasteful. If no one group can disallow the beliefs of another group, then they have nothing to fear. In my ideal society, when segments of the society with differing ideas of truth meet, they are not beholding to any idea except to treat others as they want to be treated. I have no need to try and change another’s idea of truth as long as that person abides by the fabricated “absolute”, that we must respect each individual’s right to be.

            I do not want to go after someone's magic on a personal level. I don't want to mess with what it brings someone personally. I take issue with magic on an institutional level. The harm it has caused and causes on a societal level. The harm it causes by imposing itself on those who prefer not to have faith that they are more than an animal. This is the crux of my concern with magic as a basis for society. I can understand people who tell me that they have faith and that they understand that faith is not science and doesn’t need to be science. They do not need to prove anything to me for their faith to have merit to them. They understand that there is no scientific proof that a being can live outside of the laws of nature or that man is just special and must be made to live to a higher standard than other animals. They have faith because they know that they need more than the scientific method to be a believer. I can respect this stance. I see that their line of thinking has merit. That is to say that, in the case of religious people, to believe that there has to be a god because only faith is needed because there has to be a god. This is outside the command of science because they put it outside the command of science. I must admit that following this line of thinking it can be said that there is a possibility that one day the sky could open up and a bearded head will appear and tell us that our science was all set up to see if we could have faith in the unscientific. That would be the romantic in me speaking.

            I would say the same things to those that eschew religion but believe in the magical man among animals. I see the merit in their belief system. I know that most people find the same things beautiful. I know that societies only work when individuals are held to a standard. I know that it is a good idea to look to a goal of making society as consistently just for all individuals as it can be. I also know that this animal has learned all of these things. As part of the natural world I know that art and the societies that we live in are inventions. Perhaps there is an inherent factor that makes most human animals attracted to certain shapes or sensations but there is no right or wrong art. Paintings, music, dance, stories, these things cannot be measured as beautiful except by each individual. I know I can make judgements that lines are not correct, voices are out of tune, poor grammar is used, but these are only measurements of straightness and tuning and accepted language rules, not of creative pleasure. When enough people like something an artist will know if they have struck on something popular. They will not know that they have found some universal definition of beauty. When enough people agree with or accept a definition of what is just, then that becomes the code. It is not a discovery of a universal system of justice. There is no sense arguing about what is absolutely beautiful or what is absolutely just, unless you have already made up a fabricated “absolute” which I, of course, can choose to ignore. I can accept that these believers feel that man must have a higher standard than other animals. I can accept that there is a standard of beauty in given societies, that there is a standard of justice in given societies. I crave some of these same things but when I am forced to conform to an ideal because it is believed to be an objective truth, then I must speak out. I must say that it is an invented truth and we each decide to abide by it or not.

            I know there is no right or wrong society to an animal and yet, for me, there is only one kind of society that guarantees consistency in keeping each individual free to pursue their own definition of beauty and justice. This is a society that understands that it must tolerate individual preferences up to the point that they impede on another individual’s ability to exercise his preferences. I do this for others to insure the same is done for me. This is just a more complicated way of stating the golden rule. A rule that seems so commonplace that it is overlooked and forgotten readily. It has been around so long and has become so much background noise that no one seems to take it seriously if they take notice of it at all. I will just keep saying it in different ways and maybe I will find something that will shine again, something that will seem magical.


© 2022 Paul

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This is wonderful. I love the consistency of the analogy throughout. The example, i.e. toys from Sears catalogue, are relatable and pulled me in and made me ponder my own examples of the loss of magical moments.

Again, excellent job.

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Added on April 24, 2017
Last Updated on June 11, 2022



I am writing in the Mid Atlantic area of the United States, mostly non-fiction at this time. I am a song writer as well. Also of interest could be- http://bookstore.trafford... more..

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A Book by Paul