Time enough for magic

It’s not my wont to perform magic (and I certainly haven’t studied enough of Crowley to be worthy of performing magicK), and mostly that’s not because I doubt the stuff works. Lots of Pagans are really into spellcraft, and it almost seems like magic itself is their religion; I suppose this is an extension of the active-participant philosophy Pagans have, as opposed to the sit-and-watch-the-holy-man-work tradition that many religions recommend. So as I said, I don’t doubt it works, but I do have a lot of doubts that man understands it anymore than he understands science. I don’t practice genetic engineering or fertility treatment, either.

Magic seems to have in common with other areas of knowledge one trait: humans learn enough about it to get excited, and then they just rush off and try some. We’re really short-lived, so we’re always in a great deal of a hurry to put what we just learned into practice, to try it out and see if we’re right. Being that we have an Epimethean vision of the future, we’re always surprised, a generation or two down the road, when we discover our actions have consequences. What do you mean, all the passenger pigeons are dead? With horror and with the same lack of foresight we often try to fix the problems we created in the first place . . . for example, we added MTBE to gasoline to reduce emissions, and got contaminated groundwater instead.

So mostly I hesitate to engage in magic because Gaiapeds prefer to Leave No Trace, and because I can’t foretell the future, even if my life depends upon it. We’re just such powerful, creative, hasty creatures, we humans, that we go off and try out all our new toys this instant and then cry and get upset when we break them or make a big mess.

Okay, so I’m an earth-walker, which means that I should follow the lessons of the Earth. The Earth doesn’t just sit there, doing nothing . . . should I? Nothing frequently does as much damage as something, and it’s important to recognize that leaving no trace does not necessarily mean doing nothing at all . . . it means choosing the course of action that causes the least harm. The Earth does act. Observe the tides, the erosion, the plate tectonics. When the Earth chooses to act in a certain way, the method is almost always the same: slow, careful action with enough force behind it that it cannot be denied. From time to time, those forces result in big changes, but slow and steady pressure usually has slow and steady results, with the undeniable power of a tree breaking a rock or a shoreline dissolving away.

So I’m not comfortable rushing to an altar and lighting six purple candles, sprinkling dragonsblood deosil and chanting the names of God until the full moon rises. That doesn’t mean I won’t spend three or four months creating serenity, though . . . if it takes long enough, I’m going to understand what I’m doing long before I can do harm. I think that’s the secret to magic and science . . . if we’re willing to spend enough time we’re much more likely to act rightly. Most people really want to do the right thing, but we don’t allow ourselves enough time to discover what the right thing happens to be.

So like those zany Druids, I am proud to consider myself faster than a speeding oak tree.

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