Magical Mystery

I don’t think there’s any question as to whether magic is real. Magic is the manifestation of intent. From childhood dreams, to success stories, to wishes, to just plain goal-setting, there’s determination underlying whatever comes next. How the particulars happen, we don’t really know or care — external events align and the things we had imagined appear before us.

If the world was purely physical, then things wouldn’t miraculously align like that. The circumstances and people we require wouldn’t waltz into our path like they do. Yet as if by magic, things do synchronize. People do end up fulfilling childhood fantasies, people do meet the spouse of their dreams, people do overcome extraordinary odds, people do obtain success.

So there’s no debate over whether magic exists, the question is, how can we manipulate these forces to satisfy our desires. But a deeper question becomes: can we actually control this magic and do we even want to? Consider this: where do these inspiring daydreams come from? An idea simply pops into our thought-stream and suddenly we want it to come true — but why?

Is there an external narrative going on in which we simply play our part? Perhaps life is purposefully providing the false impression that we have influence over it. In other words, life does all the heavy-lifting but wants us to think we’re doing it ourself. But how could we — we barely know anything. We’re on autopilot — situations present themselves and we simply go along for the ride.

For another perspective, imagine watching a play on a stage. We the audience can’t help the production along — but we can certainly screw it up. We can become overly involved in the plot and shout about what’s going on. We can allow ourself to become outraged over little things or get distracted by a particular scene, focusing on the details we don’t like, no longer paying attention to the action currently happening. We can fail to give the playwright the benefit-of-the-doubt, criticizing the entire time, booing whenever the mood strikes. We can fail to appreciate all the effort that went into the production, yelling about what a waste of time it is.

So which is it? Are we creating the world as we live it — perhaps in a dream-like manner? Is there a pre-written narrative in which we watch as if on an amusement-park ride? Are we capable of changing any or all of it? Do we even want to? Are we the author, actor, or audience? Are the answers to these questions purposefully obfuscated in order to maintain the mirage, adding an element of mystery? Is the world all things to all people, allowing every question’s answer to depend on the perspective?

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Working with Wishes

A lot of people advocate for the power of wishing. Some call it law-of-attraction, some call it affirmations, some call it goal-setting, some call it prayer — essentially though, we have an imagined outcome that we want to come true, and for that to happen, components both internal and external must align.

The fundamental issue with wishing though, is where does the underlying inspiration come from? Our desires come from somewhere beyond our everyday inner-dialog. In other words, we seem to have no say in the matter, we suddenly want something and fantasize about it coming to fruition.

Therefore, I think the process of wishing is simply preparing us to receive what we were already destined to get. It’s a way of avoiding imposter-syndrome, feeling like we don’t belong or deserve what we eventually attain. If I wish for something wholeheartedly and finally get it, then I’m appreciative and satisfied. Whereas if something wonderful just landed in my lap, I’d be a bit confused and feel undeserving. In other words we need a little romance, some build-up before the big present is presented.

There’s clearly a narrative going on here and we have no idea how to improve it — how could we? Actual working wishes would only screw up the synchronization. But daydreaming isn’t a waste, it’s a means to generate delightful anticipation, a great feeling to have. So we can keep on wishing, we just mustn’t fret over the outcome. Our role is to experience the story unfolding.

Reference Librarian

When I was a software developer, I’d often get stumped by programming problems. I would typically go to programming forums in order to find detailed information about how to implement a particular algorithm or feature. I’d search through the message-boards until finding a question relevant to my own, then I’d read through the solutions shared by other programmers. And chances were, if I had a question, someone else did too. And if I couldn’t find a relevant question, I knew I was barking up the wrong tree. In all those years I never had to post my own question.

It was the forums in which I found implementation details, but that’s not where the overall architecture of the program came from. For whatever reason, I just knew how to layout the program’s structure. And when I didn’t know, I took a break until the answer came to me, sometimes while showering or doing something else unrelated to programming. There was some source, some reference librarian, that my mind seemed to contact when I had a complicated question. During this time-period I had many “Aha moments”.

When I quit professional programming a number of years ago, I swapped programming problems for philosophical ones. The funny thing is, that this blog became my forum of sorts. I’d have a question and then I’d post a solution. I didn’t know the answer beforehand, I just seemed to transcribe from a source beyond myself. Even today I’ll often look back at old posts of mine to check something. In other words, I’ve created an archive of philosophical solutions suited just for me. And similarly, during this time-period I’ve experienced a lot of “Aha moments” in which spiritually complicated architecture came to light.

With my wondering, I signal that a question needs answering, then a reference librarian of sorts does a quick bit of research and gets back to me with a possible solution. But who is this reference librarian? Why do I seem to conjure satisfactory answers to my questions? And I also notice that other people’s solutions are often similar to my own, implying a common source. To me at least, this phenomenon is consistent with the idea that individuals are mere shards of a fractured creator. There really does seem to be a “collective unconscious” underlying humanity from which we all draw our inspiration.

In interviews, creative people typically balk at the question, “So where do you get your ideas?” Nobody really knows, do they. Essentially, notions just pop into our head. And they’re not random either, they’re tailored to our roles. Previously I received programming insights, now it’s philosophical/spiritual ones. An artist is imbued with the vision it’ll take to craft his masterpiece. A novelist receives an unfolding story within her mind. A craftsman feels his way to a finished product. It just comes to us, the blueprint of our success — all we have to do is listen.

Wishes – Summer 2017

So as to fully program my mind with only the most delightful daydreams, I’ll be detailing my current crop of wishes (in no particular order):

I wish to fill my evenings with meaningful activity. Instead of just recuperating from the day, I wish to have a task that enlivens and fulfills, leaving me satisfied and ready for sleep.

I wish to sleep through the night and wake-up well-rested. Bed should be a sanctuary I embrace yet happily depart when the new day dawns.

I wish for my work to find its appreciative audience. That which I craft should be a delight to others who subtly display their thanks.

I wish for a healthy, well-functioning digestive process from end to end. Well-prepared food is a delight, and its enjoyment is supported by the smooth action of consumption, absorption, and elimination.

I wish to remain calm, composed, and collected at all times. Feeling startled is a thing of the past, my reactions should be measured and reassuring to others.

I wish to have replenishing resources for spending adventures. From tech-gadgets to trips, cars and clothes, food and funding (creators), gifts and giving, houses and helping — copious cash is there as fuel for the creative process.

I wish my days to contain many moments of levity with my family. I wish to be building bonds of companionship as we lightheartedly ride this spaceship, Earth.

I wish to serve as teacher, a trainer of sorts. Those that cross my path should gain an understanding previously unrealized.

First Steps

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Way of the Wizard: Modern Magic

But Rich, where do I find introductory material on magic? It doesn’t seem readily available.

You’re right, just searching for “magic” will get you nowhere. But if you look past the surface, you’ll see there’s tons of material about magic. For instance, a lot of popular “success” books are straight-up magic. They don’t claim to be such, yet they’re essentially telling you to wish your way to prosperity and fulfillment. They’ll often talk about affirmations and repeatedly writing your wishes down. Or they’ll mention visualization: vividly imagining the outcomes you desire. And of course the “Law of Attraction” a.k.a The Secret is pure sorcery — it’s all about manifesting your materialistic wants.

For many years I was skeptical of such claims, and dismissed followers as fools and proponents as snake-oil salesmen. But eventually I realized that my pessimism was not proof. These people wholeheartedly believed in magic and I was needlessly dismissive of their lifestyle. And here’s the thing, they were living an enjoyable life filled with hopefulness and cheer whereas I was sitting in squalor endlessly complaining about how horrible the world was. Who’s the fool?

So what does one do upon learning the error of his ways? That’s right, take two giant steps in the opposite direction. I’m in full-on magic-mode now. And I’ve read the common success books, I’ve seen The Secret, I’ve watched adherents relate their stories on YouTube — I’d consider myself versed in the techniques of the trade. Therefore, I’ve completed the first three steps: I believe magic exists, I believe it’s something I can practice, and I’ve gone through the introductory material. Currently I’m in the solo-project stage, attempting to self-solve a particular problem.

Using what I’ve learned, I must make something manifest. The biggest hurdle to practicing magic is remembering to practice. My attention is so often focused on the mundane: all the unpleasantries I encounter, the foul odors, the bad attitudes — I’m so easily distracted by the worst life has to offer. Yet I’ve been diligent enough to use these negativities in my favor, using them as triggers, reminders to think magically — believing I must have inadvertently summoned the bitter into being. We must be careful what we wish, because we might just get it — and so I’m careful to keep only what delights in mind.

Even if magic wasn’t real, I’ve become a much happier person simply by weeding out the pessimism. That vacancy has been conscientiously filled with pleasant fantasies instead. And it is magic’s job to bring these particular fantasies into being. In one sense, I’ve really no more to do than wish and wait. But of course, keeping my garden free of dream-choking weeds is a chore in itself. Thankfully it’s a chore that becomes more automatic with practice. So dear reader, there is your answer, the introductory material is where it’s always been: right in your face. Pick it up.

Wanting Lack

Dear Rich, if life is a virtual experience, why wouldn’t I simply wish everything I wanted into the world?

Let’s think about the game of Minecraft for a minute. If I’m in survival mode (with cheats enabled), I could use a slash-command to give myself 1000 blocks of iron and create all the iron tools I ever wanted — and while I’m at it, I might as well give myself 1000 blocks of wood planks. And you know what, instead of digging, I might as well use the fill command to excavate a huge cave for my new dwelling. Ooh, and I should give myself 1000 cakes too.

So in this scenario, I can type in a few commands and have everything at my finger tips. I probably wouldn’t bother to mine for resources or explore caves. This abundance might just rob me of a good time. Because, although we don’t think of it like this, we’re often entertained by limitations. Limits are what we go against whenever we challenge ourselves. Without finish-lines or structure, there’s no race to run, no feat to beat.

While it’s true that a virtual realm requires no true equilibrium, the players themselves require it. In other words, within a computer generated world, there is no real physical balance that must be maintained, yet participants must be provided fulfilling activities that evoke engagement. If everything is freely and easily obtained, activities might dissolve into pointlessness — and so, challenges and limitations are regularly introduced to stave-off boredom.

Therefore, it makes sense that a wizard-like being would purposely limit his power, preventing himself from magically fulfilling wishes. But, that’s only one side of the coin. In some scenarios, it does make sense to invoke near-limitless power. Let’s think about Minecraft again. If I’m in creative mode, where resources are unlimited, engagement through creativity can certainly serve as ample entertainment. The caveat being, that I must rely on my creativity to carry me through.

So dear reader, you should only wish into existence what you can handle. Lack is oftentimes captivating when we lack creativity.

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