I should have known better.
Me, of all people.
But I didn’t.
Here’s the story.
We’re in our apartment in London. Rachel’s boys, Milo (6) and Jack (4), visiting from their family’s apartment, burst into the living room where I am reading, and Milo says,
“Pappy” – they call me Pappy – “Something’s happening in the bedroom!”
I get up from the couch, following obediently into the bedroom, where a pointing Milo excitedly says,
“Look, Pappy! The curtains are dancing!”
Sure enough, I look at the bedroom curtains, which, it seems, are spontaneously undulating.
Then I realize why.
The bedroom floor fan – our apartment has no air conditioning – is turned on, its proximate breeze causing the nearby curtains to “dance.”
Without thinking, I explain the cause of this curious behavior.
“The fan is blowing the curtains.”
The explanation was accurate, but the conversation was ended, seemingly with a thud. Because alsoended was the joyful excitement of their “amazing discovery.”
No more “dancing curtains.” “Wisdom” had vaporized the “inexplicable mystery.”
I should really have known better.
I love magic. Not just the “professional” kind, which I also love, with its sleight-of-hand card tricks, coins extracted from startled ears.
What I mean is the miraculous magic of everyday life, “magic” generically defined as, “This just happened, and I have no idea why.”
You may – if you agree – have personal examples of your own. For me, I am talking about this:
Writing is magic.
Every weekday, blog posts take clarifying shape before my astonished eyes, like ships in a gradually lightening fog. First, you are unable to determine its contours. Then – I say, “magically” – there it is.
A post idea comes to me. (Not “I went to Oxford and I wrote about it”, but the contrasting majority of others.)
I do not know what delivered that idea to my consciousness.
I feel an urgency – as with this post – to write about it.
That perceived urgency feels externally induced.
The selection of words – the ones I use, and I ones I leave out – come spontaneously to me, the better examples of humor are unforced, and most amazingly, the post’s structural arrangement materializes virtually entirely on its own.
Yes, there is technique and writerly experience involved. But the “Final Product”?
I watch it successfully come together.
Serving as “interested spectator.” And grateful stenographer.
I feel genuinely amazed by the process, saying, frequently out loud when I’m finished,
“How exactly did that happen?”
And there’s me, channeling magic on a week-daily basis, robbing children of their magical interpretation. Growing them up, faster than necessary. Child-like amazement, vanquished by “Adult Understanding.”
“The curtains aren’t dancing. It’s just the breeze, blowing from the fan.”
P.U. on me.
But lesson, dutifully assimilated.
It will not happen again.
At the Jewish camp I attended we did a show – in which I prominently participated – whose thematic message concerned the increasing disappearance of Yiddish, a European patios – the people’s “Language of Choice” over liturgical Hebrew – falling into the Diasporal disuse.
The show’s beseeching point was the finale’s plaintively sung,
“Use a Yiddish word
Use a Yiddish word
Please use a Yiddish word.”
Ipso and facto,
“Burgeoning Wisdom” drives day-to-day magic to the edge of extinction.
I say that’s a shame.
And that there is definitely room for both.
Science and technology are great.
But the magic around us – if we continue to see it – is wonder-ful.
Rewrite of the Bungled Experience:
“Look Pappy! The curtains are dancing!”
“Oh, Milo! They are!”