A Soft and Secret Betrayal

A Big Stash of Bottles Found by Toronto Excavators

37, day thirty two
When I was a child I had a small beat up old tackle-box under my bed. It contained the most important objects in the entire world. There was a small spiked ball made out of gold-colored wire. At the end of each spike was a golden-orange jewel. The wire was cheap and flimsy. The jewels were rhinestone. There was a pewter medallion with unrecognizable symbols inlaid in copper. The box contained polished stones; there was moonstone, and moss agate, and opal, and many others. There was a small crystal bottle filled with pink liquid, and a pewter figure of a man with a lance riding an impossible beast.

The gold-wire sphere was called the Sun Orb, and even in the deepest darkness it could produce True Sunlight, of which normal sunlight is only an echo. When combined with my piece of moonstone, according to the laws set out on the pewter-and-copper medallion, it could open up Jacob’s Celestial Gateway.

My parents often took my brother and I to antique stores when we visited new towns. I rushed straight to the collections of antique knives, or the colored class bottles. I sifted through the old lamps and the dust-covered pieces of furniture. I breathed in the dust, even though it made me sneeze. Somewhere, hidden in the thick layers of collected particles, there were secrets to be discovered.

Both of my parents thought I liked interesting objects. It made sense. Both of them were visual artists, and though I displayed little artistic talent I had a clear aesthetic of the fascinating. They were wrong. I didn’t care about objects. I cared only a little about aesthetics. I loved old, or intriguing, or anachronistic items because they contained within them a promise. They were pieces of a puzzle. Every object I had in the tackle-box had a purpose and a meaning. They all fit together. When I solved the puzzle, it would unlock something very specific. Something I could not define, but would recognize completely the moment I saw it.

I was looking for magic.

I don’t collect objects anymore. I still like colored bottles, because I love the way light shines through colored glass. But I haven’t acquired one in years. Now, antique shops are just dreary places that make my dust-allergies flare up. Collections of old objects bore me. They might be pretty, or interesting. But they don’t mean anything. They don’t do anything. I love that people collect cars, or action figures, or antique clocks. But I don’t understand them. To me these things can never be more than mildly amusing. They are just inert shapes made of lifeless matter. None of them are magic.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized that magic had betrayed me.

I don’t look for it anymore. I no longer study real-world esoteric practices. I don’t read ancient mystical texts hoping for the single sentence of power amidst the thousands of made up myths that will open the door to the secret arts. I still have an over-developed sense of wonder; I hope that never goes away. But now I accept it for what it is: humans using their magnificent minds to create meaning and majesty in an otherwise uncaring universe. There is a beauty to that, and I have learned to love it for its own sake.

But I remember when I was small, and I knew there was magic. I didn’t believe in magic, the way I believed in butterflies and televisions and that Einstein discovered the theory of special relativity. I didn’t really think my Sun Orb could create True Sunlight. But I knew the magic was there, all the same. I knew it as much as I knew anything.

I remember that so clearly. And there are those moments. My computer monitor always powers down right as I come back from doing something else. Sure, it might just be that I always take the same amount of time to do everything. Or maybe I’m just on one end of the random statistical curve. Someone has to be. I don’t want to indulge in magical thinking, but what if the universe is trying to speak to me, and I have lumps of skepticism jammed into my ears? What if, just maybe, that small child who was so ignorant and naive had wisdom that I have lost. Maybe magic didn’t gave up on me. Maybe I was the one who gave up on it. Maybe it is still out there, just waiting for me to find it.

Like so many other things, I will probably never know.

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6 thoughts on “A Soft and Secret Betrayal

  1. I enjoyed this post. Thank you.

  2. Magic is real. It exists … between our ears. It is not in how the world unfolds but in how we perceive it unfolding. The magic in the true sunlight (TM?) is not in the object but in the mind of the beholder. That magic has razed kingdoms and catapulted villages to empire in the real world. It drove Alexander to heights you and I cannot know. The belief in what might be is the very magic that has made humans more than just apes. That kind of magic is real. I think you have that magic in you.

    Thank you for sharing your magic here.

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