In the world we now live in, there isn’t much to do with magic. Reports are typed and emailed, shelves are stocked with produce, people go about their jobs knowing exactly how each thing is done and never looking further. Whenever someone calling themselves a magician steps forward with his bag of tricks, we’re almost certain before he/she begins how each illusion is created. Most of what we consider magic is encased in our literature and our food.
First thing is our food. We all need to eat to survive. The magic comes in when we know there are only a set number of ingredients in the world. There really isn’t going to be a new thing to cook with, no matter how hard we look. Yet we still pay to go to restaurants. We compliment the chef, try to figure out what goes inside it, and most of the time commit to going back to the restaurant to partake of that meal again.
That happened for me during my two years in Canada as a full-time missionary. In this particular area of Edmonton, there were many immigrants from the Punjab area of India. You could smell them from their driveways. Their homes overflowed with the enticing scent of curries, rice, and spices. Even if they had no interest in our message, there were many homes that still invited us inside for a drink or a snack to keep us going. One home invited us for lunch the next day, promising we would have food us silly white folk had never dreamed of.
They were right.
We watched an aged matriarch move from counter to counter with bowls of seasoning, adding an amount of this or scooping some of that with her hands into a pot that bubbled a remarkable orange color. She never measured, never consulted a recipe card, or even asked a family member to see if it tasted right. She knew.
Despite my frantic scribbling, I couldn’t write down the recipe. I had some guesses on measurements and the exact array of spices, but my attempts never came out as good as hers did.
That was magic.
The other realm of magic we as humans still have is literature. Every book, no matter the subject, is made from only the components of the alphabet or syllabary of the language that created it. For us that write in English, that’s only 26 symbols. Yet from those 26 symbols we have Narnia, Oz, Middle Earth, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Panem, The Eastern Commonwealth, Luna, the Nine Circles of Hell, Le cirque des rêves, and the world of Uglies and Pretties.
Taking that a step further, there are only so many thematic elements that people can write from. Don’t believe me?
The Lion King is a kid-friendly version of Hamlet. Avatar (not the airbender) is Ferngully with special effects. The Hunger Games is a teen angst version of Gladiator.
That’s just a few of the examples of themes being re-used, updated, twisted, but still repeated throughout literature. But, that doesn’t deny the fact that billions, trillions by my guess, of dollars will be spent every year on books.
If that’s not enough to say that writing is magic, consider the purveyors. Not the big corporations like Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, but the writers themselves. They sacrifice their blood, tears, and sleep like some alchemical process to put hands to keyboard and write. Their ideas consume so much of their time, producing erratic behavior, to include writing down ideas that came from somewhere not entirely connected to the place they are in when said idea struck. Even though they know they’ll never quit their day jobs, never be able to live off of their writing, writers persist, prepping for NaNoWriMo, trying out new methods of outlining and brainstorming, suffering near endless criticism and then thanking the giver for being harsh.
Why? Because it’s all worth it to see a story with their name attached as the creator.
Friends, fellow writers, cooks and chefs alike, thank you for your magic. Keep that up.