I was somewhere between six and seven when my father introduced me to The Hobbit. First, reading me bits from the book himself, then later, playing records from the BBC broadcast with Anthony Jackson. My father told me it was about dragons and wizards, and to a whelp somewhere between six and seven with a fertile, and perhaps somewhat overactive, imagination, such a prospect was nothing short of tantalizing.
The wizard, Gandalf, was an intriguing, but sort of unreliable cat. He seemed to just up and disappear at the most inopportune times. Trolls? Well, he was apparently looking ahead and behind. Captured by goblins? Probably off to get a quart of milk or something. Mirkwood? Forget about it.
Gandalf did seem to have something of a superhero complex. Maybe that comes with being a wizard. He would show up just when things started to get a little two bleak. Becoming troll food? Keep them talking until they all got stoned, and not in that interesting way that prompts one to think jam bands are on-par with Mozart and eat crap that would make a jonesing pregnant woman cross her legs and blush. The goblins? Right there in the nick of time with sword and spells. The Battle of Five Armies? He gets everybody to band against the baddies, because, the social construct of reality dictates, good always triumphs in the end.
The thing that impressed me was the bit with the pine cones. Pretty-colored incendiary napalm-esque grenades being lobbed at a pack of wargs. It bought time before those eagles showed up. For all his fucking off, that bit with the pine cones taught me you did not fuck with Gandalf.
An old song posed the question; do you believe in magic? After my experience with The Hobbit, I was inclined to say yes. Reading the mythologies of ancient Egypt and Greece reinforced this notion. Even my father's mother's stories of the Christian god, turning a woman into salt, as an example, hinted at the possibility of bending, if not outright breaking, the laws of physics.
Perhaps it was because of the brutalities of the si li nan jen that such a things held appeal. It wasn't until my adolescence that I learned how to defend myself, often better with a few quick and confusing words, than with my fists and balisong. The idea of being able to conjure a fireball out of the very atmosphere around me and lob it at my antagonists, or turn them into cockroaches held infinite appeal.
Sometimes, I think that was one of the more crushing realizations I dealt with. Moreso than finding out that Homo sapiens are brutal, hateful, deceptive creatures, even and especially in groups of two or more. Deeper than the discovery that good and evil were these monkey-made concepts of trying to maintain the pack order and make sense out of a universe that, for all its beauty and paradoxical symmetry, is inherently chaotic. The revelation that magic...well, the magic found in fairy-stories like The Hobbit and games like Dungeons and Dragons was not real.
My dealings with Pagans, seeing them cast spells, helped prove what I had come to observe empirically. Their rites and getting their mojo working was really no different than what my father's mother was doing once a week in a building with a cross affixed to the roof. An interesting, and amusing, observation to pull on the proselytizing zealots, you know the ones; those who say Harry Potter and the lyrics of Marilyn Manson, and classically, Motley Crue-though I'd be more inclined to say Coldplay-will lead to child-sacrificing Devil worship, is to bring up to those cats that the only real difference between a prayer and a spell is, in fact, the spelling. Oh, and which deity that the favors are being asked of.
Perhaps I am cynical, but I can no more believe in the fairy-story style magic that can bend, if not break to the point of shattering, the laws of physics. Not anymore than I can believe in an anthropomorphic being who keeps tally on naughty and nice in the monkey-made construct like fucking Santa Claus in a world filled with unremitting horror, but, who is, in fact, like that psychotic relative who might give you a chocolate bar for the hell of it, or just might smash your skull open with a hammer to see the expression on your face as the blows come. Both seem equally absurd, and yet I have encountered cats who cling to one, or both, notion with savage tenacity.
Yet, because my hypocrisy knows no bounds, I do believe in magic. Perhaps not the magik of the Pagans I've known over the years and lifetimes. Sometimes, a lot of times, that's almost too flakie for my tastes. Maybe it's more a combination of Clarke's Third Law; "[a]ny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and the everyday beauty of the paradoxical symmetry and inherent chaos of the universe around us. Sort of like I can give credence to the Divine being but a force of nature that does not terry with the concepts and constructs of humans.
Here is where language fails me. For all of my purported talent with the manipulation and stringing together of words, my supposed eloquence, I find myself tongue-tied. It all gets garbled up, either when trying to articulate verbally or in the conduits between my mind and fingertips. Here is where I fear I stop making sense.
Perhaps that's what happens when glimpsing that kind of mystical. Words fail. I find myself reminded of a sci-fi I once watched in which an alien and human were speaking over some freaky shit they saw and the alien picks up an ant and moves it to a flower.
"How do you suppose it will explain what just happened to the other ants?" The alien asked in rhetorical tones.
That's where I am; the ant and trying to explain my perception of things greater than myself. Here and now, it seems I lack the language. Well, other than to say it just is and leave the understanding of that statement up to you.