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As a child, the world was magic.

When you’re a child, you don’t know how anything works, and generally, even if someone explained it to you, you wouldn’t really understand.

I remember a few things as a child.  I remember in first grade they played a video of two alien puppets in what was supposed to be a spaceship, teaching letters and numbers, and while I had doubts even at that age, I wasn’t entirely sure if it was real or not.  I remember thinking there were little people playing and talking inside of a radio or record player.  Even the most mundane things were full of wonder in their own way – how did the trains make the little gates go down and lights flash?  What made a car work?  All of those things were magic to me.  As well they should have been.

But when I was seven years old or so, I took apart a phonograph – the story of how that came to be is long.  But I took one apart.  And there were these little parts inside that did all the stuff!  I wanted to know what they were – the magic had an explanation!  So I started down the road of electronics, and learned quite a bit.  I learned how the world worked, and everything that I thought was magic had an explanation, and usually a pretty cool one as well.  The world became rational, and slowly, I lost the magic.  There were still plenty of cool and fun things to explore, but the magic itself was gone.

The thing about magic is that it can be a little solipsistic, in a good way.  When you’re not worried about how something comes to be, the world becomes a gift, and it’s there just for you.  I remember waking up in the morning, not even wondering what the day was going to bring, much less worrying.  I remember going to the Irish Hills up in Michigan.  I don’t believe, when I woke up, that I even knew we were going to go.  I remember playing with a little game that morning, where you put shapes in and then they popped out after a minute.  And then we went, I didn’t know where we were going, and I didn’t know where we were when we got there.  But I still remember the buildings themselves.  They were magic.  The hills were magic, the buildings were magic, everything was magic.

And looking back on it, looking them up now, they’re nothing special.  I could go back now and it’d mean nothing.  The magic was then, not now.

Science is cool.  Science is amazing.  Science does wonderful things.  But it’s entirely deterministic and there’s no magic in it.  You put something in, you get something out, and by the very nature of science, anything “magic” is discounted as unrepeatable and untestable.  But it’s the magic that makes life worth anything at all, because without it, you have nothing but a clockwork world, a world where you figure out how everything works, until there’s nothing more to figure out – and then what do you have?  Nothing.

I wish I could get the magic back.  When the world was magic, happiness didn’t seem so far away.

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