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Watercolors, acrylic paintings, sculptures and art classes

Night Circus, Magic and Perception

Chas Martin
Walking Infinity, work in progress...

Walking Infinity, work in progress...

When I read a novel that taps into difficult-to-describe knowledge, it reinforces the idea that there is more to life than science or faith. I just finished reading "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern. It could be categorized as playful, fantasy, magic, or several other descriptors. She entertainingly explores the realm of the unexplainable.

"Magic," the man in the grey suit laughs, "This is not magic. This is the way the world is, only very few people take the time to stop and note it. Look around you. Not a one of them even has an inkling of the things that are possible in this world and what's worse, is that none of them would listen if you attempted to enlighten them. They want to believe that magic is nothing but clever deception, because to think it real would keep them up at night, afraid of their own existence."

Real versus magic reduces our perception to logic. We can thank Aristotle for our binary evaluation of the world. By his logic, everything that isn't right is wrong. That’s the foundation of our education system. The dominance of the left brain devalues the knowledge of the right brain because if it can’t be quantified, it doesn’t matter.  

Years of studying creativity, imagination and thought processes have taught me that there is a universe of possibility between logic’s polar options. There can be more than one right answer. There can be more than two right answers. There can be dozens of right answers. Why not? There are certainly multiple wrong answers. There is more to the world than the extremes of pure science or pure faith answers.

It seems that each exist to negate the other. In science, provable facts define our perception for decades until overturned by new facts. Faith, on the other hand, is faith in the unprovable where the level of piety defines the truth. Between these extremes is a much greater realm of perception that is as real as we allow it to be.

Native American artist, Rick Bartow, often explored how we perceive the world. "Things We Know but Cannot Explain" was a powerful retrospective of his life’s work. In image after image, he reached beyond the grasp of science or faith to the core of the magic. It’s not the magic of tricks and deception. It’s the magic of letting go of the obvious to explore the sensuous.
David Abram’s book, "The Spell of the Sensuous," defined this magic as the essential experience of oneness that defies description. Any attempt to explain this experience in picture, word, song, or dance is an abstraction of the essential experience. Abstract or not, it seems to fit with Morgenstern’s world where magic is all around all the time. We just need to be open to its possibilities to participate.