“I wasn’t doing magic anymore… was just talking about doing magic.”
The above is a note I jotted to myself several months ago, and ran across today. It was something I saw up ahead as I wrote it, as though spoken by a me reflecting on that time, once through it. There was a sense of things I was struggling to identify then… a flatness to everything I suddenly became acutely aware of.
I think I’ve arrived at that point now, of understanding what I said to that previous me.
There’s a book that I love so much that I’ve recommended it to almost every dear friend, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. There are just so many excellent things about the book, starting with the distinct language and the mood that it sustains (like a mixture of many great writers in the Dickens and Austen vein), but what hooked me, was the very idea of the scene Susannah Clarke started with: a meeting of magicians.
These magicians were meeting together very regularly and debating quite vigorously over texts about previous magicians and the times of magic in which they lived. Most of those devotedly present were in total agreement that magic no longer occurred in England, which made for quite enjoyable meetings that ultimately fell into the same patterns as any other hobby group might. Two of the group however, were longing for more. They knew they were missing something.
In the book, this sets the stage for the two men of the title to appear. These men are not among those in the meetings, rather they are two actually practicing magicians quite different from one another, each intense and daring in their own ways. They seem to be brought into view by the context of the times. One, an older book and formula hoarder, resource-guards against those he deems unworthy. The other, more lighthearted and generous, is reckless at times.
Both continually endanger those around them.
I could elaborate further, but suffice it to say that the contrasts between the magicians’ group, the two curious men, and the two daring practicing magicians, are something I’ve never been able to shake when examining my own life. I ask myself, am I really IN this that I’m doing right now, really ALIVE in it? Or am I playing it safe because of A, B, C? Where am I indeed out on the edge? Can I give something more to that effort?
Things have started flowing again, taking on new dimensions as my intentions and attentions become less divided. There had been a missing road connecting distinct sensibilities I think, linking knowing about with stepping into that knowing.
I’m thinking of having the Kena Upanishad tattooed onto my body, but the text is a little long:
“Not that which the eye does see, but that by which the eye does see…”
Which has the feel of being inside the storm. Come to think of it, there is another character in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – a disturbing figure in many ways, covered in tattoos. Maybe I’ll take a bit longer to think about it. 😉
2 responses to “magic in the doing”
Delightful post Stephanie! A book I have been wanting to read and will read now that you triggered my curiosity! Think twice yes about the tattoo 😉
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The book is quite long and some feel the beginning few hundred pages are not “exciting” enough, but I love the dry humor. 🙂 Similar to Harry Potter you come away with all kind of magical/metaphorical concepts.
I keep going back and forth about the tattoo, hah. It may be a good thing those lines from the Kena Upanishad are so long and hard to fit anywhere comfortably! 😉