In a recent conversation, I was asked to define magic.
Yes, I sometimes have conversations like that.
To me, magic is not necessarily that which I do not understand and am left in wonderment at. There are phenomena I experience that I know a great deal about, yet am still enchanted by – the gleam of sunlight refracted by a droplet of dew; vivid colours on the carapace of a ladybird; the graceful elegance of cirrus clouds; the lace-like intricacy of a human iris.
To me, these are all magical.
I do not ascribe these things simply as the wilful gesture of some supernatural creator. I know some of these are the consequence of billions of years of evolutionary trial and error; while others are the manifestation of complex chemical processes affected by myriad environmental conditions. I know this. Yet to me, they are still magical. To me, they are wonderful and beautiful.
I see beauty all around, even in the seemingly mundane – the pile of rubble and soil tossed aside to make a new garden path; the discarded shavings of a peeled potato; the lump of hairs pulled from a hairbrush just cleaned. Everywhere there is beauty.
I think ugliness comes from within humans. Humans who have lost – or worse, never had the opportunity to develop – the skill or ability or even instinct to see the world for what it is: something beautiful. Some humans are made to be so ugly they are impervious to beauty, and out of fear wilfully destroy that which they can not or are unwilling to understand. That is a tragedy right there – humans untouched by the magic of beauty, condemned by blindness of the heart. These individuals are in the most dire need of perspective and understanding and compassion, but so few are afforded such, instead condemned to enmity, hatred and in some cases deliberate death. So sad.
It could be argued there is ugliness in nature, too. Maladies, disasters, all these things exist, but they are not in and of themselves malicious. The cancer attacking the child is not self-aware enough to understand its malice. Cancer is a malfunction, an imperfection in an imperfect world. The tsunami claiming a coastline is a result of an undersea landslide. It hasn’t a consciousness to know it is an unwelcome harbinger of doom to innocents. Human reactions to these things are where the ugliness dwells.
To perceive the face of a person recently passed as ugly is to deny the beauty of the life lived. It is to gaze upon the last page of the book as the only part of the story and ignore all that has come before.
To me, beauty is magical. As an artist, I celebrate that magic by documenting it in my work. I love beautiful things and express that love through my creativity, be it painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, carving, or whatever else I can manage. I have spent recent months concentrating on writing. I am exploring what some individuals have undergone to have them so bereft of connection they end up ugly on the inside – the sort of individuals who gaze upon a thing of beauty and magic, and instead of having their heart stirred, attempt to determine how they can manipulate or possess such a thing for their own indulgence or profit. Some individuals are so ugly, so cold and dead on the inside, they are impervious to magic. They may count great wealth for themselves, but they remain the poorest people on the planet.
To those with hearts that beat pierce and free, hot and alive and wondrous, there will always be wealth in simply wondering at the magic of the world, whether it’s the humble gleam of sunlight in a dew-drop, the awesome majesty of an oil painting in a gallery, the sensual elegance of a sleek sports motor-car in its showroom or the outline of a cloud. These are things beyond possession, but their magic can remain in the heart forever.
That is the joy of art, the wonder of magic.