Sometimes I catch sight of the sun and the mystery of it all returns. There is no magic at the half century mark, only reason. The earth rotates around a ball of nuclear fire millions of miles away that itself is hurtling toward a distant edge that it will never reach. Ho hum.
I am speeding toward a distant edge, too–the end of mankind–but I’ll never reach it. Like the sun, I’ll burn out long before the edge of that universe comes into view. My body will turn to ash, and that dust will nurture the tender roots of fresh blades of grass that will stretch toward the sun that soars through the emptiness of space like trillions of similar stars feeding trillions of blades of grass.
No magic. No mystery. No god. Ho hum.
We can move the air and make each other cry. That’s all that music is. We can break light into its components and reassemble them to tell a story. That’s what painting is. Words on page are a con. What you’re hearing is your own voice rattling around inside your own head, but you interpret that voice as mine rather than yours. It’s art, not magic. Everything has a logical explanation at the halfway mark. Middle age is a bore.
“Jimmy, wake up. Wake up.” My mother grabbed my hand and led me to the living room. She pulled a cord and the heavy curtains behind the couch parted. My whole world was gone.
“Snow!” I screamed. It was a miracle.
At night I arranged my stuffed animals around me in a protective circle and drew my knees to my chest. Neglecting these precautions invited the devil at the foot of my bed to drag me to Hell. Damnation was real, bedtime was terrifying. Santa Claus was real, too: the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. I stared at the paintings in my Children’s Bible, awestruck by the man who rose from the dead and became a god.
Time passed. Experiences piled up. The ubiquity of the sunrise robbed it of any mystery. Snow became a nuisance to be avoided, Satan just a metaphor rather than a child-snatching demon. There is no magic anymore, but sometimes I catch sight of the sun and the mystery of it all returns.
Occasionally something else does the trick. Last night I took a walk near dusk. The air was cold and still, the horizon backlit by the last sliver of the day’s light. As I neared the park I heard their screams: young, joyful. A few steps in and I could make out the silhouettes of three young boys running in a circle.
“Faster!” one shouted. “Let out more string!” I heard the fluttering long before I could make out the kite floundering in the dark, dead air. “Don’t stop running!” the little boy yelled.
I stood and watched, waiting for the children to realize that they couldn’t fly a kite with no wind, and that even if they managed to keep it aloft they wouldn’t be able to see it in the dark. “These are basic concepts!” I wanted to shout. “Don’t be fools! Ho hum!”
But I didn’t. I stood and watched and waited. I gave up long before they did. They ran in circles and laughed and willed their kite toward the edge of the universe, and I walked away.”Faster!” they continued to scream. “More string! Go higher! Higher!”
They still have magic. Maybe I do, too.