My mind goes back a lot right now to that other move from twenty years ago, which saw me hauling a free sofa from the home town down I-70 in the back of my Chevy S-10 with the tarp flapping in the wind and the rains coming on. Or, one of the final pushes up to the new apartment–my first pad outside of the dorms–with a bag full of a miscellany of beer the maintenance guy from the hotel had given me for helping the cleaning crew flip the mattresses. Booze could still deliver an almost magic array of possibilities for me–it would turn me into a smooth-talking frat boy, open up my intellect to absorb vast amounts of learning, make me write the best poetry and new fiction, and play the most smoking jams on the guitar.
I don’t miss having that feeling arise from eyeing a six pack from the store–too many six packs have been downed at the expense of money saved for more wonderful things like traveling and early retirement–but, I do miss the heady feeling that came from anticipating whatever magic a given thing might unlock for me. At one time, when I was too young to drive and buy smokes, I would get excited about finding a cigarette left mostly unfinished, a pack of matches or a lighter. Any of these could bring a sweet buzz or a bit of fun with fire.
The start of a new semester held the same promise–maybe this was the semester I would find the love of my life waiting for me in a new classroom. Or, I would find my true calling–a course that would excite me and ignite a passion to remain unquenched for the rest of my life.
Books and the start of a vacation could do the same thing–the book would lose its magic after a few pages were read. The vacation would stop being magical after several hours in the car or waiting on planes and in airports.
Magic is never present in the present because the present is the moment where all expectations are met or rejected. Magic is there in the past, in the form of wistful nostalgia that is chock full of only the best memories and the artificial memories imposed upon you by those who would have you long for a past that never was. Magic lies almost entirely in the future–what things to come might bring about something utterly novel, special, great and wonderful beyond all measure. Magic is the weird combination of the euphoria of anticipation, the joy brought on by a sense of great potential and Hope itself. Magic may be the enemy of Faith–because Faith is the grown-up’s confidence in a higher power to provide what is needed, whereas Magic is always about the hope for things to be better and greater than one could ever have expected.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. The joy that has been stolen from you by magic never appearing and your expectations remaining unmet should be transferred to the present, the here and now. To be immensely full of joy because you are excited about being alive in the present may seem like an awkward task in self delusion, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The joy you could be experiencing may simply be joy for joy’s sake.
Faith should feel different than Magic. Faith shouldn’t bring on a manic kind of euphoria for things to come, but a blessed assurance, a calm acceptance that God will deliver precisely what you need, what He says you need. Magic should be left for younger people who still have more of their lives in front of them than not, and can afford to take a day to dream about doing and being anything and everything. But, the joy of being alive, being in the moment, now that is something new. It’s not a dishonest kind of joy, or an artificial thing you create to fool yourself into believing everything is all right when it is not.
But, it is a joy for the things that you are experiencing in the here and now, due to being alive at this moment on the earth. A joy for being able to listen to all different kinds of music on your favorite streaming service, being able to learn whatever you want to learn for free, being able to see all of the art throughout the history of mankind, to be able to virtually tour museums and cities all over the world. A joy for being able to go to the grocery store and buy foods that used to be exotic or out of season at times, and eat any number of different dishes from a global cuisine that has penetrated even smaller towns.
There must be some joy, too, in just being able to breathe and think and hammer out words on a screen without worrying about them being censored or destroyed by fire. The joy in being alive on this earth, in this time and place, should be felt, because not everyone can bring themselves to believe that they have it good enough to even be grateful for being alive–though, it would seem many who have so much less than you do, are in fact, grateful and joyful to just be alive on this earth.
And, why not be the one to dictate when and where you become filled with joy? Why leave your joy in the hands of things you can’t have, or used to long to have but can now obtain so easily? Why would you let other people and things tell you when you should be joyful or when you shouldn’t be? If you can become joyful even in simple, mundane moments far removed from magnificent places, spectacular weather, epic moments–then think how much more joyful and appreciative you will be during those special and novel times. Think about how much less you will need to purchase food, booze, stuff to fill your heart with joy, when you reach the day where you are letting your heart fill up with joy all of its own accord.