dramatic appropriateness

So this is my real, true, honest-to-dog last day of work. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I planning on racing home tonight immediately and going on a bender of some kind? Very yes.

The callouses on my fingers are getting tougher with each passing day. Mom's borrowed steel-string acoustic makes its mark on my hands. I think it's a good thing, though. Kind of like learning to drive on her old minivan; makes every other vehicle or instrument seem easy by comparison. If I can master [the only road], with its many fast chord changes, and [distance], with its rapid plucking, on this thing, I can play them in my sleep on a guitar with kinder, gentler strings.

Hm. Nature calls. Is it weird that I ponder the spiritual significance of not being able to use the employee bathroom here anymore? Not being able to take in the emploee-eye-view of the kitchens where what benificent magic exists here is made?

Sure enough, there was already somebody in the employee bathroom when I went down the hall, so I had to use the guest bathroom. I tend to take that sort of thing as an omen. The thing I think is important to remember about the regular type of omens, though, is that you don't really "read" them as such. At the start you simply make a mental note that there was one. Then later on, when you've had an interaction with a live, fleshly person that bears upon the matter to which the omen seemed to refer, you can look back at it and say, "Ah, this reveals such-and-such aspect of the spiritual structure of my time." But that tends to be as far as you can usefully analyze it. Big part of not driving yourself crazy--in magic or any other aspect of life!--is finding that sweet spot between not paying attention at all and paying far too much attention.

The other type is what one may as well call "dramatic commentary" omens. These need even less analysis, because if you let yourself start worrying about causality, you will go a teensy bit crazytime. The classic movie/television example is when someone, a villain or an angry hero, makes a pronouncement of doom while a thunderstorm is going on, and just as the last word falls out of their mouth there's a thunderclap and lightning in the background. I can think of a real-life example from a few days ago, actually. There was an air show of some kind in Chicago over the weekend, with jet planes doing circles all around the city in seemingly random patterns, making it even more difficult to watch television than the train normally does. I was sitting by myself in the TV alcove, rolling cigarettes and turning around little bits of my personality in my thoughts to see if they had the equivalent of rust or gunk on them. And it occurred to me to pull back from analyzing a little bit before I made myself sad. So I said aloud, "What matters is what kind of happiness I'm bringing, and to whom." Just as I finished speaking, one of those jet planes went past with a mighty roar that filled the sky, closer, lower and faster than any of the other planes I'd heard that day. I was a bit startled and said, "Thanks, I sure hope so."

(By the by, I love Mercea Eliade's discussion of the four types of divination in his book Shamanism. Unlike most anthropologists, he is neither sloppy nor sententious. Does his homework and shoots straight, sort of thing. What I call regular type omens matches up well with his fourth category of divination. The other ones all involve some sort of intermediary device, whether cards or stones or chicken intestines, to bring the omen out. This is why regular type is my favorite; it's "reading" the world itself with as little extra complication as possible.)

I've come up with a working hypothesis on the causality for this kind of thing that produces minimal psychological distortion. Which is my preferred yardstick for a belief or operant assumption about an issue where truth is unverifiable in practice. Okay. I can't think of myself as having caused the event; that arrogates way too much power to me that I do not, in fact, possess. Causes egomania. I also can't think of the thing which carried the omen (airplane, person who got to bathroom before me etc.) as having intended or permitted me to receive the omen. Causes paranoia.

Instead I think of the source of the commentary as the time. As you may recall, in my lexicon a "taig" is the spiritual aspect of a geographic location and a "time" is the spiritual aspect of a social group or set of active circumstances within which beings can form relationships with one another. The other person or people or thing likely has no idea that I exist, nor does it matter to them one way or another what thoughts or feelings I may have. They're just doing what they intended to do for their own reasons. I also have no idea what's going on with the other person or thing, don't have any special advance knowledge of what they're up to. I'm just doing whatever I want to do for my own reasons. So the events themselves have no special significance. What lends them interpretable meaning for me is the timing--the fact that I happened to choose to think or say something just at that exact moment. The other person was going to have been flying their plane or making their restroom visit or whatever no matter what I did. The omen occurred because I happened to have brought myself into a position where my action or intention evoked meaning through my observation of what the other person was already going to have done.

Note the phrasing there. Meaning is made possible by action and evoked into consciousness through observation. Causality is preserved, much in the same way that God is not mocked and energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Hardwired into the interface. Magic is never, never about breaking the laws of nature. It's about taking advantage of them in a thoroughly shameless and rules-lawyering way, same as the jerks one hears about on World of Warcraft type games who stay up all night finding ways to stack their bonus spells and special armor so as to be nigh-invincible in certain situations. It's like cheating but actually isn't, and is slightly more difficult than doing things the normal way.

The things we think of as normal are massive conflagrations of magical preposterousness anyway. Anybody who thinks airplanes aren't magic, for instance, would benefit from being made to repair them. The skill and effort and attention and grunts and swears of scores and scores of living people are what lifts weary travelers off the ground and keeps them up there. If someone's attention wavers for a moment or two during a pre-flight check, hundreds can die. And if the travelers give more credit to the rules-lawyering, the science, the method that went into the physical airplace, maybe that's a safer way of thinking about it. Easier on the mind to trust the memory of steel and the stubbornness of air than the focused intentions of a bunch of engineers and mechanics you've never met and a pilot whose face you might not see. They're gonna keep on moving all the same, whether you pay attention to them or not.