Category Archives: social commentary

Of Magic & Miracles

What is magic? What are miracles, and what causes them?

"Magical Skies." By Lyna Chai

“Magical Skies.” By Lyna Chai

It seems that the key defining factor for both is our lack of knowledge and understanding about them. If we don’t know how something happens, it seems magical and miraculous (unless we don’t like it, then we call it a tragedy, curse, etc.) If we are religiously inclined, we call it divine or a work of God/Allah/Vishnu/etc.

As our knowledge of the world increased, the sphere of things we consider magical, miraculous, or divine has inversely decreased. Medical cures, rain falling after a long drought, the sun rising like clockwork every single day – so much of that has been explained by science and while these phenomena are still arguably amazing and marvelous, they are now less mysterious and confounding.Likewise, I think a lot of the things we would consider to be magical or miraculous today will someday be explained, revealed, debunked.

Will this take away from the fun and wonder of things? Will this just cause more and more disillusionment, and destroy our will to live?

And will there no longer be room for God?

To those with these concerns, I would first say, rest assured, advances in our knowledge is by and large a very good thing, something you benefit from tremendously compared to people even just a decade ago. Wait until you get some grave illness and see if you would rather have magic, miracles, and prayers, or a scientifically proven cure. Even the devoutly religious, I have found, go to a hospital when they get cancer or break a bone.

And secondly, no matter how much we learn and learn and learn some more about this universe, I don’t think we will ever be short of mysteries, big or small. As the physicist Marcelo Gleiser says in his book The Island of Knowledge, our body of knowledge is like a growing island – the more we know, the greater the boundaries of that knowledge and the expanse of things beyond it that we don’t know.

So, for better or worse, I think we will always have room for magic, miracles, and the divine, however defined.

To accept this reality and still keep marching forward towards greater knowledge is maybe in some ways a tragic Sisyphean task. Or maybe it’s just the magical, miraculous nature of the human spirit.

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