The Space Between Thoughts

nerohead_coin2.jpgI read a folk tale, years ago, where a boy receives a purse that always con­tains a gold coin. This handy source of income helps him on his quest, which I can­not recall. When he takes out the coin, there is still a coin in the purse. Always. Mag­ic!

Typ­i­cal­ly, I can get my head around the tech­ni­cal aspects of folk­tale mag­ic. Sev­en league boots are eas­i­ly under­stood, by tak­ing a step you move sev­en leagues. A hat that makes a per­son invis­i­ble is equal­ly com­pre­hend­ed; by wear­ing the hat, invis­i­bil­i­ty occurs. The nev­er-end­ing coin in a bag trick is some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent, how­ev­er. How, I won­der, does the coin repro­duce itself? Where is the line drawn between where the coin in the purse becomes the coin no-longer-in-the-purse? How can the mag­ic sneak around our heads and put anoth­er coin in the bag if we are pay­ing atten­tion?

The only expla­na­tion I can think of, is that at some point, no mat­ter how hard we try, atten­tion is not paid and the mag­ic tum­bles to its con­clu­sion: anoth­er coin in the bag. The point when this occurs scares me because I sense that it might be the heart of myth and fable. I can only real­ly describe it as the space between thoughts. In between reach­ing into the bag and pick­ing up the coin; or pick­ing up the coin and remov­ing it from the bag, the mag­ic does its thing.

If this is the case, that, even as hard as we try to see the mech­a­nisms of things, we can­not grasp all that is entailed, then there is illim­itable elbow room in the infi­nite­ly small gap between one thought and the next. The boy with­draws a coin and in the time it takes to direct his atten­tion from the coin he is tak­ing back to the purse he took it from, anoth­er coin has appeared.

So, in this space, I think, lives intu­ition, lives imag­i­na­tion, lives inspi­ra­tion, lives some­thing deep­er than the sub­con­scious. I think this might be the same thing that G.K Chester­ton grap­pled with in many of his writ­ings and that J.R.R. Tolkien addressed in his remark­able essay On Fairy Sto­ries.

I think what struck me about the nev­er end­ing coin was the repli­ca­to­ry nature of the mag­ic and its trig­ger were just slight­ly dif­fer­ent enough from an enchant­ed flute or a fly­ing car­pet to make belief just a bit hard­er than usu­al to sus­pend. It also helps that I have nev­er end­ing curios­i­ty.

9 Replies

  • Well, the thing about Fairy Tale Mag­ic is that it doesn’t “hap­pen” at any time, it just *is*. There’s no point where the coin regen­er­at­ed itself, it’s just always in the bag. It’s hard to get your head around, but that’s what makes it mag­ic 🙂 If it hap­pened in a log­i­cal and under­stand­able way, it’d be less mag­i­cal.

  • The fic­tion must still be able to stand up to being test­ed. Sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief only works if it believ­able in the fic­tion­al world but still applic­a­ble to the world in which we live. Mag­ic does have to func­tion log­i­cal­ly, but the log­ic is dif­fer­ent for each fic­tion. If mag­ic did not make sense, sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief would be impos­si­ble.

    So, I have to test these things. If any sto­ry, even a fable, can’t stand up to an analy­sis of its fun­da­men­tal parts, I won’t enjoy read­ing it.

  • Then maybe you shouldn’t read Fairy Tales 😉

    Mag­ic does not have log­i­cal. If it were log­i­cal, it would be a trick, not mag­ic. Mag­ic should be impos­si­ble and shouldn’t be test­ed, that’s what makes it..well, mag­i­cal.

    You were the kid who tried to look to find the hole in the hat where the rab­bit was hid­den, weren’t you? 😉

  • Well, I’m all for ques­tion­ing any sort of belief sys­tem and I do agree that I pre­fer it when there is some log­ic in fan­ta­sy. How­ev­er, fan­ta­sy by it’s very nature is *sup­posed* to have that ele­ment of illog­i­cal in it. It is why I say it is dif­fer­ent than most sci­ence fic­tion, sci­ence fic­tion has a need to have some sort of tech­ni­cal mum­bo jum­bo to explain the fan­tas­tic tale. Fan­ta­sy more or less doesn’t feel the need. And now I’m ram­bling.…

  • The parts of the bible inten­tion­al­ly writ­ten as myth are pret­ty well done, the oth­er stuff has a lot of wis­dom but isn’t exact­ly the most stim­u­lat­ing read.

    what i was real­ly try­ing to talk about here was this ‘space between thoughts.’ it is sort of funny/exasperating that what is get­ting dis­cussed instead is my the man­ner I try to address this idea.

  • If any sto­ry, even a fable, can’t stand up to an analy­sis of its fun­da­men­tal parts, I won’t enjoy read­ing it.

    So do you not like the bible then? Okay, I’ll shut up now.

  • i think that’s because a lot of your entry relied on the fairy tale premise which many found dif­fi­cult to swal­low. hey, i’m a lot like you; i always get accused of over-ana­lyz­ing the (lack of) log­ic of mag­ic and there­by miss­ing the point of mag­ic. espe­cial­ly in sto­ry­telling con­texts. but i’m still inter­est­ed in the core idea — i think you’re get­ting at some­thing inter­est­ing. maybe you can approach the sub­ject again, com­ing at it from a dif­fer­ent angle?

  • Confounding/confusing my log­i­cal think­ing brings me to the thresh­old of “Spir­it”. The poten­tial for that con­nec­tion is always with me, my linear/logical/ego think­ing gets in the way.

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