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 thoughts on “The Space Between Thoughts

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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? 😉

  4. 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.…

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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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