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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