It is 1825, a pleasant Sunday afternoon that finds you taking a morning constitutional after an enjoyable breakfast. You stop en-route to smell some roses in the park and, quite unexpectedly fall through a cosmic wormhole, to emerge 191 years later in 2016!
The world you find yourself in has changed beyond all recognition: You have no terms of reference to allow you to assimilate the experiences you are exposed to. The most basic activities – transportation, communication and the mundane activities of everyday life are unrecognisable, beyond your wildest imaginings… The world has become an incredible, impossible dream, and the only way you can think of to describe the remarkable ‘technological’ advances you experience is to consider them to be magic. Pure magic.
Even those of us who have grown up held within the thrall of technology can occasionally find ourselves coming to the same conclusion. It almost seems that if something can be imagined, it can be done, although the mechanism by which it is achieved may as well be magic, for all the understanding we have of it.
I’ve recently finished reading reading Heinlein’s 1942 short story ‘Waldo’ – a mostly unremarkable piece, but the turning point in his story hit me right between the eyes (spoilers follow!).
Think of world a where what we think of as reality exists in any particular state only as a direct result of us believing that to be its nature. So, for example water is only wet because that is what we have convinced ourselves is the nature of water – yet, by a conscious effort of will, believing that the nature of water is something other than wet, we can alter reality to become an entirely different one, where water is in fact dry. There’s more background to Heinlein’s story than I’ve outlined here, but that’s the fundamental concept. He illustrated his point with machinery that would inexplicably break down – a consequence of the jaded state of mind of those that tended them – Heinlein’s hero, Waldo, discovers he can effect repairs simply through believing they were so, mischievously declaring “magic is loose in the world!”
What sort of a crazy world would that be? One where we could – as if by magic – will anything to be whatever we wished it to be. It’s certainly fair to say that, although it may seem a ridiculous concept to our modern senses, we do indeed live in a world where that is in many ways true, as our unfortunate time traveller from 1825 would wholeheartedly attest. Feeling the need for your ‘fridge to complete a shopping list for you? There’s an app for that! (And if there’s not, someone will create one for you). Many, many of the things we take for granted today are the stuff of yesterday’s dreams and wild imaginings, and may as well be magic as far as the majority of us are concerned. To quote Waldo: “Magic loose in the world. It’s as good an explanation as any”.
So much for the real world… With SL we can have our cake and eat it, and then go back for further helpings!
In the virtual world, at least, we can have anything we want and the mere act of imagining it makes it real. SL is a magical world where we make the rules: You want trees growing from the ceiling? POW! – You’ve got them; you want the moon made of cheese? ZAP! It can be; you want to fly, run on water, walk through walls and a be a panda? WHOOSH! It’s done. It’s a world where impossible has no meaning and the usual laws of the universe hold up their hands in defeat, disappear into the shadows and slink off to the nearest bar to drown their sorrows and talk about the good old days when the world was so much more dependable.
The trouble with the real world is that we have all this amazing technology and incredible, magical, unbelievable things all around us, and we barely even consider it to be out of the ordinary. You could hand us everything we ever wanted to become reality on a plate, and all we’d do is look disdainfully at it, sniff, and complain that’s it’s not slim enough, or it’s the wrong colour, or that it doesn’t match our trainers. Magic – in RL – has become mundane, ordinary and has lost its erm… magic.
On the other hand, SL has lost none of its magic. Even after 12 years it’s still the mad, crazy, bonkers, intriguing, compelling place it always has been. And, if you’re anything like me, life is a little less dull when you have your own private wormhole to disappear into and get your regular fix of pure magic!
This flame that burns inside of me,
I’m hearing secret harmonies
It’s a kind of magic
Queen – A Kind Of Magic