Stumble Upon Magic

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We all have a place where we find magic. It might not always be in a place that makes sense, it may creep up on you, it may only reveal itself to you in its absence – but we’ve all found it.

I’ve found magic on my travels this summer. In the people I have fallen in love with, the places I have discovered, and the challenges I have overcome, something everlasting and pure and fizzy has bubbled under the surface of the everyday. I felt it in the air last night: in the brightness of fairy lights as they hung from trees, and in the furry skins of stuffed toy animals. I piled my bags into the taxi on my way to finding home, and I met a man who held a very different kind of magic.

The driver had a thick tongue that caught on the roof of his mouth as he spoke, and a lawn of midnight black hair wrapped around his lower skull. He gripped the steering wheel with an attentive hold, and would anxiously glance back to make sure I was comfortable, pointing out bottles of water and offering me gum.

Soon he began telling me stories about his past as a musician, his qualifications from Trinity College in England, his passion for the drums.

‘But I don’t play for the world anymore. I play for Jesus. I play for him.’

I am not a religious person. I don’t know if my faith would have a label, but if it did, it wouldn’t be Christian. I wouldn’t name a being called Jesus. I wouldn’t clasp my hands over rosary beads and mutter to the heavens.

But I am in awe of the faith that resides in those that do all of those things.

I asked this man why he stopped playing for the world, asked him why the world doesn’t deserve his music any more.

‘Ten years ago, my life did a 180. I was a bad man, doing bad things. I drank too much alcohol, and I smoked – oh I smoked 80 cigarettes a day. Soon, everyone hated me. My wife, my children… they only stayed because I had money.

Then one day, during a rehearsal, I fell down with a heart-attack. For two days I lay in a coma, and while I was unconscious I had a vision. It was Jesus. He came to me and said ‘I want you. Come to me.’ When I woke up, I told my doctors and my family. My wife was always religious and she cried on my face. They ran tests and found no nicotine in my blood, no alcohol. I don’t care what scientists call it, I call that a miracle. Jesus brought me back and gave me new blood.

‘Every day since, I play in the Church. I serve. I don’t play for the world any more, but I do serve it. I make sure people like you get home safe at night, and I play them my music, and I tell them about God.’

So it was at midnight last night that I found a new blossom of magic on the freeway to home. I saw this man and I felt that buzzing feeling when he spoke. Something extraordinary was thrumming behind his words; that something that I had felt earlier in the lights hanging in the air. Like me, that man knew magic existed.

And like me, he was going to hang on to it as hard as he could. 

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Inkmen

When nib kissed paper, electricity fizzed outwards in a spider web of sparks and you were born.

You shocked me at first. You were thinner than I had planned, with a smudge of a moustache on your upper lip. A rumpled suit hung off your body; a pair of spades for hands poked out from the sleeves as if curious to see the world. When you walked, your chest curved inwards on itself, shy, despite the confident stride of your loafer clad feet.

Not a word was spoken until sunset. You sat in the margin and hugged your knees while I sat on my giant’s throne and squinted down at you. Mine. My tiny creation, perched on the edge. When you looked at me, I gasped: I had forgotten to give you an eye colour. Two dark coals were buried in your sockets, burning with a flameless heat. Who am I? you asked.

I haven’t decided yet. I think your name might be Jonah.

You rolled the name around in your mouth like an oversized marble, raising one eyebrow. Every move you made was beautiful to me. I picked up my pen again, eager to fill you out, but you stood up, shaking your head in fear. You hurled your thin body at me and tried to batter down the walls between us. Vaguely frightened, I looked on in wonder. The screams coming from your mouth were strangled, muted. There is no escape for you here, I tell you. This is the world I built for you.

I don’t like it. This is not what I wanted. Oil tears fall thickly down your face and silhouette hands press into your eye sockets. Your shoulders shake.

It is not what I wanted either. Heart pounding, I throw my pen to one side, slam the pages of the notebook shut and stuff it hurriedly onto a crammed shelf. Not only yours, but many muffled sounds issue from the long row of identical jotters: snippets of song, laughter, the miniscule taps of feet pacing. If I close my eyes, I can almost see every birth, every creation.

And I wonder if it was good.

Where is your God?

In modern society, faith is questioned by everyone, be they scientists, priests, businessmen, adventurers or even young children. It is no longer accepted that there is a God watching over us, protecting and guiding us through everyday life. There are no longer intricate depictions of Satan smiting us for our sins or of Angel Gabriel singing ‘Hallelujah!’ on the walls of our schools. Instead we are turning to experiments, DNA, evolution, rockets sent out into space and the Big Bang for our answers.

Fact is becoming the new God.

I have been raised by parents who follow a religion and who made it a part of who I am today. I am proud of my faith. As I have grown I have strayed from the path of absolute doctrine and find my own answers to spiritual questions. If challenged, I will defend what I believe in-in spite of the ridicule or surprise I’m faced with.

But, as with anything in this life, there are times when even I wobble in my determined belief.

So what do we do when something happens to us that makes us question the very fundamentals of what we believe in?

With all the beauty that life presents to us, we are shocked when ugliness invades. It filters through our routines, worms into our thoughts and takes hold, spreading like black ink in a glass of water. We are left with something impure, polluted and shocking. And how can we be expected to stand steadfast in the face of evil and thank a God for our suffering?

Today is a day I can’t stand firm. Today is a day I can’t take comfort in a belief. Today is a day I will not be thankful.

Today is one of those days when it feels as though we are just tiny inconsequential beings with no real influence on the universe; we have no control over love, life or death. It seems impossible to believe in something with so much power and so much love having so little regard for existence here on Earth.

It’s hard to find the part of myself that looks within for answers and finds comfort from something bigger than myself. I know deep down that Fact could never be my God; I know that there are questions that could never be answered by science; I know that I have a purpose and that I occasionally lose sight of it.

Although I know all of this…

Today is a day I can’t stand firm.

But tomorrow is a day I could try.

Show me your soul

Children are blessed pure and untainted with the trivials of life.

When I was young, I had an imaginary friend. I used to dream of a grey man watching over me, clothed in a steamy ashen cloak, his shoes a silent supple leather. He had a scratchy wire beard that rested on his sunken chest and ocean blue eyes. Thin, papery skin settled over his bony fingers and wisps of fluffy white cloud swirled around his ankles.

You hear tiny children in the local parks playing with imaginary friends, feeding them invisible cakes and pouring them empty cups of tea.

But I found myself wondering today where these figments of the imagination come from.

Are they a reflection of our own emotions and, too young to comprehend, we morph them into something friendly and accessible?

Are they imprints of a character from a book come to tease us with wonderlands that are just out of reach?

Somehow these human explanations do not encompass the truth of who the Grey Man was to me.

So are they our souls? Is it only when we are young that we can glance in to our own selves and see what is within?

A soul has-as of yet-eluded a universally accepted definition. It is something so infinitely personal to each person that it is impossible to describe or point to. No scientist has discovered proof of its existence, there is no requirement to believe.

And yet, when challenged on the subject, I find myself ardently defending it, shocked and mystified at those who claim it is not real.

Show me your soul.

For there is a spark within us all, a jolt of life that jerks us from darkness into the light and gives us reason to get up in the morning. It makes us more than just robots, makes us swagger with an innate knowledge of importance.

You could call that a soul.

You could call that God.

But who’s to say a child is wrong if they point to their Grey Man?

MAJESTY

I believe it is in the dead of night that people are truly inspired and at their most wise. Words are spoken that emerge from a well within you and you have no control over them. You simply feel them forming on your tongue and, I don’t know-maybe it’s exhaustion, maybe it’s something bigger and more complex than yourself-but suddenly, you’re saying something marvellous.

Like, on the level of Gandhi marvellous. 

For me, it is just when the moon hits that peak in the sky that my mind starts to buzz into life once more. I have dreams as vivid as reality and fantastical as a fairy tale. Characters spring to life, adventures unfold and my eyes flicker open with an eagerness to grab the nearest piece of paper and get scribbling.

Whoever tries to explain this away with science is a person who cannot have had such a feeling. I cannot believe that something this magical can come from neurons in the brain or is a response to a psychological trigger. This HAS to be something bigger than ourselves.

Because otherwise, what would we be?

Without this spark of ‘something else’ we would be as robots. We would be going through the motions; showing affection when commanded to, not when we felt it; crushing those in our path. We would be monsters.

When all is said and done, we are all so much more. We are magical creatures. Complex. Outstanding. Vulnerable.

When all is said and done, the words we speak in the dead of night may be the greatest truths we will ever know.

When all is said and done, none of us understand anyone on this earth.

AND THAT IS THE TRUE MAJESTY OF WHAT WE ARE.

Heaven or Hell?

Life is a fragile thing, a tentative web made of heartbeat, breath, thought. We can be exalting in the majesty of it one moment only to be brought crashing down in a wave of destruction the next.

A car crash.

A heart attack.

A fall.

One wrong footing, one bad decision, one day too long and the flame of life is snuffed out by an unseen hand.

This year has brought me face to face with mortality, a terrifying void to be confronted and one that sends even the bravest of us fleeing for safety and warmth in our mother’s arms. Life is not infinite-at least not on this earth-but scripture, myth, legends and tales of old whisper promises of an afterlife to come, an afterlife of our choice:

HEAVEN OR HELL?

My beliefs do not lead me to the conclusion that these are physical realms, but that they are indefinable and unite all souls in one way or another when our time comes.

Heaven is different to all of us. To those that believe, it is ‘the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death; the place or state of existence of the blessed after the mortal life.’ But to others, it is merely ‘a place of great happiness, delight or pleasure.’  Hell on the other hand, leaves us with no doubts as to what is to come: torment and misery. The only question we are faced with is whether this state of being exists in the afterlife or if it is present in all of us now.

There is no right or wrong here; there is no definitive place on a map to which we can point the existence of a Heaven or a Hell; there is no universal answer to the question of what awaits us on the other side.

And this terrifies us.

When death knocks at our door, we become selfish beings. We hold on to our loved ones desperately, forcing them to cling to what life they have left, no matter what pain they are in. This is something we cannot be judged for.

Whether they be a friend, a lover, a family member, or a mere acquaintance, death initiates the passing on to another place. We know not if this will be a Paradise, or a Hell. We are left to hope for them to be at peace.

We are left to pray for their souls, to remember the happiness they brought us, to be tormented by their memory, for as long as we live here on this Earth.

Their Heaven becomes our Hell.