Sunday, May 18, 2008


I previously posted my poem, "Scholar." I have been both an amateur magician and a scholar (I have the publications to prove the latter). The two have something in common.

A magic trick may be fascinating to the viewer and may require the magician to be creative to achieve the effect. The viewer may ache to know how an impressive trick was done. If the viewer learns how it was done, though, the magic is dead. The trick is no longer . . . magical.

A similar thing happens with scholarship. We find a real-world mystery. We attempt to understand, but fail. The mystery is intriguing and, in its own way, magical. Finally, after applying thought and imagination, we solve the mystery. Then we look over our explanation and . . . "it's dead, Jim." We started with a living, breathing, puzzle. Then we cut it up and fully understood how the thing worked.

Before we harnessed fire, it must have been magical. When we became able to use fire, it became a tool and some of the magic was gone. Now we know that fire is created by rapidly adding the oxygen in the air to a substance. We killed the magic, bit by bit.

Unfortulately the alternative to killing the magic is shivering in the dark and eating cold raviolli.

It's all

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