One of the great tragedies of childhood was my inability to harness the forces of witchcraft. It wasn’t for lack of trying. You have no idea how many times I stared at my homework and wiggled my nose, hoping to cause math problems to magically solve themselves, how many times I urged the kitchen dishes to become spontaneously clean with a snap of my finger. For years I was convinced the problem had to do with sound effects, or more specifically a lack of them. On “Bewitched,” whenever someone cast a spell, it was invariably accompanied by the sound of a harp or a bell or both. My spells were devastatingly silent.

As a child, believing in magic made perfect sense. Sure, only a select few people were blessed with supernatural powers, and I clearly wasn’t among them, but it seemed like someone should be. And I was in love with Elizabeth Montgomery. She was funny and gorgeous and I could never understand why her idiot husband, Darrin, interfered with her natural inclination toward magic. And the bigger question, really, was why Samantha put up with it. Was he really the best she could do? An irritable mortal with a permanent scowl etched on his face? No wonder both the actors who played Darrin were named “Dick.” And there’s no love lost between me and the latter Dick, Mr. Sargent, who was born as Richard Stanford Cox, who assumed a stage name when he decided his given name would never be taken seriously.

My discontent grew more intense upon the release of Star Wars in 1977, when I realized the practice of witchcraft was not limited to our corner of the universe, but was known even in galaxies far, far away. It went by a different name there, the “Force,” but the primary abilities were the same: telekinesis, telepathy, and mind control. Star Wars also taught me that a person of magic didn’t necessarily need sound effects to perform his tricks. A John Williams score was also sufficient. However, when I tried to make the lawnmower move itself, Mr. Williams was nowhere to be found.

Still, magic was everywhere. Superman could fly. He could see through anything but lead. Drew Barrymore could set people on fire just by looking at them. The long-forgotten Matthew Star could do all sorts of things, many of which I didn’t understand. What I did understand is that I couldn’t do them.

In fact, I suppose I was eventually drawn to science and logic because the world of magic continually failed me. I believed in God because I was told I should, but I never saw any evidence for Him. The one real-life man who ever did anything like magic was Santa Claus, but even he refused to show himself to me. It was understood that department store Santas were impostors; they were hired to pose for pictures while the real Santa managed a toy factory at the North Pole. The only true evidence of Santa’s existence was an empty milk glass and cookie crumbs, and, of course, the gifts he left behind. But that evidence was purely circumstantial.

The peculiar aspect of my obsession with the supernatural is that, from an early age, I was prone to curiosity that should have steered me in the other direction. I was the pesky kid who asked where Cain’s wife came from. I wondered how God could possibly listen to what must have been millions or billions of prayers coming over the heavenly switchboard every night. But the Bible stuff was abstract and seemed to have no connection to my life, whereas Santa Claus did. His annual appearance in my house was a measurable thing. In fact, when I was five, I decided I wanted to meet him.

With great fanfare I announced to the family that on Christmas Eve, rather than go to bed at the normal time, I would wait in the living room for Santa Claus to arrive. My parents obliged. They set me up on the couch with a blanket and a pillow and left me there. All the bedrooms were upstairs, and I was alone downstairs waiting on Santa Claus. The glass of milk and plate of cookies were on the table in front of me. I planned to hand them to him personally.

The house grew quiet. The only light in the room was the red-green twinkle of the Christmas tree. We lived in New Orleans at the time and we had no fireplace, so my dad left the front door unlocked. To provide easy egress for Santa.

To, you know, make it easy for this strange old man wearing a funny costume to walk straight into our house.

I could see the front door from my place on the couch. After a while I couldn’t take my eyes off it. My ears roared with silence. I wondered what he would say. What would I say? Would he smell like an old person? How did I know for sure he was a kind man? He was a complete stranger. Why on earth would we let a complete stranger into our house, bearing gifts or not?

When I woke up the next morning, the cookies were crumbs and the glass of milk was empty. Gifts surrounded the tree. I’d had one chance to look magic in the face, and I missed it. I think part of me was afraid to look at it. Another part of me was afraid it wouldn’t be there.

A few years later, when I learned the concept of long division, I tried to work out how many visits Santa Claus made on Christmas Eve, how many fractions of a second he spent in each household in order to deliver presents to all the children on his route. The number I came up with didn’t make sense. It was an impossible number. But I wanted to believe, so I decided Santa moved outside time. Rather than accept what the world was telling me, I changed the world to fit what I believed.

When my dad finally told me there was no Santa Claus, I wasn’t disappointed. I realized I had known it all along. In fact I felt liberated, because among my brothers and sisters and cousins, I alone knew the truth. I felt privileged to have been given what seemed like secret, even sacred knowledge.

Over the course of my teenage years I gradually divested myself of what I considered irrational beliefs. I lost interest in supernatural novels and films. I stripped the world down to its component parts. I leaned on logic and science, and they rarely let me down. A good example is the terrible case of acne I suffered from in high school. For years my face was so red and angry that I never wanted to leave the house, and my parents told me all the time the problem was my diet—too much chocolate and too many French fries. Then one day I saw the family doctor, he wrote me a prescription, and the acne disappeared. In two weeks it disappeared, like it had never been there. After that, any remaining ties I maintained with magic and superstition came to an abrupt end.

But a paradox remains. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe in magic. We all want to believe in a world beyond our own, whether religious or ethereal or simply unknowable. We want to know we might somehow touch that world, that it might touch us.

And when it doesn’t touch us externally, we go looking for it inside. In our dreams and in our hearts. Science may one day be able to map the processes that define happiness and ecstasy and love, but it will probably never help each of us understand how we interpret those feelings, what to do when we finally feel them or never feel them or only remember what they used to feel like.

Sometimes I’ll look at the sky on Christmas Eve and hope I might see something, a shooting star, the contrails of a fast-moving sleigh. Even as an adult I hope this. And though Santa never appears, magic nevertheless exists. You can see it every day in the smiles of your family and friends, in the blue twinkle of someone’s eye, in the first touch of your lips against the lips of another. Even when you don’t see these things in person you may still live them through art, in novels and essays and poetry and films and music.

Even television. Or the Internet.

The Internet is magic, isn’t it? I think it must be. I just realized there are 106 full episodes on “Bewitched” on YouTube. There goes the animated version of Samantha, riding across the sky on her broom. A shooting star. Twitching her nose.

I believe. Do you?

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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

114 responses to “A million lights are dancing, and there you are, a shooting star”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Richard,

    This was fun!
    I love that you wanted to believe so much that after seeing it were mathematically impossible, you created a world where Santa worked “outside of time.”
    I believe in magic too.
    Even when facts don’t support it.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Irene. I subverted reality then, but I’m not sure if I would do it now. Depends on the situation, I suppose. So I left that open to interpretation.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Richard,

        You grew up? What’s up with that?

        • Richard Cox says:

          Well, that’s the thing. Sometimes the best thing in the world you can do is ignore the facts and let magic take you where it may. Other times, ignoring evidence is like sticking your head in the sand. So I suppose you could call it balance.

          But grow up? Never!

  2. Greg Olear says:

    Your best post ever, it says here. Funny and moving. I actually got a bit misty at the Santa Claus stuff at the end.

    I wanted to be a superhero so badly when I was a kid, I could taste it. But the rep from the Green Lantern Corps never came to the house. The jerks.

  3. Hell’s yeah I believe.

    This reminded me of how hard I tried to make a magic space open up another world to me, as it did in Narnia. I was convinced a particular rock and a fire hydrant in my front yard were a portal to another (better) world. It would open to me, but only if I believed hard enough.

  4. Terry Hassell says:

    Thanks for posting… It’s nice to read something that make a lot of sense to me. btw- I wonder if Darrin was like this before he had to deal with Endora, his mother-in-law? I’ll just take Barbara Eden or “I Dream of Jeannie”. She would call me “Master” and when I didn’t need her she would be in her bottle. lol

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Terry. I imagine part of the reason that show was so popular had to do with the very real idea of your mother-in-law being a witch. Not that all mothers-in-law are witches. Of course.

      It’s interesting to see the difference in culture when watching a show about the “typical” suburban and/or American family. In the episode I watched last night, Samantha went outside in her nightgown, which was huge and overwhelming, and yet everyone thought she should “cover up.” Whereas everyone in the show smoked and drank (even in the morning!) Like three martini lunches and five martini dinners, and last night the show was about this party Samantha and Darrin threw, and some client of Darrin’s spent the whole show trying to get into Sam’s pants. It’s odd to see what falls into and out of favor culturally.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I have returned for an instant to say that Bewitched came about at a time when the mother-in-law, particularly on the mare side of the union, was apparently universally reviled. Hatred of a wife’s mother by her husband was a recurring them on every TV show of the fifties or sixties I’ve ever seen. Maybe the joke was run into the ground, but it isn’t heard so much now — speaking of cultural spikes.

        • Richard Cox says:

          This is true. Which is part of what makes this exchange in Borat so damned funny. He revived a joke so overused that it was being taught by a bad humor coach:

          Borat: Should I make a joke about my mother-in-law?

          Pat Haggerty: Yes, in America, that is a very popular joke. Do you have a joke about your mother-in-law?

          Borat: Yes. I had-a sexytime with my mother-in-law.

          Pat Haggerty: Uh, what time?

          Borat: Sexytime. I had-a sexytime with my mother-in-law.

          Pat Haggerty: You had sex with your mother-in-law?

          Borat: Yes.

          Pat Haggerty: Uh, I don’t think Americans would find that funny.

          Borat: No, it’s not a joke.

          Pat Haggerty: Yeah, we’re talking about, uh, humor.

          Borat: Yes, you asked me about my mother-in-law…

          Pat Haggerty: Do you have a joke about your mother-in-law?

          Borat: No, why make a joke on a mother-in-law?

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Do you have that memorized, or is it cut-and-paste job? Either way, thanks for refreshing my memory. I didn’t expect to laugh nearly as hard at that movie as I did, though something I can’t articulate left a bad taste in my mouth. But extremely funny nonetheless.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Cut-and-paste job, absolutely. I’m sorry it left a bad taste in your mouth. I was rather surprised by the depth of the film. It didn’t just make me laugh, but it explored humanity in a way I didn’t expect. Not just shock value but real insight into the human psyche. As much money as it made, I consider it an underrated film.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It is insightful. I could attempt to explicate any dissent on my part, but I ultimately like the movie, so there’s not much point. I can like something and also have reservations. Not to suggest that I’m unique in that regard.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Yeah, I’ve felt that a time or two myself. I’m pickin’ up what you’re layin’ down.

  5. Matt says:

    Damn, this was fun.

    Though I have been kind of working on a post along these lines…..I’m starting to get the feeling you and Ben Loory have been sifting through my notebook while I sleep.

    ……or maybe you’ve been using your telepathic powers long-distance…..

    S’cuse me, gotta go make a helmet out of tinfoil now.

  6. George London says:

    Isn’t that what a lot of science is, though? Accepting the magic and then explaining it?

    I mean… if you had proof of Santa, you would have to work out the science of HOW he manages it. Same as people worked out the science behind a vibrating guitar string or a flying bird.

    People often throw up that “magic is just unexplained science” as some defence of why magic doesn’t exist, but surely that just proves it DOES?

  7. Tawni says:

    Xanadu! Your title is from the Xanadu album’s title track! In my head, I sang it in the high Olivia Newton-John falsetto as I read it. You can’t even imagine how happy this makes me, Richard. I sat in my little girl bedroom singing along to that record around fifty or sixty million times. I think I watched the movie about that much too. I also named my hamster Magic after the song on the album. I was obsessed.

    I can’t believe your parents let you sleep on the couch to catch Santa in the act. As a parent, I now know that this means they had to stay up extra late and silently sneak all of the presents under the tree without waking you. What a pain in the ass. 🙂

    P.S. I believe.

    • Richard Cox says:

      It totally is! You win a prize. I must admit, though I probably shouldn’t, that part of my dualistic view of the world was shaped by that film, where a magical world existed oh-so-close to our “real” world. Plus, I was in love with Olivia as much as I was Elizabeth Montgomery. Ha.

      Yes, my decision to wait on Santa made the leaving of the presents much more difficult. Imagine how scarred I would have been had I woken up and caught them in the act. Not sure how they managed that, to be honest.

      Do you believe that children are our future? Do you believe in love? Huey Lewis? The News?

    • Greg Olear says:

      I knew it was a song lyric, but I didn’t know which one. I like the whole song-lyrics-as-titles thing you’ve got going on, Richard.

      • Richard Cox says:

        I steal the songs that make the whole world sing.

        • Tawni says:

          Oh my god, Richard. You have to stop. My head has five songs playing at the same time now. Olivia Newton-John, Pat Benatar, Whitney Houston and Barry Manilow are on my brain’s stage, performing a medley together, with Huey Lewis and the News as the backing band.

          Actually, don’t stop. It’s kind of working for me. Next, I’m going to make them all sing “We Are the World” while I throw rotten tomatoes.

  8. Slade Ham says:

    This resonated with me more than I thought it would. Wow, Richard. Nicely written. No wonder both the actors who played Darrin were named “Dick.” Hahahahahaha.

    I, too, like to believe. I’m thirty-three years old and I still tell people that I can use the Force. All the time. On some levels they still sell that idea to us as well, bottled up as The Secret or the Law of Attraction or whatever buzzword they’ve attached to it today. Nevertheless, I do still cling to the notion that on some extra-ordinary level, I can impact my surroundings. My tendency to have things go right for me – my lucky streak – seems a lot like magic sometimes…

    Still, I’d much rather be able to throw fireballs with my mind.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Positive thinking can almost assuredly affect your own environment, preparing you to react to the world in a beneficial way. Like how luck is where preparation and opportunity meet, right? Whether or not you can cause external events to happen just by thinking about them…I’m not sold on that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be true, nor does it mean I would reject the idea if someone showed me proof of it.

      I’m older than you and I pretend to use the Force all the time. If nothing else, retaining a child-like sense of humor and wonder and curiosity about the world can influence your adult life in many positive ways. Including assisting your lucky streak.

      If I could really use the Force, I would be a “force” on the golf course:

      Darth Vader plays golf

      • Slade Ham says:

        Hahaha, what a great video. If it were possible to Force Choke people, the freeways would be a lot less aggressive I think.

  9. D.R. Haney says:

    I also craved magical powers as a child. I used to tell other kids that I was a warlock, or a demonologist, even though I couldn’t have explained what demonology meant with a gun to my temple. I also put curses on people, and whipped up “magic” potions in the kitchen, boiling water and throwing lemon juice and baking soda into the pot, which caused everything to sizzle. I’m not sure what I proposed to do with these magic potions; I just liked the idea of making them.

    There’s more I’d like to say, but I’m pressed for time. I’ll return later. But I enjoyed reading this very much.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I learned a bit about demonology when I played D&D, but not enough to whip up any potions. I made a baking soda volcano once for a school project, though. And when I was 14 my uncle showed me how to blow up a 2-liter plastic bottle with warm water and dry ice pellets. That’s the loudest sound you’ll ever hear outside of real explosives.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I seem to recall something about that, but I had no idea that demonology in any way figured in D&D, which makes me retroactively ashamed of ever identifying myself as a demonologist as a child. I’d previously thought it funny.

        Something else I’d wanted to address in your post is the Santa thing. My mom told me that she’d decided not to fill my head with that nonsense when I was a baby, but later people kept asking me, “So, are you excited about Santa Claus?” and I said, “What’s Santa Claus?” I pestered my parents so much about it, they eventually capitulated on the Santa thing.

        Then, shortly after I started the second grade, I was at lunch when one my classmates turned to me and said, “There’s no such as Santa Claus; pass it down.” I was devastated, but I tried to conceal it, since my classmates were all so blithe about it. However, I think I always felt cheated to have learned the truth when and how I did, so that I encouraged the belief in Santa in my younger siblings. My sister would say, “Well, everybody says there’s no such thing as Santa,” and I’d say, “That’s a lie! There is!” I had her convinced until the age of twelve or so. Finally my mom said, “You know, it’s really embarrassing that she still believes in Santa Claus. Would you please tell her the truth?”

        So I did. I don’t know why I’ve told you this story, except that yours about trying to wait up for Santa at five inspired me. That, I think, was my favorite part of an altogether fine post.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Thanks for the detailed response. I remember those rumors and rumblings about Santa, and I also remember thinking those responsible for the gossip were the typical angry kids who wanted to spoil everything for everyone and make everyone feel bad all the time. I typically dismissed people like that as phonies, though I didn’t read Catcher until much later.

          I applaud you for keeping your sibs in the dark. You helped them see magic where you no longer did. That was very nice of you.

          Regarding my five year-old self, for years after I felt like an utter failure, having falling asleep when I could have seen magic with my own eyes. It was the biggest of possible failures. But eventually I got over it.

          Or did I?

    • Gloria says:

      In junior high school, some friends and I used to try to put hexes on people by getting locks of their hair. If we particularly hated someone, we would try to get locks of their hair, which we would bring back to the group and everyone would say in unison, “oooooooooooh!” like there was something deep and mysterious and magical about it.

  10. Zara Potts says:

    Richrob,
    This made me tear up! The lovely imagery of you waiting for Santa was just beautiful.
    I looked up into a country sky not so long ago and saw at least five shooting stars. I wished on every one of them and they were magic.
    Yes, I believe because sometimes, not even science has the answer…
    Gorgeous piece -thank you for writing this.

  11. Zara Potts says:

    Oh. And here’s a fine piece of SSE. A magazine has just been delivered to my desk, the cover story? ‘Confronting Santa.’

  12. Mary says:

    I really enjoyed this because there is such a divide between those who describe themselves as believers and those who call themselves intellectuals. There are some of us who believe the world simply is amazing and magical and mysterious, even though we basically understand science and respect the laws of nature and accept evolution, etc. I am bothered by people who seem to think that everything must be reasonable and sane and dour all the time. My way of saying it is that even though I don’t have a religion, I believe the fact that we exist is a goddamn miracle. Really glad you wrote this. It’s encouraging.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I know what you mean. For a while I was one of those people. I still don’t accept organized religion (not for myself) because there are so many different types, and the major ones practiced today are predated by others. But I am willing to entertain the possibility of a creator. Just nothing like the typical God most of us are familiar with.

      And I’m with you. That we exist at all is a miracle, and even more so that we are smart enough to ask these questions.

  13. Amanda says:

    My brother used to scoff at TV shows where people got shot. “Pffft,” he’d say in his six-year-old lisp, “if that was me, I would just not stand there. I would step out of the way.” Not understanding that special effects had slowed down the bullet and slowed down time, and that in real life that cowboy would’ve been whizzed down in his tracks in a split-second.

    Me? I used to wish you could snap your fingers and create a little window in the air (the precursor, I suppose, to a pop-up window online), and it would work like a viewer or special goggles or something, so another person could see the world how you did. Like, what if your idea of green and mine aren’t the same? That was my answer to the grand philosophical questions about identity and meaning and language and all that.

    As an adult, I still appreciate the practical and abstract applications of that viewer.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I like your pop up window. If we could all see the world through each other’s eyes, we might get along a bit better. Misunderstandings seem like the biggest cause of conflict, rather than actual philosophical differences.

      And I think it would be cool if bullet time were real. Imagine all the cool shit you could do if life were like the Matrix.

      • Amanda says:

        You are so very, very right. A few days ago, my seemingly solid and sweet relationship with a philosopher came to a crashing end, not because of philosophical differences but misunderstandings. Curiously enough, that sentence in your comment is practically word-for-word what I said during our “so this is it” conversation. Viewfinder window goggles would have helped, if only someone had invented them four months ago.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I’m sorry about you and the philosopher. I hate misunderstandings more than any other kind of disagreement. They seem like the most avoidable problems in the world, because they represent problems where none exist in the first place.

        • Amanda says:

          Preeeecisely…”problems where none exist in the first place” is the most apt description I’ve ever heard. Ah well.

  14. Simon Smithson says:

    A friend of mine, every six months or so, will try to move an object with his mind. Just in case he’s developed telekinesis and doesn’t know it.

    I was a True Believer when I was a kid. Religion as an institution didn’t hold much appeal for me, but superstition… man, I was right there. There wasn’t a ghost or ghoul I didn’t believe in.

    I think I was helped out by some of the streets around the house I grew up in. They were quiet and suburban, but at night, they’d almost transform into these patches and pools of darkness where you could honestly believe that spirits were lurking; especially if you were looking at them through my eyes.

    It’s a belief that’s lingered on; I realised how other people didn’t hold the same idea in their head when I was driving through backstreets with a girl and I asked if she’d ever had that perception. She looked at me like I was crazy.

    Yeah, well. When that love spell finally kicks in, we’ll see who the crazy one is.

    • Matt says:

      I am now picturing that 1991 version of you refusing to go on a camping trip for fear of running into a bunyip.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        When I was a kid (I mean, really, really, really young), my dad used to tell me stories about his time as a bunyip hunter. Apparently his bunyip gun could shoot a bullet through ten elephants standing side by side.

        This is the same man who when (again, I was very young) I asked him to keep the bedroom door open, asked ‘So you can get out?’ When I said yes, he replied ‘But if I leave the door open… something might get IN!

        And he laughed and laughed and turned out the light.

        Yeah, I slept real well that night.

    • Richard Cox says:

      It’s cool that you imagined those cold pools of darkness in a quiet suburban neighborhood. I suppose we can find ghosts anywhere. Maybe they seem more romantic in old neighborhoods of New Orleans, or ancient European castles, but why couldn’t they be hiding behind the fence in your back yard?

  15. Marni Grossman says:

    I think Samantha stayed with Darrin because she longed for conventionality. Hence her irritation at the frequent- and inopportune- visits her mother Andorra often made.

    We all want what we can’t have. Samantha Stevens had magic, but she wished for the mundane. And those of us stuck in quotidian life, well, we want a little more sparkle.

    Loved this!

  16. Quenby Moone says:

    I love this piece for so many reasons. But it captures what we all naturally feel as kids, and that’s shortchanged out of the awesome! We can never quite figure out what that stupid Peter Pan has got that we haven’t got, and why did he pick Wendy anyway? Wendy was a weenie. I was clearly more deserving of a trip to Never Never Land than that twit.

    I never lost my desire for magic, and I think it’s a part of the human condition. Maybe because we deeply recognize, maybe not even in any overt way, that it’s magical that we’re all here in the first place, we’re always looking for more obvious examples of it elsewhere.

    This is why I don’t believe in anything religious, per se. I don’t need it–it’s pretty damned strange that when I plant a bulb in the ground in fall that it will come up as a tulip in spring, or that all the leaves that fall off the trees in winter turn into food for worms, etc. I see magic everywhere–it’s just couched in biology and astrophysics now.

    I mean, chlorophyll. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Photosynthesis. REALLY?? And what the hell is all the stuff between the stuff in space? Dark Mass? Huh????

    • Richard Cox says:

      That comment exactly describes how I feel about religion versus the magic of the “real” world. That’s what draws me so much to physics and cosmology. Or biology, as you pointed out. Miracles everywhere.

      A religious person might say they are miracles of God. He might point out that photosynthesis is so amazing, that dark matter is so mysterious, because God wants them that way. In one way I feel like that’s splitting hairs. But in another, it’s a gigantic difference, because many religious people want to just accept the miracle without asking questions. A scientist is more likely to admire the beauty but also wants to understand how and why it works.

      When I think of the tree of knowledge, I honestly can’t thank Eve enough. I don’t want to live in a blissfully ignorant world. How boring would that be?

  17. Lenore says:

    i wasn’t upset when i found out about santa, either. it just didn’t seem like much of a thing to me. then again, i’m pretending i remember finding out that there was no santa, when i actually don’t remember at all, and i’m just assuming that i didn’t give a shit. probably i peed my pants and cried my eyes out. so many bodily fluids. that’s enough, Lenore.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I think it would be interesting to find out in an unexpected way, like catching your parents putting out presents. Or better yet, eating the cookies. I wonder if betrayal like that would stick with a person. Maybe you should become a therapist and do some research and find that out for me.

  18. Angela Tung says:

    this was wonderful. made me think of this quote from arthur c. clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    when i was a kid, i used to wish like hell i could fly. or like one of the other commenters said, that i could open up a door to narnia. now i just watch ghosthunters and really believe they’re hearing something spooky whenever they say, “what was that?”

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Angela. I almost used that Clarke quote in this. But I tend to couch everything I write in science and try to sound erudite, and I was afraid it would take away from the feeling I was hoping to achieve. But to be honest that’s one of my all-time favorite quotes. I’m glad this reminded you of it. 🙂

      Most of the comments about personal magic have said something like, “I used to wish…” I wonder why we don’t wish those things as adults? Isn’t wonder of the world more awesome than consuming goods? (He says with his iPhone comfortably in his pocket.)

  19. Gloria says:

    Do you remember The Greatest American Hero? He was my favorite 80’s superhero. He was just like me! He was dorky! He was not a natural! But, yet, he was a superhero.

    I recently had to explain to my now 8-year-old twin boys that they would never be able to fly. That magic wands were not real. That if they accidentally broke my glasses, they couldn’t point a stick and shout, “Oculus Repairo!” at my face and find that everything is magically better. I hate to dash their hopes so young. But, really, I don’t want them breaking shit just so they can fix it with magic.

    I remember trying to make stuff move with my mind. I would spend hours lying in bed when I was supposed to be asleep trying to move something off my dresser by willing it to be so. “If I just concentrate harder,” I would think.

    Growing up is a pain in the ass.

    • Richard Cox says:

      You bet your ass I remember that show. I loved it because of the reasons you said, that he was a normal dude who stumbled across a suit of magic powers. I used to dream about finding one of my own. I wanted it so bad!

      Maybe your kids will grow up to be writers, and they can hold onto their magic? In a novel you can fly if you want to. Just sayin’.

      • Gloria says:

        Indigo is already a storyteller. He has been since he was able to formulate sentences. I don’t see him ever, ever losing that. As a matter of fact, it would probably behoove him to tone it down just a tad. When he was first 7, he told me that he couldn’t handle all of the death and destruction that goes on in this scary world. He was gesticulating like crazy, very animated. He looked at me and said, “It’s like scary stuff just keeps jumping out at me from everywhere – like a fucking Jack-in-the-Box with horns!” He was seven, barely. Also, one time when Indigo was 2 1/2 we went to stay in a rental house on the coast. Within half an hour of arriving, Indigo had flushed an ant trap down the toilet, which clogged it up and rendered it unusable for 24 hours. “Mom!” he said, “It was a bomb! I saved our lives!”

        This probably sounds disturing. 🙂 My kid is actually quite okay. He’s just ridiculously imaginative. I think that, in and of itself, is magic.

        • Gloria says:

          “disturbing” even…

        • Richard Cox says:

          Imagination is magic, to be sure. His middle name wouldn’t be Calvin, would it? Is his best bud a stuffed tiger?

          I would have liked to have been pals with Indigo when I was seven. I was always imagining the extraordinary in the boring world in which I lived. I could have used a partner in crime. In school I daydreamed so much it’s a wonder I ever passed a grade.

        • Gloria says:

          Ha! No. But Calvin fits perfectly. He and his twin brother, Tolkien, recently discovered Calvin and Hobbes and fell in love. They definitely are partners in crime. Tolkien is a lot more terrestrial than Indigo, but they do this role playing game that goes on for hours and involves Indigo making up scenarios and characters and Tolkien following his instruction. The scenarios almost always involve magic. And robots.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Everything involves robots, Gloria. They’re everywhere! Have you purchased your insurance yet?

          That’s funny about the role playing games. I made up one, too, that involved a lot more magic and less dragons and dungeons because that “fantasy” world bored me (apologies to Indigo’s wonderfully-named twin brother). But I was always a hybrid kid, halfway in the creative world and halfway in the typical guy world. That’s why my favorite role playing game I came up with used D&D dice to play fictional NFL football games. I kept stats and everything. Ha.

        • Gloria says:

          Dear god… you should market that. Effin’ brillaint.

  20. “My spells were devastatingly silent.”

    The best often are… are they not? When my older daughter was six going on seven she was convinced that our backyard was inhabited by tiny fairies. She spent hours writing in a small notebook, studying nooks and crannies in trees, reading about spells that guaranteed a fairy sighting. In a library book she found a recipe for a “potion” that you left out as an offering. So we trekked to the health food store, made our purchase and returned home where she quickly set out making the mixture of lavender flowers, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme and some other more obscure herbs that the store actually sold but that I have no recollection of right now.

    The next morning the dish was empty and in the center of the bowl, cradled by a curled leave, was a single yellow bud. She never saw a fairy– but the gift of the quiet little flower was proof enough that they existed.

    • Richard Cox says:

      That’s a fantastic story. Imagination, curiosity, reading to learn more. What more can you hope for in a daughter? And it’s awesome how you encouraged and fostered it with her. I fear my mom would have told me I was crazy. Haha.

  21. patti says:

    i speak of my magic wand not quite working… it bails on me when the people i love need it the most it seems.
    but i do believe in magic, i see it all around me, day after day… but only if i look for it.
    without that belief, i am without peace.
    sounds silly, i know. but believing really is everything 🙂
    great write richard!
    ess. hail hail to uncle arthur!! LOL!

    • Richard Cox says:

      I think the primary requirement of seeing magic is that you must be willing to open your eyes to it. No?

      My favorite part of the show is when Elizabeth Montgomery dresses up as Serena. Sssssmokin’!

  22. jmblaine says:

    I think Xanadu almost bumped me through
    pre-puberty.
    Olivia in a short skirt roller skating.

    I read somewhere that they had a spec script for
    Xanadu 2
    and it just drove me nuts I wanted to see it so bad.

  23. D.R. Haney says:

    Oh, very well. The former comment king is here.

    Bitter? Bitter how? What are you talking about, bitter?

  24. Gloria says:

    Damn. I wanted to be the 100th. Oh well.

    One hundred and first!

  25. Zara Potts says:

    Damn! Am I too late???

  26. Zara Potts says:

    Aw, shit.

  27. Lorna says:

    I so wanted to be Samantha or Jeanie. Either one would have been fine. Travel by way of twitching my nose or blinking my eyes always intrigued me. It would have been cool leave the room by way of pink smoke and end up in Egypt riding a camel. Magic carpet rides, broomsticks, flying by way of a super cape…….

    I still want to believe in magic……..

    • Richard Cox says:

      I never really cared for “I Dream of Jeannie” that much. I don’t know why. I didn’t care for the sound effects, and as a kid I didn’t understand Barbara Eden had more sex appeal. I would take her powers in a heartbeat, though.

      Might be interested to watch some episodes now to see how it holds up. But I’m only 20 episodes into season one of “Bewitched.” I have a long way to go. Ha.

  28. kim says:

    i should have way outgrown this feeling… but to this day, when i grow up.. i wanna be samantha…
    when people used to ask me what i wanted to do when i grew up, i said… “be bewitched..”and to this day… i still hope.
    nice article.

  29. Lorna says:

    I still believe in magic, although my perception of it has changed throughout the years. One can provide me with scientific facts and data until they are blue in the face, but I will continue to believe in a supernaturaul force that is unexplainable.

    Merry Christmas Richard Cox.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I believe in The Guy.

      Merry Christmas to you, Lorna Kroepfl. (Love that last name, btw. My mother’s maiden name is Koetter. I like how my Texas redneck family doesn’t even know how to properly pronounce their own last name.)

  30. Erika Rae says:

    Since I am a mean and nasty post skipper, I have only just read this. Which seems odd, really, because it seems so familiar. So maybe I did read it and just didn’t comment. Entirely possible. Likely even. I want to believe, too. There. I feel much better.

    Having “played Santa” for a few years now, I would just like to say that I am super impressed by your parents’ courage to let you sleep in there. I mean truly, one stir and it would have all been over for the little Mulder. There is NOTHING quiet about setting out wrapped gifts. There just isn’t. Last night I was cursing every other breath because I kept crinkling the paper too loudly or catching my toe on a ribbon or bumping the jingle bells on the tree. My oldest (age 7) is a light sleeper and I was just sure she’d be in there at the slightest noise. As it was, she waited two hours (2am) to come creeping into our room to announce that she had just heard bells and hoof-steps on the roof. So awesome.

  31. […] since January 2006. His posts have started many interesting conversations, including some about magic, rage, and even being human. Recently I sat down with Richard (I can’t even call him […]

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