Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I liked this as a depiction of a subtle difference between the worldview of the "good magician" and the "bad magician". (I'm sorry if the idea of "good magic" seems offensive -- I'm thinking Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and other stories where magic is portrayed-- see here for a good discussion from a Catholic perspective). This is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

"Well, Dumbledore," said Karkaroff, displaying his yellowing teeth to their fullest extent, "we are all protective of our private domains, are we not? Do we not jealously guard the halls of learning that have been entrusted to us? Are we not right to be proud that we alone know our school's secrets, and right to protect them?"

"Oh, I would never dream of assuming I know all Hogwarts' secrets, Igor," said Dumbledore amicably. "Only this morning, for instance, I took a wrong turning on the way to the bathroom and found myself in a beautifully proportioned room I have never seen before, containing a really rather magnificent collection of chamber pots. When I went back to investigate more closely, I discovered that the room had vanished. But I must keep an eye out for it. Possibly it is only accessible at five-thirty in the morning. Or it may only appear at the quarter moon -- or when the seeker has an exceptionally full bladder."
To get away from the magic metaphor, try thinking science, which is actually a good parallel, since most technology is just precisely as "magical" to most of us as magic is in the old fairy tales, though perhaps more ordinary. We can use it, but we are just as likely to be used by it, and rarely do we thoroughly understand the technology we are using. In a certain sense it is "magical" to us.

There are two kinds of scientists, the kind that think of science as somehow their property, to guard and take pride in, and the kind that for all their special knowledge still recognize mystery and the quirkiness of reality and their own comparative bemusement in the face of it.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this!