August 21, 2022

Where have all the dragons gone?

I was presented with an interesting observation the other day. We live in an advanced and educated civilization. We know that what was once perceived as “magic” was simply science that was yet to be understood. But now that science and rational thinking finally (mostly) coexist, we’ve lost the magic — or, more specifically, we’ve lost the fascination with the unknown that magic once gifted us. Imagination has become locked, and everything has become ‘reasoned’ and ‘systematized’ and labeled and… well, boring.

So where has all the magic gone?

It’s still there. Like most things, we gained a basic understanding of how it works and slapped a label on it. BOOM! Now it’s no longer ‘unknown’, and we can stop calling it magic.

Yet we see a kind of magic at play every day. Think about it.

Through a combination of mineral from the earth, the ancient remains of giant lizards, melted sand, the power of lightning, all enchanted with a very specific spell, we can send and receive invisible signals across the world; we can access a seemingly infinite library of knowledge that exists in the ether; we can listen to the harmonies of the dead; we can capture moments in time.

Blasphemy, you say!

Chill out. I’m talking about using a smartphone to make a phone call, peruse the internet, listen to classic rock, and take photos. Oh, and that very specific spell? Binary code.

Yeah, I know, right?!

Through an infinite combination of 1s and 0s, we can archive knowledge, forecast the weather, send our voices into the ether to then be received by someone with the same capabilities. We can create images fed by our imagination. We can create entire worlds populated with people who’s destiny is in our hands, like the incredible video game Ghost of Tsushima — one of my all time favorites… which I’m replaying for the third time.

Tell me that’s not magical.
Consider this quote from designer Sergio Toporek:

Did you know that you can only see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum? As you read this, you are traveling at 136.7 miles per second across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA that IS NOT “you”. The atoms in your body are 99.9% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato. The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty damn amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.