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It's Nelly's World

Do You Believe in Magic?

alec vanderboom

There are mysteries all around. (And no, I'm not speaking of reiki.) Things happen for which we have no explanation. So we reach to the lowest shelf and pull off the nearest product: hmmm, maybe this God Is All Around stuff will do the job. Whiter whites and brighter colors? Keep in mind our Energy Field soap powder!

Up until now, science has provided all the mystery decoding I've ever felt the need for; even when I couldn't understand it, or no one had yet explored it, I felt confident the concrete, the quantifiable, took care of everything under the sun. Notwithstanding my own addiction to my horoscope: even then, I knew that it was foolish on its face. But a good astrologer is merely a good psychotherapist, mining the universal themes and keeping it vague enough for anyone to locate himself as in a mirror. All a trick of exegesis anyway.

Lately, though, I find myself beginning to believe in another dimension. Or something. I don't know what to call it--the connectedness of love and subconscious thought? I am aware that everyone who knows me is, upon hearing this, suddenly very concerned about me. Please let me reassure you that I am not really going over to the Dark Side. You know, like Christianity. Indeed, I am every bit as committed to my atheism and biological determinism as ever. I am just, you know, thinking. Thinking there's something else in us. Something that resembles a psychic string between two tin cans.

I phone someone I have not spoken to, or (sorry) even thought about, in two months. She picks up the phone, a little breathless: she has just been to the post office, after a long trip, to pick up a package I had sent to her in early December. She is holding my gift and thinking about me as the phone rings.

A friend tells me a dream. A nightmare, really: he has gone to his garage, found the door open, and--empty. Someone has stolen all his beloved motorcycles. Later that day, for real, someone breaks into his truck and steals all the worthwhile gadgets one often keeps in one's truck: camcorder, GPS (with "home" nicely mapped out), and garage door remotes. Garage door remotes! The GPS to locate the garage door! Holy BMWs. The sudden recollection of the dream impels him to go change those codes, quick.

My aunt--the fabulous aunt, the one who helps keep my spirit together, with the force of her goodness and love--calls me to discuss one of my recent e-mails. (I can't imagine I was whining about something or other in it, but you'll have to use your imagination.) She's sitting in her car in a restaurant parking lot while her husband has gone in; he had suddenly declared himself in need of smelts--yes, smelts--for dinner. And in all of Salt Lake City, there is only one place to go for smelts. This Greek place. They rarely go to this restaurant, but tonight there was this need. This sort of smelt need. As we're talking, suddenly she gasps. "I don't believe it!" she tells me when she's somewhat recovered. She laughs out loud. Her daughter and baby grandson have just pulled in to the parking lot. She had no idea where they were going to be that night; and Salt Lake County is home to 1.2 million people, hundreds and hundreds of restaurants. So what were the chances they would end up in the same one?

Yes, what are the chances? The chances that these things are chance. Or are they something deeper than that, the connection between people and events and the opportunity that arises from them, the match's sulfur striking the box, for a burst of luck, like flame.

You have your own examples, I know. Occurrences that seemed too finely wrought in their synchronicity to be an accident. These things happen all the time, but we let them drift away. We don't have a paradigm into which to fit them, much less an explanation. Too wacky--and you're not a wacko! you're a proud member of the intellectual elite!--to think you were just visited by some mystery of the sixth sense.

Yet perhaps you were. "With what's unreal thou / Coactive art," says Leontes in The Winter's Tale. I think so too.