Mystery and Magic

Mystery and Magic Rule

            “Sólo el misterio nos hace vivir, sólo el misterio / Only the mystery keeps us alive, only the mystery.”(Federico García Lorca, 1898-1936). The poet and the artist both create metaphors, mysteries, magic. The search for meaning, the attempt to unravel the Gordian knot that surrounds the inner core of mystery is what keeps us, as viewers, viewing, and us, as readers, reading. Sometimes, as in a mystery novel, the ending is closed. The mystery that has spurred us on is revealed and the novel ends. Sometimes, as in many of the poems and stories in my books, the ending is open. The mystery continues and we never leave the land of wonderment that we first entered when we opened the book. There is no closure. Words and memories, metaphors and images, lines and rhythms, remain trapped in our mind with the brightness of butterflies that flutter before our eyes and flitter away before they can be caught. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in poetry, each beholder becomes a new creator, a new artist creating a private, imagined world.

A private, imagined world: reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings is one thing. The characters came alive and I recreated them in my own mind. I remember the first cartoon rendition of The Lord of the Rings. The characters were no longer mine. I did not respond to them. I left the film early and went off to the closest bar. To drown my sorrows and forget. Same thing with Harry Potter. My own inner visions were not the external visions created for me by Hollywood or whoever. In fact, after seeing one film, I gave up on the whole series. Not my inner creations, not my heroes, not my people.

This might be a generational problem. I grew up in the age of radio, no TV, not until I was 9 years old. I remember listening to the Wind in the Willows on BBC Radio. Voice echoed in my head and each character, each episode was recreated in my own mind. I read my first copy, carefully preserved since childhood, the other night, and Ratty, Moley, and Badger were just as I first remembered and recreated them. The same with The Chronicles of Narnia, read, before they were seen.

Perhaps someone else’s visuals destroy the magic and the mystery we have created. Perhaps there is a huge difference between reading first and seeing first, or seeing first and then reading the novel. I once used A Room with a View as a textbook in a reading and writing class. Many participants had enormous problems with the written version. In fact, they did not understand the written version until after they had seen the Merchant Ivory film. “Oh woe is me: shame and scandal in the family”. But whose shame? Whose scandal? The world is changing ever more rapidly. There seem to be few absolute rights and wrongs. So many things seem to be relative. Mystery and Magic: are these the things that keep us alive?

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