July 03, 2012
Magic and the machine
Via Al Jazeera, Lewis Lapham's introductory essay for "Magic Shows," the Summer 2012 issue of Lapham's Quarterly:
As between the natural and the supernatural, I've never been much good at drawing firm distinctions. I know myself to be orbiting the sun at the speed of 65,000 miles per hour, but I can't shake free of the impression shared by Pope Urban VIII, who in 1633 informed Galileo that the earth doesn't move. So also the desk over which I bend to write, seemingly a solid mass of wood - but in point of fact a restless flux of atoms bubbling in a cauldron equivalent to the one attended by the witches in Macbeth.
Nor do I separate the reality from the virtual reality when conversing with the airy spirits in a mobile phone, or while gazing into the wizard's mirror of a television screen. What once was sorcery maybe now is science, but the wonders technological of which I find myself in full possession, among them indoor plumbing and electric light, I incline to regard as demonstrations magical.
This inclination apparently is what constitutes a proof of being human, a faculty like the possession of language that distinguishes man from insect, guinea hen and ape. In the beginning was the word, and with it the powers of enchantment. I take my cue from Christopher Marlowe's tragical drama Doctor Faustus because his dreams of "profit and delight/Of power, of honour, of omnipotence", are the stuff that America is made of, as was both the consequence to be expected and the consummation devoutly to be wished when America was formed in the alembic of the Elizabethan imagination. Marlowe was present at the creation, as were William Shakespeare, the navigators Martin Frobisher and Francis Drake and the Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon, envisioning a utopian New Atlantis on the coast of Virginia...
Posted by Zujaja Tauqeer at 06:56 AM | Permalink