Are You the Author of “Postmodern Magic?”
Holy cow, I got my first out-of-the-blue “Hey, are you the author of — ” thing yesterday. I was working with someone I barely knew at this thing I do for community service (not the “busted with drugs” kind of community service but the “volunteering because it feels awesome” kind), which involves working with kids who are learning creative writing. Since I’m also a poet, I talk mostly about poetry, but since I’m also the only counselor at the camp who has sold a book, I talk about the publishing process and the vast quantities of glorious, glorious money one makes off of royalties. ahem.
Later, on the way to run an errand, the camp director — whom, as I said, I met essentially this week — said “Patrick, are you the author of Postmodern Magic?” “Yes,” I said, “I certainly am.” Keep in mind this guy is nearly twice my age (and I’m twice the age of the kids at the camp — it’s a neat mathematical thing), pretty clearly has never stopped in the occult section of his local bookstore, and probably wouldn’t believe in magic if it bit him in the bum. So he had clearly googled me. As part of a background check, I’m guessing, and that has had me chuckling for the last two days straight. “So I guess you’re . . . Pagan?” “Yup,” I said, “I certainly am.”
A moment of silence can have a flavor. It can taste like a strenuous attempt to accept the odd, it can taste like cognitive dissonance, it can taste like the gap between two worlds that really can’t touch, no matter how hard one or either of us might try.
This year was the first the other counselors weren’t my friends, but absolute strangers. We not only didn’t share a world view, I’m not sure we shared a reality, and our views of the numinous powers of writing were kind of — ahem — different. I said to our female counselor, “I look forward to this every year; it really means a lot to me. Often, it’s the high point of my year.” She said “That’s really pathetic.” But she didn’t see God in the face of these kids, when they found a way to say what they thought. One of the kids told me that he had never, in his entire life up until now, found a way to feel like himself and write from what he really was, instead of what he thought he should be. That’s God. No wonder it’s the highlight of my year.
I didn’t make friends with the counselors. They’re too far away from my world, in other orbits entirely, but I wish them well and hope they find pleasure in what brings them pleasure. As for the kids — I am looking for a way to work with teenagers more regularly. I think poetry has a lot to offer kids, a kind of magic so much more important than the invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel and so much miraculous and unlikely than the mere idea that a talisman might affect my world.