I’m reading Making Comics by Scott McCloud. It’s a fascinating book that explores how to write/draw comics, but of course there’s also magical applications, if you’re willing to look for them. For example he discusses comic book panels quite a bit and how the arrangement of them is used to shape the perceptions of the reader, but also how taking one or two panels out changes the story. And that got me thinking about how you could use panels as visual representations of magic and rearrange them or get rid of some or include new ones in order to explore potential time variants or to change a space and the identities associated with that space. According to McCloud you change the story when you remove a panel…and if you think about your own life as a story, then you can apply the same idea to the narrative of your life. Write out your life or create panels and then make some changes. It doesn’t just change your perspective…it changes the experience of the narrative.
One of the key points he makes is that you can direct the narrative…that what is paid attention to or what causes a distraction can be predicted and used in writing a comic. This is also true in writing. The way words are used and even the format of the text can set up pacing for the book. For example, if you use a lot of dialogue you’re usually trying to move the narrative along. The same applies for action sequences. Now if you apply this to magic, think about why you are doing magic. You’re typically doing it to make a connection, create a change, or work through your internal crap. Ask yourself how you are directing the narrative. What are you paying attention to and what aren’t you paying attention to? What could you change that would allow you to discover what you aren’t noticing?
I’ve only read the first chapter of this book, but what it reveals in terms of telling stories can be applied to magic precisely because magic is a story as well. A lot of the ritual work we do is done to tell a story as much as it’s done for other reasons. We are using magic to act out the current situation and what we want to change and then imprinting that story on reality as a way to provide the specific possibility a path for manifestation. Seems simply enough, but the story aspect isn’t considered in terms of a narrative that can be changed, unless we actually think along those lines. When you do a magical working or ritual, consider how you are putting it together. What are all the elements involved? What elements could you change, add, or remove and how would that change the story you are trying to tell? How would it change the working you are doing if the story is changed?
The narrative flow of a given magical working is an arrangement. You cut out what doesn’t fit, and you put into place what does fit. Then you tie all those elements together and you tell a story to reality that embeds the possibility you desire into yourself as the magician and reality as the recipient. The result is a manifestation of magic. Pretty simple really, but its made complicated by the attachment people have to descriptive elements which are really just placeholders to describe something they represent. If you understand what’s represented, you can get rid of the place holders and work directly with the source. Making Comics is actually an excellent example of that principle because while it overtly discusses how to create comics, if you treat it as a meta text, which I’ve done in this article, you can also use it to understand certain principles that cut across disciplines and you learn to work with those principles directly as a result, because you’re getting to look behind the curtain and actually examine how those principles work. That look behind the curtain teaches you to think about and work with magic differently because you recognize so much of it is arbitrary, set up a certain way because of the given agendas of the people who came up with whatever they came up with. Once you recognize that, you stop relying on the arbitrary aspects of magic and start exploring what really works because you want to see behind the curtain. And IMO, that’s really the best way to learn magic. No one, myself included, can tell you with complete authority how magic works, because we’re all putting our own spin on it. That’s why I tell people to personalize their understanding of magic. I can describe how I think magic works, how I know it works, but you have to discover for yourself how it works.
Book Review: What Video Games have to teach us about learning and literacy by James Paul Gee
This is an intriguing book that explores what video games can teach people about how we learn. The author develops 36 principles of learning which can be found in video games and shows through both personal experience and interviews with gamers how these principles work. In that process he also makes some interesting connections between identity, meaning and learning. What I found most useful about this book is how it got me to think about identity in a different way than I’d previously conceived it. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in how we learn.