Practical Magic

When we talk about “magic” a few things typically come to mind: a stage act that involves sleight of hand or smoke and mirrors; antiquated thinking that has been replaced with science; or mental delusion (sometimes referred to as woo woo). I’m not here to advocate for any of those, even though they do represent various ways that we use the word. 

I want to suggest that magic is a word that we can use for some basic traits that belong to all of us, and that on a day to day basis, we can work it.  The magic, that is.

One of the most common ways of describing this practical magic is using things in our ordinary lives combined with our intentions or will and effecting change in the world. 

  1. Using things in our ordinary lives.  
  2. Having an intention. 
  3. Making change in the world.

There is a young man I see on TikTok often enough. He is a powerful worker of this practical magic. He puts his lawn mower, weed eater and some other tools in his pickup truck (ordinary things in his life). He drives around in neighborhoods in his town looking for yards that seem to be neglected. He goes to the door of the house and asks the person living there if they would allow him to mow their lawn and clean it up–and he offers it as a neighbor and an act of service (having an intention). At least on the TikToks of these encounters, they always say yes, a little blown away by this act of generosity. Then, he mows, trims, cleans, removes, shapes and transforms the yard of this neighbor (making changes in the world). The yard is changed.  The neighbor’s face and life is changed. And, I am very certain that this young man is, himself, changed. 

That’s the surprise, perhaps, of this kind of practical magic. Regardless of what other changes it makes in the world, it always changes the worker of the magic. What magic are you working today?

~Bob Patrick

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3 Responses to Practical Magic

  1. katrina yurko says:

    I guess practical magic is a feature of being a Humanist. The 2 have so many shared traits, especially ( paradoxically) the ordinary nature of it. The idea that magic and acts of humanism are performed for the greater good, have a common intent, and can have its own reward. Bravo to all the practical magicians out there, there is the song of applause even though you need no audience !

  2. Reverend Roy Reynolds, retired UU, Salt Lick, KY says:

    Excellent succinct essay, Bob!

    The lawn mower, weed eater, rake, and other tools that I bring forth each day all somehow orient to a deep longing for “The Possible Community;” creating beloved community in whatever ways that fit the current moment, situation, and needs.

    Thanks for asking,

  3. Ned Lane says:

    It does feel magical, seeing and feeling the results of intentionally trying to make a positive change in the world. If only we all believed in practical magic.

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