Well, it doesn’t exist. But this has never stopped grown adults from believing that they can talk to the dead or that magnetic fields can boost their immune system, or that we only use ten percent of our brains, leaving the remainder open to unfathomable, hidden potential.
To be honest, like many other tots, I ate up the idea of a jolly fat man who brings me presents once a year. And I mean, why not? At fifteen, I mean, five years old, who wouldn’t want to believe that? I wasn’t paying for groceries or the mortgage, so what did it matter? It didn’t cost me anything and as it turned out, he always brought me something at Christmas time, even if I was a rotten kid on Victoria Day weekend.
I confess that I did lose quite a bit of sleep throughout my youth, out of the fear of Satan and his minions, who for some reason had decided to come all the way from Hades to spend a night in a closet in Thornhill, Ontario. But eventually, after an embarrassingly long period of time, I came to understand that Satan was just another part of my imagination, and to paraphrase Paul of Tarsus, I put away the kids’ stuff.
Bear in mind that the bravado of this claim tends to fizzle after a watching a good horror movie when my wife is away for the weekend. But I think that’s part of the point. It’s still fun to wonder things like, “what if I could see dead people?” or “what if my mind had the power to bend spoons?” But what’s not OK is if, as an adult, I cling to such fantasies and allow them to influence my life and world view.
Take for instance Antonia Baker who sees Christ in her kitchen tiles, or Diane Duyser who found the Virgin Mary in her grilled cheese sandwich. There’s the worldwide Hindu Milk Miracle where believers claimed, to the delight of dairy producers everywhere, that Hindu religious statues around the globe were suddenly imbued with the ability to imbibe milk. And though it is often claimed that there is no room for miracles in Buddhism, in the late 1990’s, this didn’t stop thousands of Burmese pilgrims who flocked to a Buddhist monastery to witness light beams blazing from the building (waiting source confirmation). As for those of Islamic faith, the internet is awash in photographs of Allah’s name written into clouds, rock formations and even in cuts of meat.
It’s not so much the people who profess these miracles that startle me, but the amount of grown adults, with jobs and children and savings accounts – who are so eager to believe in these sideshow exhibits. In interviews, the mannerism and cadence of this grown people become almost childlike when they describe the witnessed miracle, as if some kind of mental regression is occurring within them.
It’s quite possible that we, as adults, have never gotten over the dissatisfaction of learning that the fairy tales of our childhood were in fact made-up stories. Or was it at that point – in our infancy – that we first gazed into the void, the idea that there might be nothing around us but what we can filter through our five boring senses? No, that can’t be true! This would explain the crowds of eager adults flocking to weeping statues, the people who plan their lives around Horoscopes and Numerology, and possibly the 50 million of so who spend much of their free time as magic-wielding wizards in online games. By extension, this might also explain the insidiousness of conspiracy theories; that there are unseen and powerful machinations at work in our day to day lives. Though a morbid comfort, it is still a comfort to know that one’s life is in powerful hands, be them that of the spirits and fates or those of the Bilderbergers.
But why the disappointment with plain old physical world? Even from secular adults, I’ve heard the claim that things wouldn’t be as beautiful or wondrous without a little magic in the world. Really? So, knowing that the sun is a ball of burning hydrogen takes the splendour out of a sunset? Or knowing that a rainbow is just light working its way through prisms of water makes it any less fascinating?
Perhaps this all comes back to the universal fear of death. If we remove life’s little miracles, if we expose Allah’s signature in the sky as coincidence or the tears of weeping statues as canola oil, then we nullify the signs from heaven; and when we do that, we eliminate any possibility of us continuing on after we shed this mortal coil, a possibility that even some of the most secular cling to.
But for how long must we consider such preoccupations as acceptable adult behaviour? It seems to me modern science hasn’t hindered such beliefs, but exacerbated them. Modern medicine and technology has, in a way, allowed many to maintain a prolonged and sheltered childhood. Young men can spend all their waking hours battling orcs or Photoshopping Allah’s name in the comforts of their homes; or retired couples can spend the day worshiping the latest saint-of-the-month before stopping off a Mcdonalds.
I am at least comforted to know that those who have learned of that the ills of nature never rest. Take for instance the astronomical agencies who scan the sky for rogue asteroids, and biomedical organizations who work to unlock the secrets of our genes and provide our bodies with life-sustaining devices. It is this minority, who have taken to heart the rather ominous archaeological discoveries of Earth’s former inhabitants. For instance, the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs was only one of at least five extinctions in the Earth’s history. That such people have taken the adult role is a double-edged sword. While they help increase the chances of our long-term existence, they also allow us the childhood luxury of doddling from one magical distraction to the next.
This series of 5 photos were from the art and design show, Come Up To My Room. This particular installment was in room 211 of the Gladstone Hotel, and designed by Lisa Keophila, Fiona Lim Tung, Kristen Lim Tung and Jon Margono. For more information on the installment, click here.