If gods existed and magic worked

I do sometimes wonder what the world would be like if gods existed and magic worked.

If magic worked as mechanically as, well, mechanics then I doubt it would make that much difference. We’d just rush about the place in our seven league boots or on our magic carpets.  As Arthur C Clark said: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistigishable from magic, but it’s less obvious that the reverse is true too.  If you could summon up spirits from the vasty deeps, you’d probably just get their voicemail.    I think a magical world would be shiny but mundane like a cross between Ikea and Comet.   You’d expect there to be less of a problem with pollution and global warming of course, but maybe there’d be a shortage of newts’ eyes in much the way that there is a shortage of tigers and rhinoceroses already and for exactly the same reason. (Rhinoceroi? Rhinocerodes?  Why is there never a greek scholar around when you need one?)

Ok, so magic would be dull, but what about the power of prayer?  

It seems to me that if prayer worked then it would be just another form of insurance.

Travel insurance? – Check.
Passport and tickets? – Check.
Prayer? – Oh, no, hang on a minute while I get down on my knees.

I’ve certainly sat down to meals where grace was as meaningless and mechanical as putting a napkin on your lap.

If prayers and special pleading worked,  it would suck great big hairy cheese-monsters.  It’s always shit when the middle-sized bully gets the big bastard on their side.  For example, you’d have to avoid competing against one of the deity’s top pray-ers if you wanted that promotion:

Let’s see now, Aphra has more experience, better qualifications and a personality that will really fit in, but we’ve just had a note from the Big Guy that we’ve got to hire the other one.

Functional prayer just sounds like belonging to the mob:  The power of prayer – putting the god into godfather.  

On top of which, I’m not at all sure about a world where there’s a god who’s nicer to those who are nice to it, and who really did throw thunderbolts at the bad guys.   That suggests a world where the supreme being has the emotional intelligence of a five year old, a point well made 40 years ago by Gene Roddenberry in The Squire of Gothos not to mention everyone who’s ever written about the classical or nordic gods since Homer had an eye test.  

And if we go for the nature-thang, we end up with a world where healing spirits heal you without any of that annoying waiting-lists-and-cold-hands-on-your-privates stuff, and where sister wind and brother rain come to your garden but are far too nice to fart about or piss around like drunks at a barbeque, which – lets face it – is how they behave right now.  It sounds nice, but would you really want to live in a world which was trapped inside a shop in Hebden Bridge and full of wind-chimes, incense, velvety lace and oestrogen?   

Mind you, the only way I can make sense of a world where Sarah Palin could be president of the US freaking A is to conclude that this whole universe is indeed the bad-acid trip of some great big hairy cheese-monster.  

I take it all back.  I’ll have the Hebden Bridge one, thank you.

10 responses to “If gods existed and magic worked

  1. Don’t know why this post made me think of it, but I’ve been sitting for the past five years with Sibelius, a wonder programme for musicians. It can do anything. The trouble is, I don’t know how to work it. The manual is about five inches thick and it might as well be written in Sanskrit for all I understand it. They do run courses on how to run Sibelius, but none of them are anywhere near where I live. Wonder if a prayer would work. Or a spell. It’s a thought..

  2. I recommend Larry Niven’s “The Magic Goes Away”. It does a really good job (as you’d expect from the master of diamond-hard hard sf) of imagining a world where magic really does work.

    Magic, in his world (which is our world, about ten thousand years ago), is powered by ‘mana’, free magic. You harness it with spells or devices (e.g. seven league boots) or whatever. Civilisations are based on it. Atlantis would sink without it… and it’s running out. Large swathes of the earth are now mana-deserts, where magic doesn’t work any more. The main protagonist is the Warlock (obviously his real name is not given – True Names have power), and he knows it’s happening. Better still, he’s developed a devastating weapon – the Warlock’s Wheel. All it does is use a simple spell to spin a wheel. The idea is you plant one in your enemy’s home, and before long ALL the mana in that area is used up, gone forever. And of course at that point your enemy’s house is ripe for burglary or attack, because its defences are based on magic, not locks or battlements.

    It’s a good book.

  3. Nothing to do with the above, but have any of you seen this site, Cake Wrecks at http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/? I’ve sat howling at it all afternoon and had to pass it on..

  4. It’s fabulous Julie. Thank you.

    SoRB – I’ll beg steal or borrrow it, next time I get the hance.

  5. I’ve just returned from a Greek island where the taxi drivers devoutly cross themselves when they pass a roadside shrine. I asked my friends who live on the island what they thought this signified to the person doing it: was it just a conventional ritual to which they had been accustomed since childhood and attached little meaning, or did they believe the gesture invoked some divine protective power? My friends thought it was the latter.

    I suppose it does no harm, and may even be beneficial – but it doesn’t always prevent them from cutting corners on mountainous hairpin bends…..

  6. Hi Aphra,

    Glad you liked it!

    Anticant; hope he wasn’t crossing himself as he was going round the hairpin bends. A friend of mine went to Peru, and he talked of bus drivers that drove close enough to the edge so that you could see the rusting wrecks of the other buses that had plunged down below..

  7. I’m not sure about crossing himself, but he was certainly talking on his mobile phone and driving one-handedly round one of them!

    But as he’d crossed himself he would be divinely protected, so that was OK….

  8. Do you think it’s like touching wood for luck or putting salt over your left shoulder?

    I still do these things to this day, though I don’t think the Devil sits on my left shoulder (it’s the right one – obviously) and I know that neither mdf no my scalp have anything to do with the true cross. Oh, and like saying “bless-you” when someone sneezes?

    I still do ’em all for no reason at all, really. They are just habits, and a way of keeping contact with my mother and grandmother who gave me the habits in the first place.



  9. I never walk under ladders.

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