White man magic

It was nearly the end of my time in the village when the subject of Mike's solar panels came up and I asked Dan how they worked.

He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and impishly replied, "You're wondering about Mike's white man magic?"

There's a worldview difference in play here. I didn't know what caused Mike's solar panels to reorient to the direction of the sun every morning but I knew there was a very plausible explanation. Perhaps there was a winch on a timer, perhaps it was activated by solar power. Maybe even Simon, the yard worker did it midmorning without my ever noticing him. It never occurred to me there was anything mysterious about the panels' movement, despite the fact it was beyond my comprehension.

In a Western mindset, we assume there is a logical explanation for everything. We don't consign things we don't understand to the realm of mystery, magic, and spirit -- we expect that science will sooner or later be able to explain it to us. In this particular situation, that is the correct approach. Yet I found myself wondering if perhaps, we're too logical. If we aren't perhaps too quick to explain everything, too hasty in our rush to find a scientific theory.

Perhaps by not recognizing the realm of mystery, by never seeing the magic, by never crediting the spiritual, perhaps we're not so superior as we might think, but actually missing out. Perhaps there's a connection between the Western mind's obsession with logic and science and our struggle to understand the goodness of God in a world of pain, while our neighbours in the Global South -- who have lived through more pain than I can imagine -- are still able to believe in a God who is love.

What makes things happen? Is it science? Is it magic? Or maybe, a bit of both? What do you believe?


Tom said…
Totally with you. Cool post.
Eric Jordan said…
This makes me think of something I came across while doing research for a paper:

'The dichotomy between the thought of the now and the past is present as a result of the loss of a mystical view of the universe. The cosmos no longer has a mysterious quality to it, but instead is objectified merely as a something that can be examined, observed and grasped. Where the modern seeker holds the universe as an object to be studied and understood, the ancients held the universe as a mystical, supernaturally enchanted domain of which humanity is nothing more than a part. In this vein, some would assert that modernity is marked by the disenchantment of the world where the world, once desacrelised, simply becomes 'natural matter' from which the human subject is alienated . . . Modernity divided what was a formerly integrated world into a fractured universe, thereby causing a split between fact and value, knowledge and meaning, self and cosmos so that the price of progress was the loss of worth. It was a self-defining move to what modernity declared scientific progress from the superstitious dead end of the ancients.'
-Daniel K. L. Chua, 'Vincenzo Galilei, Modernity and the Division of Nature,' in Music Theory and the Natural Order from the Renaissance to the Early 20th Century.

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