My favourite question to ask engineers (and I know a few) is how the Internet works.
They will start explaining it to me, and I will have to interrupt and say:
‘No, like what is it? Are there energy waves moving through us? Are the electrons moving from A to B, or a charge jumping from atom to atom? How is information stored and transported?’
And still, while I understand the technicality of the Internet, I do not understand it practically.
And yet, here I am using it every day all day.
“… a mysterious, quasi-magical force that can slay the living, revive the dead or otherwise bend the laws of nature.”
(Wikipedia on old ideas on electricity)
Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, compared faith to electricity:
We may not understand it, but we accept it. We do not question it on a daily basis.
The thing is I did though, from a very young age.
Maybe it is because I grew up with a mother who claimed to be the messiah, and I didn’t start questioning God speaking through her until I was 15 years old.
So, electricity it was.
As a child, I would get a headache if people left their phone on in a car.
I was literally never wrong.
As a teenager, I nearly failed physics class.
If electricity is a higher power, we’ve always had a tricky relationship.
Today, we reach for our phones for answers like people clung to their bibles.
We may not believe in a Higher Power, but have more than we can count in our lives.
Science and technology have seeped all the magic, doubt and unknowing, and thank God for that.
But I do yearn for the animism of our nomad ancestors, believing all objects around us to have souls. The more they witnessed, the more magic they perceived.
The closest I’ve ever been to going crazy was during a 10-day silent retreat.
No phones, no songs, no socialising.
Yet I’d never felt closer to God.
The less magic we see in the world, the less we feel inside ourselves.
The comfort of modern life shields us from it like layers of clothing desensitise our skin.
The extreme athlete Wim Hof walks around barely clothed, noting that it builds resilience to cold.
Our ancestors didn’t walk around in down coats, and Hof laments the loss of sensation that we got used to.
Did access to the entire world via electricity desensitise us to the magic in our immediate world around us?