February 28, 2013

The Magic

There are weeks where I forget about the Magic, buried under instruction manuals, homework assignments and to-do-lists. Times when I can feel a burning hunger for fantastic journeys in far away lands, but can only swallow it hard and try to press on to deal with more urgent matters.

And then there are times where I am swallowed by it, my mind deposited inside another world, ravenously devouring every shred of artwork, literature and music, drowning myself in the tribulations of another universe. My imagination turns from a smoldering flame into a raging inferno, a hurricane of ideas that make me feel alive.

I often struggle with my music - my ideas are more often the result of luck than actual talent. But when I'm surrounded by the Magic, my troubles melt away and I become music incarnate, masterfully crafting melodies and harmonies with precise meaning, knowing precisely how to extend and embellish them even as they sit around as meek sounding rough drafts. Instead of worrying about the massive disconnect between my imagination and the song that is actually coming out of my speakers, I hear only connections, threads between them, roads that must be crossed to bring the song to life.

I always have a sense of Magic that flows through certain artistic works. In some it's barely a whisper, in others I can hear a raging storm behind a locked door, struggling to break free of artistic limitations. But in a select few, it is simply all-consuming, effortlessly carrying me away into another world, to such a degree that when I need to go to the bathroom, I pause halfway down the stairs, momentarily confused as to whose house I'm living in and why I know where I'm going. Sometimes it is music, divine melodies and delicately chosen instruments that coalesce into something beautiful, taking my mind to places it has never seen before without showing me a single picture. Other times, it is a story, a work of literature so powerful I forget that I am actually reading it, instead losing myself inside another universe, watching everything play out in front of me as if it were as real as the book itself. Twice now I have seen it in the blur of animation, stories brought to life with little more than sketches and a few in-between frames that affect me so deeply, they continue to fundamentally influence my imagination to this day. Other times it is the perfect harmony of all these things at once, a game that sweeps me into a galaxy far away where I care more about a 8-bit pixelated image than I ever thought possible.

I'm really more of an artist than an engineer. Sometimes I wield integrals instead of pencils and recursion instead of instruments, but they are nothing more than unusual artistic implements. I live to drown myself in imaginary worlds, and have spent my life trying to help artists achieve precisely this, which has significantly contributed to my tool problem. I want nothing more than to find an artist who has crafted something magical, and lose myself inside it as I help sculpt their world and breathe life into its inhabitants. My tendency to follow where the Magic guides me has resulted in a rather disproportionate number of artistic friends, which has unfortunately not been the most ideal situation.

I've always been disappointed by the fact that so many programmers consider code as nothing more than an obstacle to be overcome. The code is always somewhere else, separated as much as possible from the real art. There are so few who revel in the code itself rather than simply getting it out of the way as soon as possible. It tends to stunt their growth and narrow their vision as they spend less time trying to find elegant solutions to problems and more time writing hacks using what they already know. The trap we fall into, is that it's a good thing to be focused on producing results and not crafting elegant solutions at your job... but it's terrible for self-improvement. Reality dictates that successful programmers must be able to produce results, and yet in order to become good enough to do so, the same programmers must learn how to bury themselves in their code, exploring the infinite nuances of common problems and the aspects of various particularly wondrous solutions that arise. Once learned, the seasoned programmer can put these solutions to stunningly effective use in a real-world scenario - but they must be learned, first, and that requires more than completing homework assignments.

But I digress; my current badly timed state of heightened creativity right before a convention and having to grade a ton of homework is the result of two hilarious coincidences: Having a really bad day the weekend the season finale of My Little Pony was shown, which resulted in me catching up on all the episodes I had let slip me by the past year, followed by a google search that accidentally turned up the tvtropes page for a certain My Little Pony fanfic. There is a fascinating aspect of the My Little Pony fanbase where many of the writers keep building on each other's historical embellishments, to the point that there are now several relatively consistent canons running around, being cross-referenced in metafictional tales in a truly astounding level of creative co-operation. This culminated in one particularly long masterpiece that was such a brilliant work of art I stayed up all night to finish it because I just could not stop reading. There were quite a few random melodic ideas that sprung out of those stories, but that last one had a much more direct impact:

There is something otherworldly about how a fictional tale of characters that have never existed can touch us in such a profound way that it changes the course of our lives forever. That the stories we tell each other can shape the very fabric of history itself. It almost feels a bit... magical.

Twilight is very, very brief, lasting for all too short a time; it is rich, and beautiful, and in that moment the proud sun learns to set, and rest, and the moon ascends to watch over the peace of night. And then twilight is over, leaving the sun and moon to remember its beauty and wonder, after it has gone, changed forever by that brief moment of transition.
   - Eternal

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