After including a quote in a previous blog post about how we construct the environment in which we live, thanks to how the human brain functions, I got to thinking about the implications for magical moments.
We all have them, though it's difficult to say whether there's much agreement between people as to what constitutes a magical moment. Here's some examples from my life, using my own intuitive definition.
Birth of my daughter
Catching big waves on Maui with my boogie board
Marrying my wife
Seeing Janis Joplin perform in person
Taking mescaline with a friend in the Sierra Nevada mountains
Spending two weeks in India with the guru who initiated me
Since I'm writing this post on my churchless blog, I'll use the last example as a focus of my discussion about what makes a moment seem magical.
For a long time -- I went to India in 1977 because I wanted to see Charan Singh, my guru, face-to-face, having been initiated by a proxy in 1971 -- I believed that what made those two weeks at Dera Baba Jaimal Singh in the Punjab so magical was the atmosphere emanating from the guru.
However, this doesn't make much sense.
As I wrote about back in 2005 in "Did I see God in first class?", my wife didn't find seeing Gurinder Singh, Charan Singh's successor, to be at all magical, even though devotees of the guru undoubtedly did.
Psychedelic researchers speak of the importance of set and setting in determining the nature of a LSD (or similar drug) experience. “Set” includes the personality of the individual; “setting” includes cultural views about what is real. If someone with a devotional frame of mind joins a group like RSSB that affirms the divinity of a guru, then this person may very well see God sitting in first class. I, on the other hand, just saw an Indian man.
My wife, Laurel, joined me in Palm Springs a few days later. She was more interested in shopping and sunshine than attending the bhandara, but I did talk her into going to two RSSB meetings. At one of them she got to sit in the front row, just a few feet away from the stage where Gurinder Singh spoke and answered questions—a highly favored spot to devotionally-minded disciples.
Afterwards Laurel said to me, “He just seemed like a regular person.” I couldn’t argue with her. I believed then, and still do, that Master Gurinder Singh is uncommonly intelligent, insightful, well-spoken, charismatic, and inspiring. But I had no reason then, nor any now, to assert that he is God in human form. I’ve stopped being concerned with the level of divinity someone else possesses, and now am almost exclusively focused on getting in touch with my own hypothesized higher self.
So I now see magical moments as being akin to a happy moment, sad moment, exciting moment, boring moment, or any other kind of moment where someone's frame of mind generates the adjective before "moment."
Sure, there has to be a substantial outside reality in a moment. It's a mistake, though, to view external circumstances as producing the magical aspect of a moment, because different people will view those circumstances differently.
My wife saw an Indian man sitting on a stage. Many of his devotees saw a guru who is God in Human Form. Big difference. I highly enjoyed catching big waves that would scare someone who wasn't used to doing this. Big difference. I found Janis Joplin's singing and overall style really appealing. Others with a different musical taste wouldn't like her voice. Big difference.
Thus it's wonderful to experience a magical moment. But almost always the credit for the magic should go to the brain of the person having that experience, not to the external circumstance.
My daughter Celeste is a much better skier than I am, or my wife is. I remember us going with Celeste to ski on Mt. Hood here in Oregon many years ago. Celeste talked us into taking a lift up to the highest point on the mountain, where we'd never been before.
When we got off the lift, I instantly realized that the snow was much more akin to a sheet of ice. Celeste took off down the steep slope, turning with ease, giving every sign of having a magical moment up there on a sunny cold day with such a beautiful view.
Me, all I could think of was "I hope I don't break a leg" as I gingerly made my way down, snow-plowing in an inelegant fashion. My daughter and I shared the same external circumstance, but for her it was magical and for me it was terrifying.