Logic, emotion, and the importance of magic

Humans are logical, and emotional, and magical. Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

We humans are beings cooked up to an interesting recipe.  We’re made with a dose of logic, mixed with a pinch of emotion… and, I would argue, a little bit of magic to go with both.


Our sense of logic is built up around our natural needs.  It’s useful to be able to think clearly, and to manipulate objects in our heads.  Even animals do it.  ‘If the food was here yesterday, then it should be here today,’ think the birds in our garden.  Even the act of walking forwards into an empty space is a validation of an if-then argument.  ‘If the space is there, then I should be able to walk into it,’ thinks our body.  Because it is second nature, we are only aware of this kind of thinking when we have to strain to think consciously.  So, when we are asked ‘what’s 14 + 33?’, we stop, think, and are aware of the temporary strain of that thinking.

So we are, on one level, natural scientists, always calculating, always working things out.  This part of us is underestimated.  We say to people ‘you think too much,’ as though there were a statutory limit to the amount of thinking permissible.  But we wouldn’t say that to the surgeon who operates on us, or the plumber who mends our pipes.  ‘Think away,’ we would say, because we want them to think everything through and minimise the risk to us or our home.

Even our sentences are masterpieces of logic.  In conversation, we are constantly forging phrases which, in the intricacy of their wording, timing, pitch, breath, movement and context, have probably never been experienced before.  They are logical because we naturally design them to fit the moment, like verbal carpenters making a door or a window.  We attend to logic because we want to be understood by others.  Our rules of grammar are a communal effort to make life logical, understandable.


We humans are also emotional beings.  What do we mean by emotions?  They are the rivers that flow between the hard landscape of so-called reality.  Even if we think we know where everything is in the ‘outside world’, our insides can flow with inexplicable feelings, movements within and between us that are hard to capture.

Emotion is experiential, like colour.  We can talk about how green is a certain frequency.  But experiencing green is not just a logical thought.  It has a strong subjective element, unique to the observer.  We can compare notes, but our own experience will be unique, like a dream for the dreamer.  Just as a dream can move in and out of consciousness, so emotions can flow in and out of us, forming and un-forming like clouds.

Some of us tend to rely on ourselves more, and be inward-looking.  For us, emotions will gather around objects quite often.  We will become unaccountably attached to cars, cushions, computers.  We invest a lot in these things, and in the habits and patterns that our machinery and decor bring.  Some of us are more dependent on contact with other humans.  For us, emotions gather around people, and we feel most alive when at a party, or in a group.  Many of us are a mixture of the two, part-introvert, part extravert.

Where logic will say ‘there is a lamp’, emotion will say ‘there is my lamp, which has faithfully seen me through online meetings, shining on half my face.  I am grateful to it.’  Emotion makes stories, brings objects to life, clashes people and things together in a constant flow of meaningful semi-chaos.


Sometimes we get trapped.  Perhaps our sense of logic sees no way out of a situation, and our sense of emotion is fearful that our life is done.  These can be the worst times: when we are confused by life, and anxious about life, in equal measure.  We become like Houdini, trapped in a water tank.

Magic is the great escapologist.  At times of magic, we are reminded that, actually, life is not all logic, nor all emotion, nor even a combination of the two.  We are brought to new experiences by a different kind of freedom, not bound by our thoughts or our hormones.

Magic can transcend the stories we make for ourselves.  One minute we can be busy saying ‘poor me, this is my life which I am trapped in; there is no escape; it is unbearable.’  And the next minute, life can be transformed.

To help make magic happen, we can loosen the bonds of our logic and our emotion.  We can realise that our sense of logic is very dependent on habit, and local knowledge, and is really quite pedestrian, compared with the business of the universe.  We can also realise that our emotions are also pretty limited; our feelings can form so many attachments to our close environment, that we become blind to the hope of other new freedoms.

Magic often happens when we drop, in humility, our thinking ability and our emotional attachments, and learn just to be present in the moment, without prediction, judgement, fear or favour.  It’s a kind of enlightenment, a particular, all-encompassing kind of freedom, a big happiness unlike the temporary pleasures we usually feed ourselves.

Walking meditation is one way of experiencing the magic of the present moment.  Go outside, and just walk.  Observe what you see, feel, touch, taste and hear around you.  Don’t think too hard.  Don’t get too emotionally attached to any one thing.  Just be.

It can be scary if we are used to walking in order to get somewhere, or get something done.  We reach for our phone, perhaps, to feel again the attachments of familiar faces, stories, news, shapes and ideas.  It takes a clear mind to be open enough to walk without recourse to logic or emotion, to just be.

But it’s where magic is.