I’ve been thinking recently of the roleplaying game Mage: The Ascension (don’t run, non-gamers!) This game and its fellow supernatural-hidden-under-our-world games were big in the 90’s (hmm…do RPGs telegraph bestselling novel genres of the next decade?), and Mage was one of my favorites. The premise was basically that the world runs on consensual reality, and magic is only impossible because most humans have been deeply convinced it is. If a strong-willed magic worker manages to do something obviously “impossible” (like turn a vampire into a lawnchair) in front of non-supernatural witnesses, the universe smacks the mage down with the force of humankind’s collective disbelief. The only dodge is to make the magic seem vaguely plausible — “coincidental”, as the game puts it.
Why have I been thinking about this? Because I think the internet is upping our collective weirdness tolerance. I personally have seen zombies, and even had them flail against my car (I think they were mad I was laughing instead of frightened.) and the same day witnessed a band of semi-armored zombie-hunters stalking around 11th and Burnside. Improv Anywhere creates temporal folds that only Mages with advanced Time skills could match, not to mention freezing 200 people in a train station.
All I’m saying here is that thanks to the internet, the collective belief of the people is a little more stretchy. Next time you think you might have to turn bullets into butterflies or punch through stone, have a friend bring a videocamera. When you next find yourself fighting zombies in Pioneer Courthouse Square or disassembling the Man’s robotic minions in full view of a schoolbus, yell “FLASHMOB” first! If people still seem genuinely freaked out, try doing a little bit of the Thriller dance. That should change any bystander from organ of the collective banality and stodginess of the universe to an embarrassed giggler ready to recount this “weird event” to their co-workers.
Go out there and be magic, people! It’s totally coincidental.