Merlin, if you accidentally discover you have unexpected and immense black magic power and it seems harmful, and so you swallow it and shut down…..is there a way to return to the white?
When I asked Merlin this question on behalf of K, he looked a little stunned for a moment and then a very small, sad smile creased the corner of his mouth.
“This may take a while so get comfortable,” he said to me and he stood up and began pacing.
“Let’s look at several parts of the question. The first is – “Is there a way to return to the white?” he said. “This assumes there’s white magic and black magic. In fact, there’s only magic,” he said.
“It’s like a word. How you speak the word often creates its meaning. How you use magic creates its impact,” he said. He screwed up his face and thought about this for a long minute before talking again.
“If I create a chair beside you so you can sit down, it’s the same thing as if I created that chair right where you’re standing so it whacks you when it appears. It’s the same magic. It’s the same energy that’s been used to create the chair.
So it’s not the magic but intent of the magician that’s important.? Do you see the difference?” he asked me directly.
“OK, so the magic is the same energy transfer but how that energy transfer is applied – chair beside me or chair on top of me – is the measure of good or evil,” I said.
“Right,” he said and a smile threatened to break out across his mouth. “It’s the same thing as if I were to kick beside you or kick your shins. Same energy. Different intent.”
“But what about the first part of the question?” I asked. “What if you discover you have immense power that could be harmful?”
Merlin sighed. “It’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter whether I’m a sprite with a limited range of abilities and energy or someone who has yet to discover the true limits of his power. I can take that power and apply it for good or evil. It has nothing to do with the energy involved in the magic. It does have everything to do with the person wielding the magic. It is everything about whether the magic is used for good or not-so-good purposes. But magic in and of itself is only a form of energy transfer – and that’s neither good nor bad.”
He went silent for a few seconds and then said, “But there’s another point to the answer and that has to do with a human capacity for power.? There’s a saying in your culture “that absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
In history, there have been examples of kings and emperors who haven’t been influenced by the absolute power they had and there are numerous examples of those who succumbed to the temptation.”
He laughed and it was as ugly sounding as I’ve ever heard but he followed it up with a question, “How about your politicians today. Are they succumbing to the temptations of their office and power or are they above such things?”
He shook his head and continued, “Again, it’s an individual thing and every one of your readers has to ask that question of their leaders but more importantly, of themselves. “Would I make a good ultimate ruler and could I be corrupted?”
“Well, I’m sure we’d all say we’d be fine,” I said.
“OK then, let me ask you a simple question,” said Merlin. “I suspect you’ve been in a store when the teller made a mistake and gave you too much money back in change. Even if it was a few cents, did you stop and return the money?
When you discovered it after when you got home, did you make a point of returning the difference the next day? After all, when a cashier makes a mistake, he or she has to make up the difference out of their own pocket.”? Merlin stopped and looked at me. “If you didn’t return that money, that cashier – who might be working to support a family – loses that amount of money.”
He was relentless. “Have you ever cheated just a little bit on your income taxes?? What about not putting enough change in the parking meter so see if you could get away with it this one time? How about running an orange light because you don’t feel like stopping? What about speeding?”
“But everybody is tempted like that and it’s natural to do,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” said Merlin. His voice was low and sad. “It’s a marker on your integrity as a person. It’s a marker about how you’d handle power. If you lie and push the boundaries of your integrity, then you’ve outlined how you’d handle absolute power,” said Merlin.
I sat silent.
Merlin allowed me the refuge of silence for a minute or so and then he began again. “I want to answer your reader’s question. I have had to learn this lesson several times over my lifetime and I hope, I truly hope I’ve learned it because I have more power than any other individual in this world – even politicians with a finger on the nuclear button. And to make you even more worried, I’m still learning and enlarging my power.”
“I do not swallow the magic or my humanity and shut it down. I treasure it. But every day I try to be a better person. But much to my chagrin, I find myself making mistakes time and time again,” said Merlin. “I’m human and while I’ve had a long time to practice both my humanity and increase my power, it’s still tempting to take shortcuts, to abuse that power just as it will be for every one of your readers.”
He chuckled, “I may be the single most experienced practitioner of situational ethics in the world.”? His face grew grim, and he said, “It’s the lack of situational ethics that has dropped your world into its current mess.”? He stopped. Coughed. Looked like he was going to start again but shut his mouth and stared at me.
“Any more questions?” he asked. His tone of voice was dead flat and without emotion. And for the first time, I was afraid of his voice.
I shook my head. What I really wanted to do was escape from the room.