For in an inappropriately long amount of time, he truly believed that Magic was, in essence, primarily the merger, joining, and collision of two factors: Word, and Name. (Predictive models matter; you can believe, if you want, that the true Thaumaturgical source in the Universe; but you’d best be prepared to die in a sea of treacle.
It was not forgivable—not in the eyes that mattered, his own—that he’d viewed things so naively. When someone relies on some depth of knowledge, and you have not dug deeply enough, then you end up with a lot of dirt, a hole that’s too small, and a lack, not simply of rubies and precious metals, but even with a coherent idea of what the hole was actually supposed to contain in the conveyance of this concept; let’s just bury the whole thing and start over, okay?
Wishful thinking is, in the long run, fatal, and while fatality is common to most sentience, wishful thinking is particularly likely to shorten lifespan in ways which is pleasant only to other sentients who are watching from a safe and considerable distance, and primarily for amusement purposes. Improper use of Magic is the kiss—not of death, since “death” is oftentimes quite forgiving, relatively speaking.. It’s more like the kiss of a leprechaun: spritely, warm, summoned by merry thoughts, and guaranteeing that your almost-cold corpse will be robbed by nightfall.
And for what he’d consider an inappropriate amount of time, he’d even believed all of that.
Oh, it wasn’t wrong. Just thinking too small.
Magic is the intersection—no, the merger or joining or collision—of Word and Name. It was not forgivable, in the eyes that mattered (his own) that let his own ideas become so limited simply because they worked. He couldn’t recognize folly, any more than Faeries recognize the magnetic pull of the Moon; but he knew Wishful Thinking when he saw it. When it comes to Magic, that’s the kiss—not of death, since death is often (sometimes!) forgiving of such things….but at least the smooch of a succubus on a one-night stand: spritely, warm, sweet, and guaranteeing that your almost-cold corpse will be robbed by daybreak.
He’d once felt, for potions and their ilk, that utter contempt which is the particular province of those who seek truth through the faraway visions of telescopes, never considering that there might be something simple and worthwhile in the everyday life they led. He’d assumed they were part of the magical structure he knew best and found most meaningful, and only began to change that when his colleagues were turned into hands, fleas, rocks, fleas infesting rocks, and giant smears of mud and blood. Something in the back of his head whispered, gently, “WRONG, YOU IDIOT!”
This is when he began to pay attention.
An alienist or other brain-chirurge would have asked why he was so obsessed with the deep imperfections of his own metaphysics, but ffbelieved them fundamentally sound, while he hated the mysticisms of most others, would have led him shout “BECAUSE I’M BASICALLY HUMAN, YOU NINCOMPOOP!”—an answer which would have likely annoyed them both.
This is when he began to pay attention.
It takes a true wise man to know that he is a fool, a true fool that he is wise, and a nitwit to believe that he is likely to make an accurate self-assessment of either quality. But spotting generally terrible belief systems is not incredibly difficult, so long as you don’t start off with the inherently terrible belief system that you’re right.
One of the leading points of poor predictive models is magical thinking about things which do not involve magic. That is, one’s belief in faerie tales ought to be modified, at least somewhat, by whether or not one has a room in the basement dedicated to the carefully-taxidermified remains of malevolent elves. Otherwise, magical thinking is mainly a way of digging yourself a narrow grave with your own words and hopes.
In this wide Multiverse, Magic obeys precisely one being conclusively, appreciatively, to the letter, and without consequences resulting from irony or a complete lack of caring. And if you ever figure out who that being is, RUN!
It’s a long and difficult road, but in the end, almost nobody finds it rewarding. Because Magic may be suspicious and capricious, but it definitely finds your soul Magically Delicious.