I once attended a philosophy lecture about the principle of induction, the idea that we can only really function by making assumptions about most of the world around us, usually (and ideally) based on experience, because if we had to question and establish everything from first principles all day every day, we’d never get anything done. Why do we not question or worry whether the coffee in the cafeteria today, is in fact, poison and not coffee? Why do we not ponder whether tomorrow we will wake up to find the world has turned into jam? If either of these things DID ever happen we would start to ask the question, but because they never have, we never do (these were two of the examples within the lecture – the consensus was that while the coffee in the uni ref may never have turned out to be poison, there were many occasions when it didn’t bear much resemblance to actual coffee either – as a tea-drinker that was never an issue for me though. I digress)
So what does this have to do with snow? Well, while our assumptions and inductions are all fine and good, as a species we’ve spent a great amount of time and energy trying to exact certainty from the world around us (and exert control over it, but that’s a different topic). One of the areas we have a passable degree of success is in weather forecasting, albeit only moderately passable in Scotland, particularly on such days as it changes on an hourly basis. This week predicted snow and so, based on our experiences of snow in the past, individually and collectively we put in measures to prepare as best we can.
And I couldn’t help thinking about it in magical terms. Even in the midst of shared practice our experience of magic tends to be unique, subjective, individual. What works, even repeatedly, for one practitioner may not work well or at all for another, even within the same discipline. Is magic ever predictable? And if not can we ever really prepare*? Can the results ever be certain? We may convince ourselves that something will work because it has worked before, and I suppose that makes it true – right up until the point it doesn’t, of course. And even assuming it could be certain and predictable, is that what we would want? A mechanical process of cause and effect – this chant + this sigil = that result. Would it diminish the experience? Because there’s nothing quite like an unexpected snowfall to inspire beauty and wonder…
(*The answer is, up to a point, yes. Just practice safely, always carry your towel and, just in case the world does turn to jam tomorrow, possibly a spoon as well)