autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

The Magician Who Quit (A Fable)

Once upon a time, there was a magician who, through study, practice, and persistence, taught himself to make gold from lead. This being the alchemical holy grail, he was highly sought after by kings, despots, and all manner of folk in the middle.

Despite the assuredly terrible temptation, the magician really only wanted one thing: To be able to retire to his laboratory and further refine his process and practice. Mind you, he was happy to make gold for as many people as would haul lead to his door and pay him to do so, but the notion of traveling from town to town or even making weekly treks into the town center just wasn’t very interesting to him. After all, it meant time away from his laboratory and that much more time added to reaching the next breakthrough.

No matter how well he explained this over the years, it seemed he might as well be speaking a foreign language… it never seemed to register with patrons. Naturally, they would humor him and say things like, “Oh, we’re perfectly happy with you working in your laboratory once in a great while, but we’re much more comfortable if you are here, in the castle (or lair) with us.” They would spend great sums to replicate his laboratory without ever considering the thing that made the original meaningful, productive, and motivating was not something that they COULD replicate, no matter how much was spent.

The magician thought surely, if he could demonstrate the benefits to them and outline how much they would save on expenses (not to mention gain in his output), his patrons would see reason. Instead, he found that the more he delivered facts, the more reluctant and belligerent they became. Indeed, some became so discontent that they actually would insist they’d prefer to have people digging under the castle for gold than suffer the idea of his alchemy occurring outside their purview.

He was flummoxed; it really made no sense. He spent years trying desperately to make sense of it; questions and conversations over years yielded the most curiously irrational “reasons”; they ranged from the narcissism of personal preference to the insult of distrust to the downright arrogant assumption that only under direct observation could the most effective result be obtained.

They claimed that understanding what the tax-paying locals thought of his process was imperative and, therefore, he could not possibly complete his work without meeting with them regularly. This, frequently delivered by courier, carrier pigeon, or scrying session, brought with it an irony that it frustrated him to know they could not see.

He heard “reasons” that appealed to emotion, to popularity, as well as threatened any variety of slippery slopes to disaster; he didn’t bother to point out the logical fallacies, nor the hypocrisy of setting the reasons forth only to jaunt off to a scrying session with magicians hired overseas to perform the same manner of activity they had just so blithely insisted could only occur under their noses.

Little by little, the magician realized that no one, be they king, villain, or in-between really much cared what he needed to be content and comfortable in performing his work. It was a constant and very much one-way flow of demand and dictation over which no compromise or reason would brook.

So he did what any self-respecting magician would do; he quit.

He packed his house and removed himself to a remote location and decided that he would work only on his own terms. Those who wished to secure his services were politely but bluntly informed that chief among these was that he ONLY worked in his own laboratory. No amount of begging and no bribery would move him on this point. In fact, a number of visitors lost their chance at his services simply because they didn’t have the sense to respect his words as truthful and his boundary as real.

To this day, the magician lives comfortably and quietly in his laboratory retreat. He does not have the acclaim and fame of some of his contemporaries but then, he never found that of much interest. Every now and then, a patron will regale him with the gossip of his stubbornness and “how much it cost him” but, in truth, he didn’t think it cost him very much at all.

All those potential patrons, however….

(Written for my good friend, one such magician, who recently left market and will be sorely missed.)