Chronicles of Wizard Prang
by Stafford Beer

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Chapter One

The Problem of Toast

Wizard Prang was threatened by toast.

He knew that he was supposed to eat breakfast.  It was good for him.  But eating was exactly what he did not want to do early in the morning.

The first thing that he always did in the morning was to sit on the ground and breathe.  Well, everybody breathes while they still have breath in them, after which it gets too difficult.  But Wizard Prang went in for a very complicated style of breathing.

He sucked his breath in fast and deeply, and then held it for ages.

When he blew it out, 

it went with such a woosh that it would have frightened the cat, 

if he had owned a cat.

This was only the start.

He went on breathing for more and more complicated patterns for about an hour most mornings. Sometimes the whooshing became so severe that cat's he didn't even have were frightened.

People often asked Wizard Prang why he did all this every morning.

These people were often lovers of cats or people offering toast.

Sometimes they were both, which the Wizard found a little overpowering. It never crossed his mind that the people found him a little overpowering, with all that whooshing.

One day Perny, who was Wizard Prang's apprentice, followed him outside waving a cold piece of toast that the Wizard had concealed ineffectively under the tea cozy on the breakfast table.

"You'll starve", she contended.

"Nonsense", said Wizard Prang. "Look at me: I'm still here."

"That's all very well", said Perny, "but you are not getting any younger."

"How do you know?" asked the Wizard, who had been getting younger for some years.

"How old are you?" came the impudent reply.

"I am ageless", responded the Wizard, "Just the same as you."

"That's silly" said Perny.

"Oh really?" The Wizard shot her a sharp glance.

"I'm ageless because I can't remember when I wasn't. Can you?"

Perny changed the subject. She asked the Wizard if he had finished whooshing for the day.

He said that he had.

She said that was a relief.

"Why do you do it?" Perny asked.

"We have to tune ourselves into nature. I'm not sure how you do it but I do the whoosing."

"Tell me how it works", she demanded.

"Nature is full of air, on this planet anyway," said Wizard Prang. "Air circulates all round the body. It doesn't just go in and out of the lungs, you know. Air goes into the blood, and gets everywhere. The brain especially needs a lot of air, because it is a furnace for burning sugar."

"I understand that", Perny said, with one of her martyred looks. "Its true for me too , but I don't whoosh."

The Wizard told her she would have to learn.

"You see, there are other sorts of airs, not made of air, that can be captured when we breathe correctly. They don't work through the lungs," he added lamely. 

"Let me make you some more toast", Perny said.

How could anyone have more toast when he had not yet had any?

No wonder Wizard Prang was threatened by toast.

How could Perny take refuge in toast?

That at least was obvious. 

"A Wizard's life is not all that easy", reflected Wizard Prang after he had sent Perny packing. Only last week, a vet who lived in America, and had come all the way from Cardiff to solicit his help about tuning into nature, had been complaining.

"You learned breathing in India", the vet had said - making it sound like an accusation.

"Pranayama", murmured the wizard in Sanscrit. "And so?"

"You never stand on your head", fumed the vet.

Later, the wizard heard from the village that the vet had called the wizard a fake, because he didn't stand on his head. 

He had said that as a vet he was better tuned into nature than Wizard Prang.

"So he should be", the wizard had told them. 

But, they said, well, they had asked the vet to look at a sick dog and he had not helped at all.

"What did he say?" Wizard Prang had asked. 

The landlord at the pub had written it down. He tried to read it in an American accent through his Cerridigion intonation.

The result was less than euphonious - more like hilarious.

"This animal has a typical silicate-optical immobility syndrome" said Thomas the Pub. 

"What's it mean?"

"The dog is dead", said Wizard Prang.

No wonder the vet had not helped. Giving names to some things helps, to others, not. 

Owen the Pub pursued the head-stand question, though. And the wizard was embarrassed.

"I have certain problems with the Law of Gravity", he said in a low voice so that the other customers at the Black Lion would not hear.

"If I stand on my head, my gravity goes the wrong way. The result is that my robe stays in place, which looks odd but isn't embarrassing."

"If it isn't embarrassing", said Owen the Pub, "What's the problem?"

"My underpants fall down," the wizard answered, "which is of course to say up."

Owen the Pub actually giggled in Welsh.

Wizard Prang shuddered at the recollection of the whole affair, and went indoors. Perny wasn't there, which was a relief. The last thing he wanted to be bothered about was eating toast. Well, being threatened by a chocolate nut sundae with hot fudge and lashings of cream would perhaps be worse, or even better, but no-one ever suggested that.

Perny had been down by the stream, washing spell binders and gazing at flotilla's of minnows (or maybe sticklebacks; names don't alter fish either). 

When she returned, Wizard Prang was touching things. This all looked quite aimless, especially to someone who had half a mind to raise the question of toast.

The wizard was aware that Perny's eyes followed him as he wandered about touching things.

Never mind: if nothing had been following him, he would not have been followed by his own sense of guilt that he had not eaten his toast - although it was good for him.

"Did you know", he suddenly said, "that one can escape from people's eyes more easily than guilty feelings?"

"What happens if one is a reflection of the other?" Perny asked disingenuously.

He hated her being clever - but what good is an apprentice who isn't?

He sat down, and sighed.

"Is this the right time for you to explain why you do that? - the touching," she added.

"All right," the wizard said.

"When water comes out of the atmosphere, windows steam up, and shiny surfaces such as painted walls become wet. What's the name for that?"

"Condensation", said Perny, without a pause.

"Correct" said the wizard.

"Magical power is everywhere, like water in the air. And it 'condenses' on things. It doesn't make them wet, of course. It makes them powerful."

"What things?" Perny asked.

Wizard Prang put his right hand out towards a stone that sat on the small table besides him. He had made the small table. He had found the stone on the beach at Aberaeron. There are millions of stones on the beach, but he had found it.

Perny watched the wizard close his palm over the stone, close to - but not touching it.

She could have sworn that the stone disappeared. But the wizard put his hand back in his lap and the stone was still there.

"Wizards are trained to collect power. But they have to learn where to find it, and how to recognise it first", he said.

"Are you going to train me?"

"Its not that easy. I said 'wizard's are trained', not that anyone trains wizards." Wizard Prang answered.

"Then what's the good of being your apprentice?"

"No good," he said: "No bad, either".

"Got you", said Perny."

I do wish you'd stop saying that", the wizard said.

"Magical power attaches to people as well as things. Things, however, always give up their power to collector: they have no ego involvement, you see. People usually resist: they are attached to their power. They hang onto it like limpets."

"That sounds odd," Pernie answered. "It would sound more natural if you said that the power hangs onto people, somehow."

"You are dignifying those people", said the wizard: "because ego threatened folk clutch at any power that floats near them in the hope of discovering who they are. They won't let the power go."

"Who are the exceptions, then?"

"Oh they are the folk who are completely sure who they really are. They can afford to give the power of their own identity away."

"Like stones?" asked Perny.

"Just like stones," said the wizard.

"But stones aren't sentient" Perny protested.

"That's a matter of opinion", was the reply. "The real point is that the people I mean are as safe as stones. You never hear of a stone questioning its own stoniness, or wondering 'why am I here?' The question doesn't arise."

"Well, most people, I agree, aren't all that secure", said Perny. "But the ones that are... when they get round to giving their power, or allowing it to be collected at any rate, what's going on?"

"Oh, that," said Wizard Prang off-handedly: "That's called Love".

So this was a typical Wizard Prang morning.

    There was some Whooshing, some collecting, some chatting. 

        After that, his body and mind and nature itself were all in tune.

            His power energy would be revved-up.

                He would smoothly and quietly slip into gear.

                    Wizard Prang would be ready to cast the day's first spell...

At this moment, the same thing often happened. Someone solicitous would notice there was peace and quiet at last. 

Can you believe it? 

Then someone would come with fresh toast.

Wizard Prang was threatened by toast.

Table of Contents

Chapter Two