Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Looking for a little magic?

There's a book that's been on my wish list waiting for the right time for me to read it: it's called The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Didion is a brilliant, evocative, and powerful voice. Her most recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking is about the year after the unexpected death of her husband, a time when her daughter was also critically ill.

We all wish for magic in our lives. While we are aware of the charm of happy, little magics - like snow on Christmas Eve or fairy godmothers that produce the perfect outfit with a wave of their wands - we really want more powerful magic, especially when we are in trouble. Magical thinking takes many forms: most of them are about having the power to evade tragedy, to escape the inevitable human consequence of being born. If we had magic, we would not need hope or courage or faith.

That's the crux, of course, the real reason religion and magic do not mix. We want magic so that we have power that we would not ultimately know how to wield. We want magic so that we can change the consequences of our actions and protect ourselves against the consequences of other people's actions. We want magic so that there are no consequences. The irony is that all of our stories about magic are full of consequences, and of magicians who pay for their magic with their souls. The irony is that we want magic to hold the world accountable for the consequences that come with bodies subject to disease and love subject to change.

These days, my mom frequently points out that people cope with things because life does not give them much choice. The power to resist consequences is not magic: it is that inner strength that we discover even when we cry loudly for magic. It is that inner drive to get to the end of the day. We have as much of magic as we need and probably as much as we are capable of wielding well.

Let yourself look at that place in your life where you most profoundly wish for magic to clean up the mess. Notice what you would do with magical powers if you suddenly possessed them - or were possessed by them. Then take a deep breath, and grab a broom.

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