“…and Mexico will pay for it!”
“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
We cannot help it. Humans desperately need to square the circle. I want to find a cosmic thread or Special Sauce that allows the New York Football Giants to somehow, over about 6 coaching changes and zillions of players post-LT/Simms, to somehow get to the Super Bowl every year.
That is Magical Thinking.
But not every illogical extrapolation is as delusional as the Giants making the Super Bowl in the next few years. Not all desire-driven reality-bnding is magical. Heroin, smoking, and bacon have no objective merit: to consume them, the promise of momentary pleasure has to transcend the obvious health risks to facilitate a state of denial: that is not Magical — that is transactional.
When death happens, for the living left behind, the dead often morph into different people than we all knew. That’s Charity. Through about 6th grade, all of our children are going to Harvard, or get a D1 athletic scholarship, or audition into Julliard. That’s Hope.
The hardest leap after Charity and Hope is Faith.
I am not talking about Faith — I speak of Magic.
Magic does not extend reality. Magic does not mitigate reality. Magic makes new reality. Something within us wants to define an unseen, pervasive reality that completely voids all the unhappy complexities around us. The simultaneously retroactive and projective recreation of history, existing conditions, and implausible outcomes to a new reality leads folks to pray to Elvis, find conspiracies in vaccines, or believe that any president is not just another human.
Like Gwyneth Paltrow, every divorcing family — but especially those with children — want their divorce to be a transformation rather than a break. We all want, on many levels, to be the ones we are waiting for. And it would be nice if someone else would pay for anything we wanted.
But wanting any outcome is just hope. Being charitable when things are tough is part of Grace. But Magic takes simple wishes in a bad place into a completely different world — one where divorce really has no lasting pain, where a country will happily pay to be straightjacketed, and the parallel universe of who we really are will be revealed, and in it, we become who we always hoped we would be.
Today, Magical Thinking has reached a fevered pitch due the results of the last election. Soon after the election a host of very serious folk declared, with great certainty, “Trump can be prevented from winning the electoral college.” Which was followed by an infinite number of impeachment/indictment/vaporizing constructions. These were not Hopes, they were plans: based on Magic. On the other side, active Magical Thinking has made the Judicial Branch a bystander and every inconvenient truth Fake News. Politics used to be based in belief, and belief has to be based in the fact of Hope.
To me, the basis of Magic is the opposite of Hope. Hope has Faith at its core: to believe that there can be Good out of what is here, now. When all reasonable expectations are smashed by a uniquely divisive election outcome, some lose all hope in the reasonable. Losing hope is pretty easy when there is no Faith.
And what, exactly, mitigates for Faith in this Snarky New World? Magic floods the minds and hearts of all of us when God seems gone, or never was. I would wager that most of my atheist friends (and, here in Connecticut there are many) know that religion is the essence of Magical Thinking. I get it. No evidence. No rational reason. No transactional template.
But lately, many of these in-their-60s (like me) friends are saying, “I have been thinking about death.” To me, thinking about death should be as easy as thinking about any day’s sunset: natural, known, a simple fact of this temporal plane. But death, for humans, becomes a subject of much Magical Thinking, because part of us, a tiny unrelenting part of us, knows it’s not as simple as that.
I am completely clueless about the afterlife, the mechanics of the Resurrection, really about any theological construct of anything: I’m just a country architect, dammit. But the unrelenting human confrontation with death is evidence. Of What? Not Magical Thinking — it’s too elemental. Not Hope — it’s too scary. The confrontation with death only has only one final answer: Faith.Having said that, I have Faith absent God. In secular terms, I do believe Love Triumphs over Divorce. I believe in the Constitution. I believe that humans have the capacity to do good, even if it turns out that we are not the ones we have been looking for.
I would, and did, believe in these things in the absence of belief in God: but God makes all of these realities naturally obvious and undeniable. It renders billions of trolls just us, screwed up in ways that only Grace ultimately unscrews. As said, Trump is not Voldemort, Hillary was not the Wicked Witch of the West. I am not my father.
And I am not Frank Lloyd Wright. Or Lawrence Taylor.