Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking. The first time I heard that term used as a perjorative, I wondered why. What's so bad about Magical Thinking? This negative definition is, as I understand it, a denigration of religious thinking, of belief in God, belief in an afterlife, belief that an invisible being concerns her/him/itself with one's life, one's friends, one's career, health, and well-being.

And ok. I get that. But still ...

I like Magical Thinking. Most folks I know do too. We may not be religious in any ordinary sense of the word. We may not buy into the story we've been told. But we do buy into stories in general. We make daily reference to stories to explain all kinds of circumstances. We fit the news of the day into narratives: The Lord of the Rings, Gone With the Wind, Apocalypse Now.

Those of us who wouldn't be caught dead spouting Bible references have no problem quoting Homer or Shakespeare.

And we surely tell our own stories. In spite of the jumble that may be the reality of our lives, that may be the sum total of the facts of our own contraditions, we put those facts - however contradictory they may be - into a story of our own. Something that makes sense of the trajectory on which we see ourselves. We give ourselves a beginning, a middle, and posit the best ending we can contrive. This inevitably involves Magical Thinking.

I am a writer of "speculative" fiction, literary fantasy as I like to call it when telling my own story. My life has been a trajectory of gathering experiences, collecting impressions, and reading for understanding, until at last I felt able to begin a narration.

Or - as some others might see it - I've spent a great deal of time avoiding ordinary responsibilities in favor of escaping into the Magical Thinking of books and other romantic adventures. Only now when, due to various infirmities of age some of the more strenuous avenues have become closed to me, I turn at last to writing.

Ursula Le Guin, in her introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness wrote this: "Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That's the truth!"

And that's the kind of Magical Thinking that I believe in. Always have. Always will. We all need a bit of magic to get through the day.