Magical Thinking

Magical thinking is the belief that one’s thinking and/or beliefs, words, or use of symbols can influence external events without there being a direct, causal link. It’s also the title of my poem which I’ll be talking about and presenting.

To a degree, we all engage in this spurious style of thinking and believing; it’s human nature, but I don’t want to go on an extended screed about that. More to my point here, there was a period in my life – around 2002, or so – when, after an extended reflection on my accumulated beliefs, along with some rather colorful experiences, I realized I had sought what I shall call a type of “aesthetic salvation.” Essentially, that means that I read, studied, theorized, and extrapolated virtually every theory of life, art, and philosophy, under the sun, and made a metaphysical bed for myself in which I found comfort. I believed in God, of course; I held to Christian beliefs. I also wrote the present poem around the same time. But in the miasma of theories, historical figures, ideas, and artistic endeavors, I drown the bedrock part of what constitutes “me.” Further, I believed my cumulative, aesthetic “loot” gave me a superior insight into life, itself. This was wrong, because I was wrong.

I won’t tend toward triumphalism here. I won’t tell you that Jesus is the only way (He is), all the while driving that point home repeatedly ad nauseam. What I believe may or may not enthrall you. It might, at some point, convince you, it might make you angry, but it might also point you in another direction so you can find out for yourself what I now know to be true: Jesus Christ is the Way, Truth, and Life.

I still love to read, to think, to wonder. Hey! “Wonder” is what this blog is all about ! But I don’t, for a minute, believe that what I have tucked away in my noggin gets me one iota closer to God. St. Augustine said two things that are eminently pertinent here: “God is infinite so that we will continue to seek for Him after we have found Him.” Have you found something or someone who tickles your fancy, and makes you think you’ve discovered the secrets of the universe? Maybe; more likely that’s magical thinking. Back to Augustine: “What you fully understand cannot be God” Got it? My friends, the playing field is huge. God has left markers along the way so you and I can find Him, but after we find Him (actually it’s Him finding us finding Him), there’s so much more to “Him”; infinitely so!

Here’s the poem. One last word: I used love – what I believed to be love – as my salve, my rationale to excuse my wanderings. I fed my intellect and starved my spirit. Remember, love’s not a thing, it’s a Divine Person. Enjoy!

Love and death and the whole shebang.

They’re in and out of the door all day,

And make me wish for home again.

I’ve loved away my life.

No tragic narratives, or misspent madrigals

Can fill up all the awkward spaces,

Make home more real than mystic spaces.

I’ve loved away my life.

Ex cathedra pronunciamentos

Rang out with papal gravity.

The voice of moral probity: noli me tangere.

I’ve loved away my life.

No organized cult of love and beauty,

Parading against this Saurian Age,

Will suffice to sustain this Melvillian sage.

I’ve loved away my life.

Between Shauvian extremes of heaven and hell,

I’ve sung a Lorelei’s song of self-destruction,

Love fading now and then with erotic pendulation.

I’ve loved away my life.

After tilting at windmills for my dear Dulcinea,

And searching for honor as for some panacea,

My visions, they vanished like some forlorn idea.

I’ve loved away my life.

I stand undeterred in the perennial moment,

Filled with the thesis of absolute judgement.

My steps shadow Emerson, devoid of all strife.

I’ve loved away my life.

6 comments

  1. Malcom, I read this when you first posted it, and put it aside to come back to it later. I had both comments and a question.

    Comments: Your post sent me off on a research project into the idea of “magical thinking”. I had my own conception of what this meant, and here you give yours, and I wanted to see how others conceived of it. Some people, of course, believe that all religion is magical thinking. I have at least one son who seems to believe that. But the history of religion itself contains a continual thinking and re-thinking, positing and affirming, what the proper relationship is between the natural and the supernatural worlds. If you can even think of them as thus divided. I know our Church makes the distinction, and so I don’t deny that there is a difference. But the longer I live, the more I think that there exists something akin to a “unified field theory that serves like the rug in the Dude’s apartment in The Big Lebowski—it ties the whole of reality together. I especially meditate on Jesus’ miracles and what he says to those who receive miraculous healing or life from him. And I meditate on the odder types of miracles he did, like walking on water and calming the storms. He seems to indicate that FAITH — that ineffable mystery –is the key. What key? Not the key to controlling matter (like alchemists and occultists crave) but the key to having and living the more abundant life, the life of the Kingdom.

    You wrote: … I realized I had sought what I shall call a type of “aesthetic salvation.” Essentially, that means that I read, studied, theorized, and extrapolated virtually every theory of life, art, and philosophy, under the sun, and made a metaphysical bed for myself in which I found comfort.

    I recognize this as a recurring activity in my own life. “Aesthetic salvation” is a decent name for it. I have engaged in dialogue with myself over and over again over the course of my life, as I try to understand the relationship between art and religion. Sometimes I have thought I should adopt St. Jerome’s attitude that the only reading material worth consuming is Scripture. But then sometimes I have become so constrained by consuming only explicitly Christian books, films, dance, art, sculpture etc. that I feel like I suffer from spiritual claustrophobia. And so then I turn to metaphysical couches and comforts that do not even whisper the name of Christ on the air that I breathe.

    I do not have a conclusion to my commentary. Your article got me to thinking. I related to it very closely. Since I do not have a conclusion to my comments, let me proceed to my question. Because maybe that will elucidate what I am wondering about what you mean to say.

    Question: why did you share with us a poem from a time when you were drowning in a miasma of theories and aesthetics, a time that you look back on and characterize as “spurious”? You wrote that “ I used love – what I believed to be love – as my salve, my rationale to excuse my wanderings. I fed my intellect and starved my spirit.”

    So are you saying you wrote a poem that intuited the power of Love even while you yourself were drowning in other-than-love? When I read the poem and think of love as a Person, then the refrain “I’ve loved away my life” is a good thing, a song of praise. Or do you mean it to be a criticism, a failure to grasp then what you think you grasp now about Christ?

    I don’t know if I’m making sense. I’m curious about the poem. I like it, but don’t understand where it fits in your journey, as a regret for straying off into the forest or an intuition even during a time of drowning that you were imitating God, in a way, by “writing straight with crooked lines”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! As is your way, Rae, you have not only commented upon, but also digested my offering and spun out all sorts of captivating thoughts. I offered that poem as a sign of a time when I was using my powers to make me feel comfortable, for sure. But it was also a comfortable deception, an anesthetic. So, you’re right.

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  2. It’s amazing how much we can learn in life. It’s also amazing how much remains unknown. As much as we try and seek out answers there are always more questions to ponder and think about. It can be frustrating as much as it is rewarding… at least that’s been my experience. I came to this conculsion after studying various religions and schools of thought myself.

    I love the shout out to Emerson at the end of the poem… not sure if this is what you were getting at but I was thinking about how after all the searching and studying there is always a return to the simple pleasures of nature and love and beauty and other suchs things. God in other words. Do we make it all more complicated than it actually is? Well it’s most definitely an interesting journey anyway!

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    • Indeed. Simplicity is at the heart of God. Wherever there is disorder, chaos and , by definition, sin, is not far behind. God is always greater than the sum of the pieces we all put together. I think you grasped that very well, JoAnn.

      Liked by 2 people

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