November 11, 2010

Reality, Idealism, and Magic

"The difference between you and I is that you are an idealist while I am a realist."
I am an idealist.
This "ohmygod when am I going to find a freakin' job" never-ending phase of my life actually comes right in the middle of "who am I and how did I end up here?" panic. Everything gets tangled up when you are not paying attention. Pay attention to yourself. I knew this once, but lost it over the years - "Be still woman, and know thyself." (-Sarah Ban Breathnach)

I told a friend recently that I don't know what I believe in anymore. Anymore. Implying that I once believed in something, and I lost it along the way.  I started thinking about things I do believe in: bills, dishes, laundry, gravity, physics. Uh, random list, right? (They are things that I am certain do exist.)

I was a Religious Studies minor in college. Translation: I took a few classes on the study of religion, not to be confused with theology. Religion orients a person to the sacred among the profane. Think of it as though you are lost among the trees deep in the forest. You have no idea how to get out of the forest or move around in the forest. You are disoriented. Until you spot one that has a red ribbon wrapped around it. Ah-ha! That is the marker that tells you where you are, which direction you are going in, and where you are headed. The tree with the ribbon is the sacred; the trees around it are the profane. The sacred orients.

There is obviously a lot more to religion than this, and Mircea Eliade would think I butchered this basic explanation, and my Favorite Professor Ever would probably cringe at it, but you get the point. Well, actually, the point is that I may not be looking for the sacred, but I have to stop believing in the profane. I actually listed things I hate (hello, dishes!) or know nothing about (physics!) as things I believe in.

I've been spending some time hanging out with Martha Beck. Have you heard of her? She's pretty awesome and a longstanding, good friend of mine. Well, except that she doesn't know it. She's more of an imaginary-type friend. And by hanging out, I mean reading her book and listening to her speak via mp3s on her website. But anyway... she offers a lot of great, practical life advice - super down to earth and rational ways to live well. That's all great, and if I was making a rational recommendation of her work to you, I'd go into the details. But I'm not. I just wanted to tell you that...

She believes in magic. Well, it's not quite that simple, of course, but she uses the word a lot. Okay, not a lot, but she uses it. And when she does, it makes me happy. It makes me hopeful. She talks very practically about finding/creating/achieving life goals - like, writing a novel. And then she says that magic happens - like when that novel is done and needs a publisher and you have no freakin' clue how to even begin to find one, you will get a flat tire when you're driving to the store one Saturday afternoon. And some random lady will stop to help you. And she, SHE will be a publisher, eventually, YOUR publisher. I love that possibility. So, I decided I'm going to believe in Martha Beck's magic. Because it makes me happy. It makes me hopeful.

(What? It's not that simple to go from believing in dishes and gravity to believing in magic? But isn't gravity kind of a form of magic? How does the center of the earth have the power to pull? Magic! How do dishes keep accumulating? Magic! (Of course!))

I know, I know. I'm still a bit of a skeptic, too. But I'm going to try believing in magic for a while, because I honestly don't think it can hurt. Especially if I implement realistic life steps that come before the magic. Someday, I'll start sorting out what I Believe in, but for now I'm choosing to believe in Martha Beck's magic. Because I think we all need something we can believe in. I certainly do.
"I work hard for idealism IN SPITE OF realities. I don't consider that a negative."
That response came out of my mouth before I even thought about it. Years later, I still stand by it.  I know that life is hard and not fair.  But that doesn't mean there can't be hope and healing and goodness.  I'm pulling those parts of life closer to me and holding on to them a little bit tighter.   
(Also, I don't think it's a coincidence that I spend a lot of my job search time on Just sayin'.)

What do you believe in?


  1. I believe in magic - that kind of magic,anyway - the kind where good things happen & just come together and fall into place simply because you do good things, you think good thoughts, and you work honestly. If we let go of the worry & fear, somehow things just work out. I believe it because I've experienced it. And besides, isn't it a better way to live, believing in magic, than always looking for the tricks?

  2. 1. Your posts are the only ones that require the pausing of my Pandora. I need space in my brain to think about the wonderful things you say through words.
    2. I love magic. I love that you are consciously believing in magic. I love your explanation of magic. Magic magic magic.
    3. I keep a running tally of things I want to include in comments when I read your posts ("Oh, thatissocooool, it reminds me of...," "Yes, I agree, I need to say...," "These words fit so perfectly...,") and then I realize everything I want to say, you've already said. Every comment of mine should look like this: Yes.
    4. What do I believe in? Hmm. When do I run out of characters? I believe in learning, and changing your beliefs after learning new things that mean the most to you (constantly). I believe in acceptance, beyond understanding, and an open mind to all theories. I believe in all paths to goodness, and I believe the universe has a sense of humor. I believe in seeing Heaven in simple things, like snow at night, or the smell of a peppermint patty. I believe in friends.

  3. "I believe it because I have experienced it." - I really loved reading/needed to read this. (Thank you!)

    I know that part of my current attraction to magic is that I have experienced it different ways also, even if those experiences seem to have faded from vivid memories. I think that in trying to achieve a proactive, accountable, responsible-for-my-own-happiness lifestyle, I forgot how important it is to believe in something greater than my control. I forgot how great it is to say, "I don't understand it, but that is exactly why I trust it." And I think that you're right - worry and fear are major factors. I think we have to let go of them to believe in magic and believing in magic enables us to let go of them. Great things to think about...

  4. "When do I run out of characters?" - I love, love that attitude.

    You're so right - it's important to question and change our beliefs. I think that sometimes it gets too easy to discard things that we believe in after learning something new or contradictory. Sometimes the old belief just need some tweaking. Or maybe it is a belief that doesn't fit anymore, and it's okay to discard it, but that doesn't mean we have to discard all beliefs.

    I'm such a believer in the small things, too. (And as I type this I realize that I'm actually identifying something I do deeply believe in.) I also think that the small things end up being the big things. I need to remember that and practice my beliefs more. Especially my belief in Ben and Jerry's ice cream - that one is steadfast. =)