On Magic and Impossibility

Or, “The good news and the bad news . . . .”

And, because I remain an eternal pragmatic optimist, I’m going to talk about the bad news first.

The Bad News

You need to realize a few things.

For example, that we (liberals in the midst of this Presidency) are expecting we can achieve the impossible. (How very, very American: hubristic AND stubbornly clinging to dreams.)

By “impossible,” what I mean is what no other human civilization has ever been able to do in the history of human civilizations. None survives everything. They all reach a peak and then fall way. They end. Through all sorts of dramas and traumas and combinations of circumstances that lead to the end of that thing. In fact, of everything that has ever lived on this Earth. Every plant. Every animal. Every very large group of those things.

They/we all die.

Then, in some other form, things come back and start the process all over again.

I am not saying that this Presidency is necessarily going to be the death of us. But it’s possible. Because that is what has happened over and over and over again in human history. And things are looking bizarre and dark enough to raise these questions. As in, “Will this be the time and place where this particular human civilization reaches its end point (and then another comes along eventually to replace it)?”

Is this where we are in the cycle?

It could be.

We don’t know.

We will try what we will try. And the historical facts (you can call this “fake news” if you don’t like it and don’t want to hear it and doing so makes you feel better) are that, at some point, the end comes.

Next . . . .


Yes, I am in fact shouting that. Because I am so tired of people either not reading what I actually say in my writing (understandably, because there is waaaaay too much news, discussion, information out there overloading all of our brains),or missing the subtlety of arguments because either triggers have been raised by use of certain words related to certain subjects, or because the aforementioned overload means people only read half (or even less) of the words in a piece.

Which brings me to my next bit of bad news that you need to realize:

When you expect that we are going to be able to survive, let alone somehow peacefully end, what is looking like its shaping up to be an authoritarian dictatorship, please realize we are not going to be doing it with the fullness of our minds and resources.

We are emotionally-taxed. Freaked-out. Angry. Scared. Wondering what is our next best move for politics, for our families, for making it through sanely.

Anyone who knows anything about the workings of the human brain knows that these are not optimal conditions for difficult situations.

When we need to be listening to each other and caring for each other and making plans and acting together, we are instead operating without those parts of our brains that let us most highly-function.

We act instead like reptiles and three-year-olds. We are flying off the handle in exhaustion, fear, hopelessness and defensiveness. Even and often most especially with the people we have, until now, loved the most.

And in the midst of all this . . . we still expect ourselves to have the intellectual capacity and emotional reserves to pull off what’s never happened before: to be the superheroes who will save a particular civilization.

By the way, we are also the people who cannot stay on our diets. Who don’t write the novels we know would make us feel better if we did. Who cannot make it to the gym consistently. Who try our hardest, and still fall down, every single day.

All of us.

Me, too.

And yet we are going to save a civilization and way of life. And we will yell at each other (our friends and our family, along with our “enemies”) at every instance we perceive people are not working hard enough, or in the right way, to save the world RIGHT NOW.


Give me a break.

Give yourself a break.

Give everyone a break.

Saving the world as you know it is, at the very least, very hard work. It might, in fact, be impossible. But what is the point in trying at all if you wreck yourself and everyone you love in the struggle?

The Good News

I still think it’s possible to save the world.

And by “it’s possible,” I mean that just because it’s never happened before doesn’t mean it can’t happen some time. And I also mean that it is possible this Presidential mess can become, somehow, something different. A transformative experience that can raise us up to all kinds of new levels of being better people.

What keeps me able to operate with optimism while being fully cognizant of all the Bad News is Magic.

And by Magic, what I mean is the actual workings of Magic. Which I simply believe are workings of things that exist but that you yet don’t understand, and cannot yet wrap your brain around.

For one example: radio waves and radios.

I love and am heartened and fascinated by stories of the way that many people who did not understand how radio worked reacted to it. For instance, to the story of a very old man who told me about his very old grandma . . . who never was able to understand or trust the radio. How she could not get her brain to wrap around the fact that there WAS NOT a tiny human inside the box, singing. And how her head almost exploded the first time she heard a choir singing on the radio, because she could not understand how ALL of those tiny people fit inside the box.

How tiny they had to be!

Where is the magic?


We just don’t see it or understand yet how it works.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Or that it’s not going to help us.

Or isn’t already.

Maybe the radio is working somehow that we just don’t yet perceive.

Maybe the people who can perceive and harness it have just not done so yet.

That does not mean it will not happen soon enough.



On Fundamentalist Voices

Things have gotten rocky.

To say the least.

What seems to be happening (as it appears to me) is that fundamentalists of all kinds all over the world have, over the past few years, begun extremely flipping out over changes in climate, society, economics, communication, civil rights, etc.

In response to massive change they perceive as threatening, what they want is to go backward.

To return to “fundamentals.”

To return to the “fundamentals” of their particular readings of all the Big Texts — constitutions and religious tracts — that explain that authoritarian structures are the only ways to make and preserve societies.

The fundamentalists also seem willing (and, by the way, also apparently hopped-up on self-righteous pride in their determination) to go to any lengths of lawlessness and destruction in their determination to go backward into the authoritarianism, same-ness, “purity,” nationionalism, exclusion, regimentation that they maintain will “protect” and “preserve” their societies/ways of life/loved ones.

What do we do about that?

Here’s what I think:

1. No one knows for sure what works, and what . . . if anything . . . can stop these guys. (You know which guys I mean. All the ones hell-bent on their own missions to “return” civilizations to “when they were great.” From the Taliban right down to the administration currently running America.)

2. Your guess, and your weariness, and your fear are therefore as good as mine about what might work in keeping us from getting the clock rolled back to the Dark Ages. (Or to the primordial muck before humans appeared on the planet.)


We gotta get real here, people.

Let’s imagine the very worst things happen: you and me and our loved ones are faced with death and destruction.

Which, when we take a breath and calm down, we gotta realize IS GOING TO HAPPEN ANY WAY. Even if we have the best President in the World in charge of The Whole World for years and years and years . . . . we all die. Anway. Every single one of us. And so do our kids. And our grandkids.

That is how the whole thing works.

And always has.


What does that mean here?

Why, that the stakes are always the same.

That there is, in essence, NOTHING different in what we face, in the cravenness and nuts-ness and hubris of fundamentalists’ threats (and actualities) in our faces right now than what we face when the world is running more to our liberal likings.

In both cases — and ALWAYS — we are mortal, no matter what. And our time and choices of how we spend our time are always necessarily limited by that simple, crucial, unalterable fact.

In either case, in any case, and in every day and every moment, the essential questions are exactly the same: Who are you and what therefore are the ways you think are important to live your one and only life?

4. And here’s where–in answering those critical questions, so that we can decide how to live our lives most purposefully and integrity-filled–we gotta watch out for more fundamentalist voices.

Our own.

We are ham-strung in this process by our own fundamentalist inner voices.

(Which, by the way, are very responsible for a key reason we get so triggered over and over and over again by all the screeds and decrees and actions of political and religious fundamentalists: we project onto them . . . the grotesque characters we see them as . . . all the hatred and fear and resentment and self-loathing that our own insecurities–fundamentalist inner voices–generate about ourselves in ourselves.)

You know your fundamentalist voices. The ones who tell you that you cannot, that you should not, that you are selfish, that you are ignorant, that you are powerless, that you are dangerous, that you are stupid, that you are misguided, that you do not adequately understand, that you are wrong . . . THAT YOU ARE SOMEHOW FUNDAMENTALLY INADEQUATE EVER TO GET BIG THINGS REALLY RIGHT . . . that you should be afraid, that your imagination and your intuition are twits that should not to be listened to.

And you know there are more.

All the negative self-talk that clutters your minutes, days, weeks, months, years.

All the voices inside that tell you, “No. You cannot do that. Do not change.”

That tell you to stay the same.

That tell you not to try.

Especially when you are doing something particularly new and brave that you have no idea how will turn out.

Like fighting against fundamentalist voices.

Unfortunately, that’s when they get the loudest.

When they feel threatened by your imminent change away from what they’ve been telling you for years. Decades.

No one wants to feel like they’re losing their position of safety, authority, control.

So, when you are feeling overwhelmed and scared in doing anything brave . . . traveling, living your life differently, creating, fighting autocrats, for examples . . . listen carefully to what kind of voices are telling you that you suck and you will fail and you won’t know enough to be able to make a difference.

That you should not go forward.

That you should not live your life in a way that others disagree with.

That other authority figures know better.

Recognize them as your inner fundamentalist voices.

The scared internal forces forces that do not want you to change.

And please, please, please . . . (yes, I am really actually kind of begging you here, on all of our behalves) . . . listen instead to the braver, kinder voices inside of you . . . and do your brave thing, anyway.

It’s all we can do.

Be radically brave and creative and committed to how we choose to live our lives.



Choose not to be afraid.

And if that’s too tall an order, choose to do–anyway–what scares you.

It’s the bravest and boldest thing you can do.

No matter what.

Which will also . . . even if you cannot always see any direct evidence of it happening, and especially not right away . . . provide a light and an example for others of How To Be Brave. Which, in its own intangible and mysterious way, helps power more and more change. And, in my book, makes us kinds of heroes.


On Overcoming the Inner Critic . . . and Other Tyrants

“I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I’m going to find out,” popped into my brain today as I was getting out of the car to go on a walk.

Let me get particularly directive here:

Pay attention to what pops into your brain this way.

Because, for example . . . .

I realized this way my/some spirit’s articulation of what I needed to hear RIGHT NOW. As a writer. Artist. Adventurer. Human on this planet.

That this is a creed.

This is the spirit of adventure and creativity. Of following your heart in a critical trust that something (I believe it’s love) is operating through you and around you that’s bigger than your Inner Critic. Bigger than your Doubt. Bigger than your Cynicism. Bigger, in other words, than any and all tyrants who seek to devalue and shut down our generative powers to create visions, moments, places . . . of beauty, of inspiration, of hope, of sanctuary, of peace.

Make stuff. Find out where it’s taking you. Go with it.


From my art journalĀ