Some thoughts on magical thinking

It’s an enchanting idea, isn’t it, that denying something is true, even if it’s a fact, can make it untrue. How convenient. Apparently believing in false ideas will turn them into truth, eventually. We have become so entranced that we forget, or flatly deny, the ecological and environmental rules that are in place on this humble little planet – laws that cannot be wished away. Modernity is asleep at the wheel, and lost in magical thinking. We seem to actually believe that our man-made fantasies trump natural law. We are dreaming our way into a psychic house of mirrors, filled with endless illusory reflections of an elusive self.

Meanwhile there are the environmental and ecological rules for the game of Life, and no amount of haggling can make the rules not true. They are not an alternative truth. They are the bottom line. The natural world is throwing the yellow penalty flag. There’s a referee in the room, blowing her whistle on our grand and un-ruly game of one-upmanship and planetary degradation. Meanwhile we ignore the flags and whistles and proceed merrily along “subduing the Earth.”

Now, subduing the Earth is a classic example of magical thinking that has haunted Western civilization since the Bible was translated into English. But dominion over the Earth must end as a mythic idea.

Another classic example of magical thinking is the notion of manifest destiny (God likes us best!), which has been the justification for all manner of rape, pillage, and plunder. But now we know that our place in the biological scheme of things demands a much more humble stance, one that plays by the rules and finally recognizes: no rules, no game, no destiny manifest.

There are so many examples of magical thinking to choose from these days that it’s hard to pick examples, but the notion of unlimited growth comes to mind. Who cares if the rules dictate limits on our finite planet? Our wishful thinking can’t accept limitation. We think the planet will just get fatter along with us.

I could go on of course, but space is limited so I’ll leave exploration of further examples up to you. You could start with the idea of a superior race or religion.

What would it mean to awaken from our fantasies and turn our attention to the realities that confront us on the ground, those pesky environmental rules of the game of life itself ? Ironically, doing so would make our destiny manifest, which turns out to be the greatest dream of all – the dream of the Earth – a seventh- generational understanding.

All of this, of course, means that we ourselves are the responsible party here. Our very future, as destiny, is up to us, and our manifest response to our self-created dilemmas. Ouch! We are so hoping for the cavalry to come over the hill and save the day. A radical new president perhaps? How about UFOs on the White House lawn. Some folks figure they’ll just transfer their conscious selves into a robotic body. What fun – clever escapism. Others promote the bizarre idea of spraying chemicals into the stratosphere, thereby cooling the planet – magic at its best. Divine intervention is popular, in which case everything should be collapsing now anyway, right? The end is near. Why then bother with those fussy and demanding rules when the game will be over shortly anyway? So go ahead and drill, baby, drill.

Waking from any delusion is painful, especially when it has become a comfort zone that is widely shared and therefore self-validating. Oh, how we lie to ourselves in order to assert power over truth. We want to stuff the facts into a closet and shut the door. Or build a wall to keep them out. They get in the way of our quest for military-industrial hegemony and paranoid nationalism. So it seems to me that if we slip slide much further into Shangri-La La Land we will be condemned to babble on toward our own self-meditated end of time. Prophesy fulfilled.

Chip Schoefter writes from Goodman Point in Montezuma County, Colo.

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