Lately I’ve been thinking about magical thinking.
I’m reading a book called The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane, written by Matthew Hudson. Despite its deceptively self-help-y title, it is book of accessible yet evidenced pop science meant to point out that in between the stark lines of rationality and irrationality there is a soft, shifting space which we need, psychologically speaking, to touch now and then.
The more years I rack up, the more I suspect that many aspects of what we categorize, and often dismiss, as superstition or spirituality are possibly elements of human psychology we don’t yet fully understand or know how to manage. Maybe that is why we sometimes see net benefits in using frameworks of understanding and management that are, to rational eyes, irrational. Maybe it’s the only way we have to access some deep, unprobed truth, and maybe it’s worth it to get at that truth any way we can. Within the limits of sense, of course. Which is why, ultimately, I also suspect the rational/irrational divide is not truly a divide at all, but two sides of the same coin. A complement and a balance.
I pursue irrationality in art, in the romance of nature, in the pleasure of daydreams and in stubborn, humanistic optimism. I keep rituals, like getting up early in the morning, lighting a particular rose-scented candle, using a particular pen and creating a space in which I can write. I’m fairly certain the candle or the pen has zero direct practical impact on my words. But when I struggle to make time for myself or what I love to do, my ritual opens up potential. It provides a framework that the world denies me. Which is what, I think, all ritualistic frameworks provide. They open up possibility where other power structures have stamped it out.
While I’m increasingly convinced of the value of irrational thought, I’m equally assured that the practice requires to use of healthy critical thinking to determine when and where the rational opposite is appropriate. I keep my irrationality to the personal sphere, where it belongs. But I do notice that the more support I feel I have or can give myself, the kinder I am with the world, and the better prepared I am to support others and remake power structures to benefit more people. Which, in the end, does seem to be a sort of real magic. However you want to think about it.
"Ultimately, the question before us now is not whether we can edit memory, but whether we should." Will we ever be able to edit or delete memories?
“Bikini Kill were more than a band — and intentionally so. They were a beacon and a call to arms. They were ‘Girl you can do this, too’ writ large.” The oral history of the Bikini Kill EP on its 20th anniversary.
“I try to remind myself of Campbell’s idea that the enchantment is always broken by ‘some naive person doing the thing that has to be done unintentionally, out of his true nature. (The Fool)’ Not because I see myself as breaking spells but because in a backwards environment being naive or foolish might actually be a sign you’re going in the right direction. I don’t like trite, but if it’s true I make an exception.” Jessica Dore.
- If the idea of a novel with the offbeat decadence of the Hannibal series centered on a psychopathic woman who turned her sophisticated tastes into a cannibalistic murder spree sounds like a good time to you, might I recommend A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers?
- The film Pig, and Nicolas Cage in it, are lovely.
- The Green Knight is an existential journey through personal growth and the mythology that mirrors it. It’s weird, meditative and beautiful.
- The White Lotus (HBO Max) is very good.
- The first two seasons of the modern, ongoing Nancy Drew television series is on HBO Max and it’s a strange but fun mashup of a CW-style young adult soap opera, the original mystery serial stories and supernatural horror. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might dig it.
- I offer Kevin Can F*ck Himself (AMC) as a qualified recommendation. I really, really, really like its concept and it’s well performed. But the execution of the concept is not as successful and it gets wrapped up in conceits and narrative bents that confuse me. I’m hoping a second season can smooth it out.
- A new entry in the realm of podcasts about scammers (one of my favorite subgenera), Do You Know Mordechai? is well done.
Hey, I started a new newsletter! Scarlet Adventuress is my outlet for essays about under appreciated horror films. The first edition is about 1978’s Jennifer, a kinda sorta Carrie ripoff that gleefully promises to let its teenage girl turned monster go live her best vengeance-filled life. I’ll be publishing Scarlet Adventuress every other Friday, on the opposite weeks that I publish Modern Adventuress, and it’s free to subscribe.
Hope you're enjoying your summer.
This week’s quote is from W. B. Yeats:
“When all is said and done, how do we not know but that our unreason may be better than another’s truth? For it has been warmed on our hearths and in our souls, and is ready for the wild bees of truth to hive in it, and make their sweet honey. Come into the world again, wild bees, wild bees!”