In these times we live, there seems little evidence of the magical, which is the experience of living in joy and delight. We are bombarded with the opposite — trouble, danger, violence, anger, argument, retaliation, rage, and more. Perhaps the most telling evidence of this is in the repeated interaction between ordinary citizens that seems fueled more than ever before by hate and prejudice and intolerance. Reading the news or listening to it for more than five minutes a day is a pretty convincing portrait of the disintegration of civil discourse, on the public stage or in the personal one.
The source of this rests with the willingness of people to buy into the rhetoric of the bombastic, narcissistic, ego-driven, intellectually limited, cruel, nasty, sarcastic, ignorant, prejudiced, intolerant, and most of all, vengeful personality Donald Trump has chosen to call his own, even as he occupies what is currently the most powerful political seat in the world.
The puzzle is not Donald — he has always been this way — the puzzle is why anyone bought into it, and thereby created a caveat for themselves where hope, trust, friendliness, tolerance, kind-heartedness, and joy — the feelings of the magical self — were removed from awareness.
There is only one reason why this has happened, why people have bought into his rhetoric. Fear. It doesn’t matter what the source of the fear is, people have believed in the fear they have and projected it out into the world, believing there is indeed a good reason to let this fear thrive. It will protect them. Won’t it?
The answer is no, it won’t. In the end, fear oppresses our soul, breaks our heart, and injures our sense of self-worth. Fear has a purpose to alert us if we are in physical danger, and then the adrenaline shuts off. That is how it is supposed to work. But we allow fear now for everything mental and emotional. We stay in a state of fear, keeping that adrenaline going 24/7, which is a toxic choice, and this is harming our physical well-being exponentially. And we do this, stay in this state, even when we are sitting safe at home, not walking a city street at 3 a.m. or getting lost in the woods as a cold night approaches.
I lived in New York City for thirteen years, ten of those years in Manhattan, and loved being there. Now I live in a semi-rural area I love just as much, though in a different way and for different reasons. I never felt fear in the city, though some events might have warranted it. Nor do I feel it where I am now. I attribute this to how much I felt immersed in where I was and where I am. Life felt and feels like an adventure, a series of unknowns to walk through over time, bringing ever more knowledge into my perception.
But I do know that in the city, many people were frightened, and had a physical reason to be so. I taught inner city students who wrote about it and told me how much they had to fear violence in their day-to-day life. Their experiences changed me, just for the knowing of them, brought me a sense of why we must be ever more vigilant in learning each other’s stories, in helping one another, not in a Pollyanna way, but in a visceral way, meaning it.
Then I moved to a rural town south of Boston. An almost entirely white demographic. Bucolic in scenery. I had a dream of a little house on the edge of cranberry fields and could see the wooded edge of the State Forest from a window. Autumn was filled with the brilliant colors that only live in New England. Winter was out of a John Greenleaf Whittier poem. A more peaceful place, I cannot imagine.
And then the truth showed up — the truth that fear lived there, and in some ways existed with an absolutism that bordered on orthodoxy. The townspeople resented the police chief for not allowing permits for hidden firearms and tried to oust her. Who were they going to shoot at in a town where everyone looked the same? That said, the uncommon presence, the downright rare appearance of anyone who was not white was viewed with intense dismay or suspicion and discussed via racial slurs in personal conversation. The political outlook was almost entirely conservative, though those same people would quickly say how open-minded they were. But mention the thought that we are here to help the poor and those who are less fortunate and the rallying cry would go up worthy of the supremely intolerant Puritans who originally settled the area (and the state, and much of the country). The cry that went up was in no uncertain terms a rejection of helping the poor, whose main goal, it was said, was to take something away from the whites, or who wanted health care or anything else that would improve their lives.
A lot of people in that town were greatly involved in their church of choice (one of which is the first church parish created by the Puritans in the 1600s). But none of them quoted the Gospel of Matthew 7:12, where Jesus spoke of the Golden Rule:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
That idea was not on the radar.
What living in the city and the semi-rural country taught me was that fear is for some a necessity (the city), but for many (the semi-rural), a willing choice, a choice that gives them a shield against life, perhaps against the travails that life might bring.
Enter Donald Trump onto the stage of America and therefore the world. Oh, what Shakespeare would have done with him in a play!! For Shakespeare, portraying the current president would have been an absolute delight, no holds barred. And his plot no doubt would involve the right-wing extremists the president supports, the left-wing liberals who argue among themselves too much, the Congress that does nothing, and the citizenry that stays silent, keeping a silence that in terms of the welfare of this country is likely to be its primary reason for disintegration — because only the voice of the people can change anything now.
Thus, amidst all of the above, the magical has been shunted aside. We seem to have let a fake wizard from the land of “Business” call the shots as he steps in front of the curtain, which was pretty transparent in the first place. We seem to be ignoring the storm that is coming if we don’t restore the country, fast, to something approximating the ideals that were the intention of the Founders who wrote The Constitution of the United States of America, men who had fortunately somehow progressed beyond the narrow vision of their Puritan forebears.
Where is the magical we can claim now? Where it always is — in the heart. It is not something we lose, but something we allow to be hidden. Take away that curtain and it shows itself, a glittering dance of light, that transforms everything we look at and think and feel, every idea and sensation and belief. We let go of the darkness that is Donald Trump. We let in the light not so much of reason but of joy.
In a previous article, Five Reasons You Deserve to Be Loved, I describe what this joy is, how it enters for us every day effortlessly. I quote it here, and end with this thought — we can choose such magical joy as our way of being and seeing and feeling. In any moment. No one can stop us from doing this.
What is this joy? It is an emotion free of any limitations. It is spontaneous, exuberant, the feeling of happiness and contentment so complete it takes your breath away.
It can happen anywhere, in any moment, without direct cause. It can be the sound of the wind rushing through the trees, the scene of a child playing with a dog, the moon rising across a wide plain against an indigo sky, seeing a spider’s web in sunlight, catching sight of multicolored balloons with their helium fires rising together across a valley, hearing your baby laughing, sitting on your deck and seeing autumn leaves in all their glory, standing outside after a snowstorm and noticing the muffled stillness around you, watching someone you love do something — anything, reading a poem, looking at a painting, hearing a certain piece of music that makes you want to stay still until it has ended, receiving the kindness of a stranger when you need directions, finishing work that matters to you after a long time, walking through a garden of wildflowers, listening to the sound of waves breaking on the seashore, seeing dolphins in the water, watching a favorite movie, meeting someone you deeply admire, hearing the rain on leaves…and more, and more.
There is no end to what can bring you the feeling of joy. That is because you are here connected to the earth and sky, the wind and elements, the people around you and the people and animals that cover the earth. You are never really separate from anything — it is impossible. So the feeling of joy is always with you, waiting for you.