This One Time, 31

This one time I read about this thing, this ritual. It was your basic New Age crap, marketed to unhappy people who felt like they didn’t have enough control over their lives. Like most magical, superstitious nonsense. Send Ten Dollars To This Anonymous PO Box And I Will Send You The Secret!! There are a bunch of different variations on the theme, and a couple kind souls even give away their version for free.

Teenagers are the most vulnerable, it seems. Young people who are basically adults physiologically and emotionally — or could be if they were ever forced to fend for themselves — who find every urge, every inclination to go their own way cruelly stamped down by parents, by teachers, by pastors, by a slew of officials and authorities who say it’s for their own good but by now have revealed themselves to be liars and hypocrites and cheats who aren’t above using their power to cushion their own miserable existences from the harsh terrain of actual reality. Who will take advantage of your innocence and naivety for the joy of stripping you of both.

Teenagers find themselves willing to jump at anything that will give them a little control over their own days and nights, over what comes into their lives. I was in that spot, wanting to go out and hang out with my friends, wanting to spend any money due me on designer clothes and expensive makeup, wanting out from under the tyranny of acne and A-cups and hair that I couldn’t make look like the pictures in the magazines for even an instant, dealing with the cramps and bleeding, wanting a boyfriend who wouldn’t kiss my girlfriends, wanting the trust and approval of my parents and step-parents. Wanting friends who would take my side when things blew up.

One or two of my friends turned to God and prayer for their illusion of control, but, to me, he seemed like the ultimate authority who wanted you to do things His way, to never use either the mind or the body that He gave you. It didn’t take long, maybe a few years, for me to figure out that that wasn’t God, laying down those bullshit rules, but every asshole for thousands of years who ever pretended to speak for Him, the ones who discovered that they could use the power of God to determine who had sex with whom and to gather all the power and money. It was a big relief when I figured that out, but that left God a giant mystery with no one to explain Him.

So I always thought something was out there, or maybe a bunch of somethings, because I never got the idea that things ever ran well enough for it to be one entity with one plan and one focus. But I could never figure out where the natural and the supernatural should be divided, or why, or if we were, what use we would have for favors from each other. Did they need us to move rocks around the way we need better luck?

I took the tour. I studied all kinds of “pagan” religions, read all the mythology I could find, attended every church, temple, synagogue, gathering, circle, or whatever for which I could get an invite. I borrowed whatever books my friends said worked for them. The more I saw, the more I read, the more I saw the same stuff. I saw groups of people with certain people fighting to get on top and others looking to be taken care of in exchange for no effort on their own part. I saw people who were amazing people despite what they said they believed, who were goodhearted often despite what their books and priests said they should be doing. And I saw a bunch of people sitting around quietly begging the universe to stop beating the shit out of them. With varying amounts of success.

Guardian angels. Daemons. Alien intelligences. Crystal energies. Chakras and kundalini. Meditations and yoga and various kinds of dancing and spinning. Prayers and candles and painting and writing and burning stuff. Nothing ever did anything for me. Except.


There was this one book that I read that detailed a spell, in a kind of offhand manner, because it wasn’t really important to the plot, where you imagined yourself holding something in your hand, imagined it surrounded by a brilliant white glow, and that thing, whatever it was and whatever it represented, would be magnetized to you and with all due speed come into your life. I tried it once, and I can’t even tell you what it was I thought of in my hand, because I don’t think it ever showed up. But afterward, I kept stumbling across magnets. For the next week or two I must have found maybe ten different things with magnets on them, or maybe loose magnets just stuck to things or lying around, and then maybe one or two a month for the next several years. It still happens.

Was it just a failure of my imagination? Was it because I understand magnetic forces better than I understand what it was I was wishing for? Did I really just not want whatever it was? That very well could be, because right now I don’t even remember what it was.

And then I thought, what is it everyone wants? Do they want money, or power, or comfort, or sex, or fame? I think a lot of people think they want those things, but I think they back away at the last minute because of all the old fairy tales that tell us to beware of what we wish for. All of those things can come with pretty steep pricetags. And then I had the best insight I’ve ever had into what it is that people want. What I’m most afraid it is that I want.

L’appel du vide.

I’ve seen it over and over again. In myself and others. When tragedy strikes, people root for the earthquake, for the tsunami, for the volcano, for the bodycount on the bombing.. We want the crisis to be as huge as possible. We want to discover that they’ve lost someone they know, fantasize about having lost someone close to themselves.

Because the world is so damaged we just want to smash it. Because we know that the survivors, if we are among them, will gain one another’s sympathy. Because there will be fewer mouths to feed, true, but more importantly there will be more willingness to share resources and comfort among those who remain. We all want to live through a horror that brings us together, even if it means we risk death ourselves. Even if we risk being the last ones left alive. It’s Münchhausen syndrome by proxy, where the child whose health we’re willing to sacrifice for sympathy and attention is the world and everything in it.

In my nightmares I do this spell. I picture my hand, and the glow, and then whatever is in my hand fades away, leaving nothing. Nothing, surrounded by the brilliant white glow.

Then the spell takes hold.


January 31, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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