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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mystic Mischief 

My father's childhood trauma had other odd repercussions. One thrust on me when I was 8 or 9 was the idea that his survival had been an act of divine intervention. My mother's cousin and her 3 kids explained with some satisfaction, that my father had been saved because he was meant for great things.

The idea was quite staggering to me, and my cousins pressed the issue as confusion certainly spread across my freckled face. The 3 kids, all within 2 years of my age, and their mother explored with infectious enthusiasm all the 'great things' that could be my father's 'destiny' – perhaps he would save others, perhaps he would be an important leader, perhaps he would discover something valuable. "Or perhaps," said my mother's cousin, "he was saved because Renice or Chris is meant to do something important." With that, her 3 children turned widened eyes to scrutinize my sister and me.

Suddenly I understood how weighty expectation is. In that instant, I saw a new dimension of my father's struggle with depression. Only years later would I learn the term "survivor guilt" and know that it is far more complex than a mere sense of unworthiness.

Yesterday, as I read the NY Times article "Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate", I was reminded of the deep need to explain what we can't understand by using the supernatural.

The article recounts how a participant tries to bring rationality to a lively discussion on explanations for the tsunami devastation: "Not to make fun, as I'm sure it's not a unique misconception ... but the reality is simple plate tectonics....That's it. No mystic injury to the Gaia spirit or anything."

A very similar debate between mysticism and logic has raged in my own head since the day my cousins turned anticipation-clouded eyes in my direction.


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