May 08, 2023

My niece and husband came to visit mom while we were in Wichita and brought their two young daughters with them.  They were staying in the apartment used for guests at mom’s complex and walked over to visit.  The quad in the middle of the complex has a small pond, a gazebo, and koi pond, and the grass is dotted with trees, flowers, and bushes.  As the older great niece (yes, she is), age 7, walked past the green space she stopped to marvel at the activity.  The koi (Cyprinus rubrofuscus) were swimming in the pond, two pair of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) were walking their newborn goslings on the grass, and a cottontail bunny (Lepus sylvaticus) came out of the bushes to hop in the yard.  It was a cool morning with a slight breeze and the girl commented, “This place is magical!”  I have heard Kansas called many names, but magical was never among them.

When I looked online, I found Magical or superstitious thinking is the belief that unrelated events are causally connected despite the absence of any plausible link between them.  Magical thinking is a common source of invalid assumptions and magical thinking does not require the events to be related.  The precise definition of magical thinking may vary when used by different theorists or among different fields of study.  In anthropology, the imagined cause is between religious ritual, prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit.  In psychology, magical thinking is the belief that one’s thoughts can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.  In psychiatry, magical thinking defines false beliefs about the capability of thoughts, actions, or words to cause or prevent undesirable events.  Magical thinking is a common symptom of thought disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In this 7 year old, being magical seems to have more to do with wonder than disorder.

Children are primary make-believe enthusiasts, and they embrace fantasies like imaginary friends with passion.  Children also hold onto objects like a special stuffed toy (stuffy) or dirty torn blanket (cozy) to help keep their fears and anxieties at bay.  Children start to believe when they are toddlers and adults feed into their magical thinking with beliefs like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  At around age 10 they do away with imaginary play, and question how feasible magical thinking is.  While they may dispense with such beliefs, they keep their superstitions within reach.  Researchers believe imaginary play and magical thinking promote creative divergent thinking.  One study found when children watched a film with magical undertones, their performance on creative tasks increased significantly when compared with children who watched a film with no references to magic.  On that day, perhaps Kansas was a magical place after all.

Thoughts:  One of the magical thoughts that brought immigrants to the shores of America is called The American Dream.  James Truslow Adams defined the phrase in his 1931 book, The Epic of America, as “a vision of a better, deeper, richer life for every individual, regardless of the position in society which he or she may occupy by the accident of birth.”  This idea is woven into the fabric of everyday life in America and plays a vital, active role in who we are, what we do, and why we do it.  The American Dream is more than just a powerful philosophy or ideology and is one of the few things in this country we all share.  While this may be a magical thought, we did not outgrow it at the age of 10 and it continues to draw immigrants to our shores.  The ability to create a better life for yourself and family should be a right granted no matter where you live.  It is up to all of us to make it happen.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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