T. Thorn Coyle has a brilliant post today about the nature of magic and what magic is, and isn't, good for. She opens with an amazing quote I've never seen before:
"Many Buddhist teachers have described compassion as the ability to react freely and accurately in any situation. Being nice or feeling sorry for someone may be called for, but so may being fierce and unyielding. When sweetness is applied indiscriminately, it is seen as 'idiot compassion.'" - Issan Dorsey
She goes on to discuss her reaction to a question she received recently when speaking at a conference: "Someone asked a question along the lines of, "how about social justice? How can our magic affect that?" I believe the first words out of my mouth were: "Go work in a soup kitchen." I went on to talk about how magic changes us from the inside out and we need to patch the ozone layer in ourselves before working magic to patch the ozone layer in the sky. And that we need to do other work for that one in the sky. I don't recall exactly what I said - I was running on too little sleep. Later, a woman chased me down in the hallway to ask about my response. We talked a bit about what magic can do, and I said it could change our consciousness, for one, and then she said "But, can magic clean the air?" I looked at her and said "No. We need to get our shit together."
I was fierce. And it feels better to be affirming, despite the fact that those around me say that being fierce is good.
In retrospect, I wish the first words out of my mouth in both cases had been "What do you mean by magic?" Because the picture I had, from the way both questions were couched, was a group of people holding hands and visualizing global human rights or clean air. And that can be a powerful step in creating an image to work toward, but it also frustrates me because too often that is the only step people take. And it doesn't change carbon dioxide into oxygen, like planting trees and reducing toxic emissions. And when it is the only step taken it becomes not magic, but a salve to make us feel better, and feel like we've done our part. Sometimes we step too quickly to magic to try to affect things outside ourselves when we haven't done enough basic work to affect our insides, nor enough work just doing basic, physical activity. It can, in some cases, become a route of avoidance, like doing ritual by yourself to heal a friendship in lieu of hashing things out with your friend. When I was a baby Witch of 17, I got some great magical advice: "The best spell to do when you need a job is to fill out an application and drop it off.""
I agree completely. But then Ms. Coyle says something I'm not sure that I do agree with: "And unless our insides truly change, change will never come about outside. We'll just keep slapping bandages on gaping wounds." I wonder if that's correct. At first, it sounds completely logical. But change in the outside world can eventually change what's going on inside us, as well. For example, when women first pushed our way into the workforce, scared, unsure of ourselves, feeling a bit guilty for "taking" a job "away" from "a man," men didn't like it. But today, inner attitudes have changed in many ways. Not only do women feel much more entitled to be in the world of work, men today are, more than their fathers and grandfathers, accepting of that. They've changed inside. And other things -- how work gets done, how children get cared for, how involved men are as parents -- have changed too. I don't mean we live in Nirvana, yet, by any stretch. But people's attitudes have changed. Young people, and I include Ms. Coyle in that group, grew up with completely different ideas about race than did my generation. That's largely due to an external change -- they went to school together.
At any rate, something else to think about. Ms. Coyle's brilliant and worth being added to your daily list of places to check in.