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Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

The Luxury of Magical Thinking

12 05 05

Recently Joan Didion won the National Book Award for her glowingly reviewed book, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. After reading the reviews and hearing what commentators had to say about the book the praise was lavish I went online and ordered the book. I am awaiting delivery.

The book chronicles the period of Joan Didions life at the time of the death of her husband which coincided with the life threatening illness of her daughter.

After the book was finished, her daughter died, tragically.

A friend of mine read the book and called the year of magical thinking done by Didion as really a year of madness, induced by grief. It is something which I have given some thought to since I read the first review of the book, which seems, indeed, magical in its ability to articulate the emotions that course through the human spirit when confronted with profound loss. Having read excerpts, I am eager to consume the whole.

Grief is consumptive, eating away the insides of the body and the mind and, in my experience, personally and observationally, a kind of madness does fall upon the human being experiencing it. We go on; even when everything in our soul screams; getting up in the morning, performing functions, straightening up, showering and shaving and eating bits and pieces even when it is impossible to remember what bits have been consumed.

In the time since I first heard about THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, I have also continued following the news and from afar have witnessed the continuing tragedies of our world. Bangladesh has now experienced its first suicide bombing. In Iraq, the blasts continue, with a daily mounting of the death toll of both Americans and natives. Around Baghdad, too, there has been an increase in abductions. A German archeologist has been seized as well as members of a Christian Aid group, people of all ages and professions. These poor folks have been accused of being spies of the occupiers in other words, us.

To have the time to plunge deep into the anarchy of grief, to have the financial resources to not be forced back into the world before you want, to have the intellect and emotional sensitivity to process deep grief is a great luxury and unavailable to almost everyone in the world.

Ms. Didions loss[es] are tragic and I am grateful she has had the luxury of time, financial resources and, above all, the intellect to process the magical madness that follows loss. It has provided a beautiful and stunning addition to the canon of her literature while providing her readers with profound insights based on her experience.

Yet, at the same time, my mind has been full of wondering about others in this world that also are faced with inconceivable loss and stress. I think of photos on the front page of our newspapers showing hysterical women who have lost husbands, brothers, sons, daughters, relatives in one sudden mad blast. The photos have been from Baghdad, London, Madrid, New York, Delhi, and all the other cities targeted by the coolly mad men who see and believe that casual, random, unearned death is both the door to paradise and the road to freedom.

My heart aches for anyone who is caught in the inevitable and yet always unique experience of personal grief due to the loss of those we love. My soul groans for those who are forced to deal with it due to the unnatural causes that have locked their arms around our world in these grim days.

Was there a moment before 9/11 we felt the world was finally moving on some peaceable track or was that thought a mere illusion of our post Cold War hope? The latter I suspect.

We are now living, I suspect, in a world that is moving out of all illusions and we will need to deal with the dark realities of our own current age. It is not pretty and in that lack of beauty there is wisdom to be learned from magical thinking, if we will turn our magic to our collective national experience as well as personal events.