Mag­i­cal think­ing

The Compass - - CLASSIFIED -

I re­cently learned a new phrase: mag­i­cal think­ing. Here’s the def­i­ni­tion, pro­vided by Au­gusten Bur­roughs in his book of the same ti­tle: a schizo­ty­pal per­son­al­ity dis­or­der at­tribut­ing to one’s own ac­tions some­thing that had noth­ing to do with him or her and thus as­sum­ing that one has a greater influence over events than is ac­tu­ally the case.

As the years creep up on me, I won­der if I some­times, know­ingly or un­know­ingly, en­gage in such mag­i­cal think­ing. I don’t think I do, but I have been wrong be­fore, so I sup­pose the po­ten­tial is there. May I please tell you a story? When I was knee- high to a grasshop­per, liv­ing in the community of Ham­p­den in White Bay, my teacher at the amal­ga­mated school was Fran­cis W. Gale. I can’t say he taught me any one sub­ject in par­tic­u­lar; as my one and only teacher that year, he taught me arith­metic, English, lit­er­a­ture, ge­og­ra­phy, spell­ing, read­ing, writ­ing and art. One day, he as­signed students an as­sign­ment, per­haps in ge­og­ra­phy.

At the time, my fa­ther sub­scribed to Fam­ily Her­ald, self-de­scribed as “Canada’s na­tional farm mag­a­zine.” It may seem un­usual for a Pen­te­costal pas­tor to read such a sec­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion, es­pe­cially in those days. But he was not un­like count­less other ru­ral New­found­lan­ders, who re­ceived the pe­ri­od­i­cal twice monthly ex­cept dur­ing July, Au­gust and De­cem­ber, when one monthly is­sue ap­peared. The other thing is, at $1.50 per year, the price was right.

Bill Hamil­ton points out, “There was some­thing in each is­sue for ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily.”

For ex­am­ple, the fi­nal is­sue — Sept. 26, 1968 — in­cludes dis­cus­sion of the weather, how to profit from waste dis­posal, books, gar­den­ing, livestock, news, mu­sic, an­tiques, spir­i­tu­al­ity, needle­craft and youth. There’s fic­tion, recipes, edi­to­ri­als, let­ters to the ed­i­tor, a chil­dren’s story, a car­toon and ads … plenty of ’ em. One ar­ti­cle is en­ti­tled “A let­ter to my daugh­ter on the day she left for col­lege.”

The last ed­i­tor, Peter Hendry (1927-2009), wrote: “We have set­tled quar­rels; coun­seled the lovelorn; found lost rel­a­tives; iden­ti­fied ex­otic rocks, bugs, plants, stamps and coins; res­ur­rected lost songs; doc­tored sick an­i­mals and helped kids with their home­work.”

It’s in this lat­ter ca­pac­ity — help­ing kids with home­work — that the Fam­ily Her­ald came to my aid.

In one is­sue, there was a story on Jack Miner (1865-1944). Af­fec­tion­ately known as Wild Goose Jack, he be­came the founder of the mi­gra­tory water­fowl refuge sys­tem by cre­at­ing a sanc­tu­ary at Kingsville, On­tario, in 1904. Five years later, he pi­o­neer the tag­ging of mi­grat­ing water­fowl. The re­cov­ery data was in­stru­men­tal in the Mi­gra­tory Bird Treaty of 1916 be­tween Canada and the United States. One of Canada’s great­est nat­u­ral­ists, he has been called “the great­est prac­ti­cal nat­u­ral­ist and bird lover on this planet!”

He’s even im­mor­tal­ized in sev­eral po­ems. One, writ­ten by Cor­nelius W. Parkinson, be­gins this way: “I’ve heard great speak­ers, col­lege bred, / But I’ve heard none that’s finer, / That has more good sense in his head / Than our old friend, Jack Miner.”

Af­ter read­ing the Fam­ily Her­ald story, or at least, look­ing at the pic­tures, I was en­thralled by this hero and leg­end in his own time. I im­me­di­ately knew the topic of my school as­sign­ment. Dad sug­gested I write Miner’s foun­da­tion. I did and, some weeks later, re­ceived in Canada Post a help­ful packet of in­for­ma­tion, which gave me ev­ery­thing I needed to write my as­sign­ment for Mr. Gale.

Now, sev­eral decades later, I won­der if in­deed Mr. Gale set such an as­sign­ment, if in­deed I read about Miner in the Fam­ily Her­ald, if in­deed I wrote his foun­da­tion, if in­deed I re­ceived a re­sponse, and if in­deed I wrote my as­sign­ment on him. In short, I won­der if this is a per­fect ex­am­ple of mag­i­cal think­ing on my part.

So, ear­lier this year, when I vis­ited my brother in Al­berta, I sat him down and told him all about this re­mem­bered in­ci­dent from my child­hood. All I wanted to know was: Did I dream it? Did I make it up? Or did I ac­tu­ally do any of these things?

Imag­ine my pleas­ant sur­prise when he re­sponded af­fir­ma­tively: “Yeah,” he said, “you did all that.”

So, I’m not en­gag­ing in mag­i­cal think­ing af­ter all. And, it’s com­fort­ing to know I’m not suf fer­ing from Au­gusten Bur­roughs’ “schizo­ty­pal per­son­al­ity dis­or­der.” Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at


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