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Where is the magic T&T?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

“He who awaits much can expect little.” —Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was telling a Colombian woman with bright eyes how much I loved the literature from her part of the world. “Nobody does magical thinking like you people.”

She looked at me, incredulous that I didn’t understand the simplest thing about life.

“Oh, but you know we see magic in everything. We live magic. It’s not a ‘form of literature’ for us.”

What about tragedy, I wanted to know. “There is magic in that too,” she said. Latin America has been rocked by tragedy, dictators, drugs, economic failure and yet, magic.

She got me thinking about the magic, its purpose. Is it all the cash you want? Is it a life of hedonistic partying?

I already knew the answer to that because if I think of the partying, it goes by in a flash and I remember hangovers. I’ve also seen the biggest sadness in the wealthiest people. It’s written all over their disappointed faces.

I found magic in the quietest places and always with people I loved: a dirt-poor student knowledge starved, in a tent on a rocky cold ground in Florence waiting for the morning to experience strange cities with my best friend.

I found magic while looking longingly at pizza in windows in Rome because our budget allowed either for food or shelter and on the food day, the pizza was more divine than the Sistine Chapel. There is nothing like being abstemious before pleasure.

Magic was taking a proffered hand when I nearly slipped in a forest in Canada with a friend I would love all my life, when rain turned snow into icicles and the stars and ice created unexpected wonder. Magic appeared in the familiar, after a foot surgery hobbling in the rain, feeling my husband’s hand steady me. I didn’t want to let go. Warm hands and soaked skins.

I see you shaking your heads, saying there is no magic in a flailing economy, in misery, in an oil-rich country where 20 per cent of us live below the poverty line; where we are world famous for all the wrong things: for having among the highest murder rates, for being among the most obese; with among the highest incidence of diseases like HIV/Aids, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension; among the largest carbon footprints; for falling in the transparency index; for being among the dirtiest countries, where our landmines are dumps and garbage clogs our waterways and line our streets.

Where’s the magic in the toxic fumes from plastic and the uncontrolled pollution in Point Lisas because multinationals cut a sweetheart deal?

It’s true, I see you asking where is the magic in governments who build hospitals (Couva) and want to build campuses (Tamana) but find it difficult to pay doctors and professors? Where is the magic in all the abandoned soccer fields and broken bridges across the country, built years ago or recently for a temporary political fix or to fill a pocket here or there, emblems of waste and corruption?

It’s there all right. It’s there—as an opportunity in the downturn of the economy.

A chance to start something new. It’s there in all the people who despite the recession have started small businesses.

It’s there in those who see this as a chance for decentralisation—for bottom-up governance, for local government to take greater control of communities, to rise above the two-party politics to take the country back, street by street.

It’s there in those who travel distances to look after the poor who are even more forgotten in a recession. Every time I think of a magical moment in my life, it’s been with someone I’ve loved or looked after. We have to work for magic.\

We see it when we see ourselves in the context of honestly, perhaps painfully, connecting with ourselves, those we love, with our communities, our country and the world. Connections give us purpose as we help one another and those in distress, and so map an arc of magic in our lives. I finally understand the magic in the shining eyes of the Colombian woman.


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