The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible

Catherine Burns

Finished Reading:
Sep 14, 2019

Edition Publisher:
Crown Archetype

Edition Release:
Mar 19, 2019

Recommendation Rating:

Purchase Search via DuckDuckGo:
ISBN 9781101904428

Highlights & Annotations

“Occasional magic refers to those moments of beauty, wonder and clarity, often stumbled upon, where we suddenly see a piece of truth about our life.” (Intro)

“But then I thought, What bad people? This was a sick child. I had to help him.” (23) Opposing Forces by Martha Ruiz-Perilla

  • Made me think about the connectedness b/t people; everyone is dealing with something
  • She was held a gunpoint and told to operate on a child of the man that held her captive
    • He had done bad things, but he is also at the end of the day, a man who was worried for his child

Theory of Change by Journey Jamison (32) - whole story

  • Black woman takes CPR and first aid classes - helps a young man who gets shot in her neighbourhood - knows more and care more than responders
  • Asks the shooting victim and his family to take the classes

Spicy by David Montgomery (46)

  • “And my emotional growth is stunted by five seconds of dialogue from one person in the world who is supposed to love me unconditionally, no matter what. I'm a child, and by the transitive property my own mother had just said that I was better off dead. It made me hate myself, which made it really easy for other people to hate me.” 
    • Re: his mother saying Melissa Ethridge was a dyke who was better off dead - gah.

The Value of Words by Maris Blechner (69) - whole story

  • Mother who adopts a child and has biological children
  • People asked her if she loved her adoptive child “as much as” her biological children
    • She says that all her children are ‘claimed’ by her – they are all hers; that’s her last word

Bearing Witness by D. Parvaz - whole story

  • Journalist was held captive, eventually gets out

“I need a time off, but I didn't need to go to a spa and breathe alpine air.

What I needed was to work, because not being busy and not working meant the wall was always there. I could feel it, and I wanted to push against that feeling. I couldn't wait to go back to work.

 The second I could, I find myself into my job, taking every assignment. If they didn't give me an assignment, I would fight for: Egypt, Libya, nuclear meltdown in Japan, it didn't matter. I was doing it.

 And I succeeded a little too well in pushing back against that wall and that feeling. And what I did in doing so was crate distance between myself and the things I was reporting on, the people I was reporting on.

 So when that woman in Egypt fell into my chest and started crying, she destroyed that distance – she entirely eradicated it.

I was back at that wall, and the boy's voice was in my head. 

But as painful as it was, I realize that it was necessary for me to bear witness fully to what was happening to someone beyond the couple of paragraphs they might actually get in a story. 

As much as some stories will leave a mark, sometimes that's just what it takes.” (170-71)

And how does that make you feel? by Dan Kennedy

  • “Well, I've got to take some kind of action. He always taught me that time is fine. And you have to always take action. That's what keeps you from getting sad and stagnant.” (176)
  •  Always move forward. Always choose activity. Milton always said, “When you go forward, you'll be able to intuitively handle what used to baffle you.” (176)
  • “ Days are finite. We only have so many.” (177)

A Moment in Silence by Leland Melvin

“This was the moment. This wasn't my brain cognitively shifted and I felt connected with everyone on the planet. I thought about my race – the human race – as we connected and work together.” (184)

  • He went to the International Space Station and was having dinner with astronauts from all over

Seven Shades of Blue by Beth Nielsen Chapman

“I came out of that movie theatre, and I said, I know, I am totally being a baby about this songwriting thing.” (187)

  • Made me think about the effect film has on you while watching and after watching
  • Specifically in a theatre – there’s something about a film on the big screen while you’re sitting in a dark theatre; it transports and transforms you
  • I watched Hope Gap, Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Blackbird before I read this story (TIFF ‘19) and I was still very much recovering (still am) from my panic attack in early August
    • It got heavy at times in the theatre while watching, but it was worth the discomfort
    • It proved to myself I could still consume heavy content, and be moved by it

My Post-Nuclear Family by Andrew Solomon

“And I thought just a species diversity is essential to keep the planet functional, so there's a need for diversity of love to sustain the ecosphere of kindness, and that anyone who rejected any bit of the love in the world was acting for the position of folly.” (203) 

You Can Come Back by Joshua Wolf Shenk

“And I think I know what he meant. I think he meant I could book another flight, and I could come back to see him. But in the years since – the hard years, while he was still alive and especially since he died, three years later – that phrase has come to mean so much more to me.

It's come to mean you can go back to the places you're hurt and get a little better.

And you can come back to the people in your memory and spend a little bit more time with them.

And as I think about that week with my dad, I can't help it. I would give anything to go back.” (211)

Jump from a Plane by Ana Del Castillo

“I realize that part of it was I had all this love to give to my father and my brother that I didn't give. And when you don't give love, it rots inside you... I started figuring out how to tell people ‘I love you’ (even when I was angry).” (261)

Gaggy’s Blessing by Krista Tippett

“...we can become close-minded when we could be investigating.” (280)