by Jerry Waxler
You might think magical objects would only appear in fairy tales, in which the wizard provides a stone that wards off the enemy. The funny thing is that these magical beliefs are so familiar in everyday life, most of us barely notice. Many people wear necklaces with stars and crosses, to keep goodness near and evil far away. Religious symbols are so deeply engrained in our culture we accept their power without question. And we assign similar power to a surprising variety of secular or even pagan symbols.
For years I wondered why so many people wore red peppers on their necklaces. It turns out these squiggly ornaments represent horns, called cornos, to ward off the evil eye. Athletes routinely wear lucky hats or underwear. Wedding rings are taken seriously, and the loss of one is depressing, not just because of the value of the physical object but the fear that you have jeopardized the bond it symbolizes. I am not above these folkways. I always wear an ankh around my neck and not one but two wedding rings, feeling in some indefinable way that they connect me with a power greater than myself.
Perhaps our ancient affinity to magical power is what makes corporate logos so valuable. Like characters in a modern fantasy, we collectively go along with the implication that an alligator, polo player, or other insignia on our clothes confers some social power that sets us above the herd.
I was bewildered the first time I heard about a child murdered for his name-brand sneakers. Since then, I have learned that school children routinely confer high social status on those who wear prestigious logos. Those who can’t afford to buy this protection are bullied or shunned. The intensity makes more sense when I consider the logo as a modern expression of our ancient fascination with magic.
The great tennis player Andre Agassi in his memoir “Open,” shares a unique perspective on the power of these corporate talismans. Like a modern day magician, he was often paid to infuse some of his power into a brand. One time Agassi’s nerves were shot, so to protect his eyes he wore sunglasses during a televised tennis match. The following week a truck pulled up to his house and unloaded an expensive sports car. The makers of the sunglasses sent him the car as a gift for wearing their brand.
By letting readers see your relationship with special objects, you offer a glimpse of that magical dimension of your character. What logo, symbol, jewelry, lucky clothing, family heirloom, photo, or keepsake might let people see your connection with the magical dimension of human experience?
This is part of a multi-part essay about Andre Agassi’s memoir “Open.” For the start of the series, see
When is a memoir by a celebrity not a celebrity memoir?
For the Amazon page for Open, click here.
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To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.
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