There’s just something about storybook fortune-tellers, isn’t there? Whether they are men or women, young or old; whether they read stars, tarot cards, palms or crystal balls, they all seem ageless somehow; and beautiful, and wise.
The idea of being able to read signs off of people and nature and somehow tap into the grand design has an irresistible pull for me. One can’t help but think that these people must have something within them that is somehow more intuitive and more powerful, even, than the rest of us. They are privy to a kind of knowledge that seems to us impossible to fathom, let alone to attain.
They – these mystical gypsies, fortune-tellers, astrologers and shamans – hear tunes we are deaf to, understand languages we cannot read and feel rhythms to which we are numb. It is as if we go through our lives with blocked ears, rhinoceros skin and a limited understanding of pretty much everything, while they are somehow born with the gift of being completely open to what the universe has to tell them. Are they magic? Are they the warlocks and witches of our time?
These individuals and their x-ray vision into our pasts and futures have always intrigued me. In fiction, they are the characters that attract me the most, even though they may not be the heroes or heroines of the stories I read. It is for this reason that this blog is modeled on the spirit of the Gypsy – carefree and unafraid, mystical and wise, dancing to a tune that only she can hear and enjoy.
Astrology is not exactly fortune telling I know, and many even consider it to be a science of sorts – but I feel that the two are somewhat related. And as with fortune telling, the ‘concept’ of astrology is a strongly attractive one. The idea that the sky and the stars can whisper the secrets of Earth and its people to a chosen few is breathtaking, to say the least.
That being said, my encounter with an astrologer here in Colombo was far less romantic. He looked to be about a thousand years old, more stoned than wise and he talked so much, mystery never even had a chance.
So there I was, against my will, grumpily waiting my turn to place my palm in front of him. When the time came, I reluctantly outstretched my hand and watched with great mistrust as he pored over the lines and creases he found there. One interesting thing he told us was that apparently these lines change as we grow and as our lives progress. Future events redraw and reshape our palms as we make choices that change our life paths. Despite my earlier resolve to not listen to word he said, I couldn’t help being drawn to the idea.
As far as my reading went, though, he didn’t have anything particularly earth-shattering to say. By almost all counts it was a great reading and, if I believed in the predictive power he claimed to have, it probably would have made me really happy. But I didn’t really respond much to his excited words, except to smile in a polite sort of way.
What really broke the ice was when he turned to caution: “You’re very arrogant, you know,” he said sagely. “Just like a man. It’s unfortunate that you’re a girl” It was such a phenomenally sexist remark but so funny in that particular context that my whole family – me included – burst out laughing and my coldness towards this wizened little 80 year old in his blue work shirt and adidas shorts thawed somewhat.
So I decided to keep an open mind and listened with more attention to the advice he gave me to counter this inherent arrogance. “Communicate! Consult!” he said, as if he were waving a wand and uttering magic words. He watched me keenly with bespectacled, squinted eyes. “If you do this, you will not only save your relationship; you will win every argument – get what you wanted in the first place!” He chortled good-naturedly at this last remark and I couldn’t help but grin back. After all, that didn’t sound like such a raw deal!
When I first heard I’d have to sit through a session with an astrologer, I hadn’t wanted to go at all, much less listen. When I did decide to go, my plan was to walk in, thrust my hand in the guy’s face, give him five minutes to scrutinize my palm and wait in the car while he told my family what he had to say. But as a friend advised me quite rightly beforehand, it’s always best to view these things as little day-to-day adventures; taking from them what I want and leaving behind the rest. That is what I resolved to do with this experience.
Don’t get me wrong – I respect any one who believes in astrology – and I know a lot of people do. If these predictions (whether they are realized or not) give people comfort, then I’m all for it. Some people have religion; other people have this – some are able to reconcile one with the other and look to both for guidance. To each his or her own. In a way, I’m actually jealous. I would love to regard these people with the same wonder and admiration that I do their counterparts in fantastical fiction. It’s a little disheartening that I am more of a cynic than I sometimes think myself to be.
I suppose I just don’t like being told how my life is going to turn out – I’d rather be surprised, even if some of the surprises are bad. I wouldn’t re-arrange my life according to someone else’s words unless I felt that doing the opposite would be a needless risk. That, to me, would take my own self-will out of the equation. And while I do believe in some higher power and some enigmatic grand design that holds and binds all things together, I also believe that even if point A and point B are predestined, how we get from one to the other is up to us.
So what I’m going to take from my strange encounter is this: the reading was positive and I’m all about positivity this year. His words were not exactly a comfort as much as a kind of reinforcement of my resolve. I’m going to go ahead and live my life the way I see fit and if that takes me down the “right” road (if there is any such thing), then so be it. If I make a few mistakes – and I know I will – then that’s alright too. I have always held a strange certainty within myself that I will be ok. Even at my bleakest, I’ve always known I would recover. I don’t know whether it’s just extreme optimism on my part, but either way, I’ve never been too stressed about the future.
Besides, I suppose its not much use pontificating on matters out of our control and that we could never really know for sure. But then again, we all have our little beliefs to get us from one day to the next, don’t we?
In fact, it’s not at all for me to judge astrology and fortune telling – especially when I have a whole stock of perfectly ridiculous superstitions of my own. I have a tendency to see ‘signs’ in everything – whether it’s an oddly meaningful line from a song that I catch by chance on the radio or the particular shade of the clouds when I’m feeling blue. I also don’t believe in coincidences – some of them are just so random that I can’t help but think it’s a small hint from the universe that you’re on the right track. I could go on.
Even if we can’t make sense of these odd little convictions of ours; even if we don’t really know how we came to believe what we believe, there it is. We are aware of it somehow and it brings order, sanity and comfort to our lives. In the end, I suppose that’s what faith really is.
…Or perhaps there’s just a little bit of magic in all of us.