Being the control freak that I am, maybe it's not surprising that I needed certainty from an early age, even if I knew, deep down, that it was unachieveable. (There's something telling about the fact that the first appearance of a Magic 8-Ball was in a 1940 Three Stooges short, as if to say that seeing into the future is the stuff of slapstick. And yet, only a few years later, the son of a clairvoyant filed a patent for the real thing, which drew the attention of Brunswick Billiards in 1950, and became the toy we all know and love. I guess I'm not the only one who wants answers?)
Before we left Flemington, when I was out running with my daughter in the jogging stroller, I noticed a box of discarded toys at the curb. And there, on the very top, was a Magic 8-Ball.
I picked it up, because I thought it would be fun for N. to play with as I was running (teaching her how to ask the right kinds of questions was a little challenging), and because, let's be honest, I wanted it for my office, where students often ask me questions that demand I have some ability to peer into the future.
I'd never noticed just how ingeniously the Magic 8-Ball mirrors our own inclinations. Dreamers and optimists ask the Magic 8-Ball for things that they hope will happen, and 50% of the time, the 8-Ball responds with affirmation; 25% of the time, it responds with uncertainty (which might as well be hope); and 25% of the time, just to make it seem like chance is as work, it responds in the negative. Do pessimists ask pessimistically-phrased questions, I wonder? Some people (Mike Dooley of TUT.com among them) would say we create the future we imagine. The Magic 8-Ball would seem to agree.
One of my colleagues comes to check the Magic 8-Ball every day. She shakes it, but doesn't ask a question; she just looks for a general approach to the day.
Over the past few years, the world has seemed more and more unknown, unfathomable, unpredictable, precarious. I don't know if that's because I'm older, and my world is wider, and I know more about how plans go awry; or because everything is shared so instantaneously that we feel the small ripples in the space-time continuum that we never felt before; or because the world itself is changing and becoming unpredictable. I worry for the future: I worry about the rift between people in our nation that this presidential election has made painfully evident, I worry about the safety of my children (especially my daughter), I worry about refugees and immigrants, I worry about terrorism. I hardly know what to ask the Magic 8-Ball, but I worry that when I do, it will say: Reply hazy try again.
Maybe it's the "try again" part I should focus on. Because really, that's the only certainty we have, isn't it?
This weekend I went to yoga at my old studio, and the focus of our practice was the story of Hanuman, devotee of the god Rama, who goes looking for Rama's love Sita, just as we go to look for truth. What we find, through the practice of yoga--through not looking ahead but looking within, by staying still--is that the truth is always known, though just temporarily forgotten. Something about this version of seeking and knowing feels more comforting, somehow, than shaking the Magic 8-Ball.
Did you ever have a Magic 8-Ball? Would you want to see into the future if you could?
Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read Mel's inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.