Monday, October 24, 2016

Microblog Monday: Ask Again Later

Magic 8-Balls fall into the same category for me as Easy Bake Ovens: things I desperately wanted as a child but never had, because my parents found them frivolous.

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 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.
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  1. Like you, I wanted a Magic-8 ball as a child as a way of finding affirmation/glimpsing into the future. But I really like your co-workers approach of using it to create a general approach for the day. Specifically with "try again." Frustrating at first, but an important reminder.

    I worry about both my kids in this world. Both genders are taking a beating due to the messages from those are in power or are seen as leaders ("locker room" talk is disparaging for all). What gives me hope is knowing that we've been through similar situations before, ushering in community togetherness and peace. We're not there yet unfortunately, but I do have faith we will be.

  2. There are definitely toys I remember wanting and not having. I didn't have a magic 8 ball either. I think you put yours to good use, though! Cool how you just happened to find it. Also, those things you worry about worry me too. Like you said, I guess we just have to keep trying to make things better. <3

  3. Oh, I had a Magic 8 Ball! I love that idea of having one for your students so you can "peek into the future" to answer their questions. I feel like there's always this search for certainty when nothing is really certain. I never saw the answers broken down like that... so only 25% of the possible replies are truly negative? Hmm. I always took the uncertain ones as possibly positive. :) I think I would love to know when our adoption hopes become reality, so that I could try to stop feeling so out of control and nebulous and try more to live more freely in this wait. But sometimes the not knowing adds to the magic, sometimes... so would I be robbing myself of that OH WOW moment by knowing? Maybe it's better a silly toy that you don't put actual stock into. Sometimes knowing the future doesn't make it more comforting, right?

  4. I share your growing unease/uncertainty about the world we live in. And I also had a list of toys I wanted but never got, and the magic 8-ball did have a short-lived stint on that list. I don't think using such a enigmatic approach to our day's work would be appropriate in medicine so I'd keep it at home ;)

  5. My sisters and I had one. And now we have yoga :-). I love how you brought these two together, in the says we approach uncertainty in different stages of our lives. I can say I put more stock in stillness now than I ever did in the 8 Ball.

  6. Haha! I don't think I want to know more about the future. There are too many variables that I can't control, and knowing too much would mainly remind me of that. On the other hand, I often wish I knew more about the present, so I could make better decisions. But I've mainly accepted that I have to do the best with what I have, and I do what I can with a combination of intuition, instinct and rational analysis. While I've often been called a very logical person, I trust my intuition too. In a way I think intuition is like that Magic 8 ball: it gives you a yes and a no, and it can keep you out of trouble.

  7. I loved my Magic 8-Ball. I don't know what happened to it; it's probably replying hazily to my brother at his apartment.

    I have no desire to see the future. I don't need it like I used to, and that's a good idea for a future blog post. Thanks!


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