If I could peer beneath this placid surface.
If I could interpret these coy and elusive patterns.
If these ancient whispers would ring clear.
What wondrous knowledge would they gift to me? What power with which to shake and shape this stone and wood, water and sky?
What would I sacrifice to conquer this venerable elusiveness?
I’ve never been particularly good at telling the future.
Part of the trouble is that I don’t necessarily buy into the concept of time in the first place. That’s neither here nor there. It does tend to play havoc with my long-term planning, though.
What is germane to this pondering of predictions is the fact that I’m pretty much the hooded guy up there. Except I look goofy in a hood.
I’m the guy squinting into the crystal ball, trying to figure out what destiny or chance have in store, swatting at the mists to catch a glimpse of the secrets of a coy universe.
The only constant rule I’ve been able to suss out so far is as follows: If I can imagine a future series of events, those events will never happen. Never ever.
I don’t think I’m the only person with this problem. Just look at the sheer number of mythological, literary, and even historical attempts to peer through time, or to scan the thoughts and conversations of others. Think of all the devices you’ve heard of, or even fiddled with, that promised glimpses of things beyond the talent of your physical eyes.
- J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings had the Palantir, the seven seeing stones, which can transmit thoughts and visions over great distances. The Mirror of Galadriel offers us (often terrible) visions of the past, present, and potential future.
- Harry Potter dabbled with the Pensive to review the memories of friends and enemies alike. The Mirror of Erised shows the most beautiful lie, the deepest, most heartfelt desire of anyone who peers into its smooth surface. As if that weren’t enough, there’s talk of a two-way mirror for communication, scrying mirrors to glimpse the future, and an entire branch of magic to divine events yet to occur.
- Speaking of magic mirrors, the Queen in the tale of Snow White discovers that knowing the whole, entire truth of things might not be so good for one’s self confidence.
- The ancient Greeks consulted with the sybil at Delphi. Ask Laius, father of a certain Oedipus, what happens when you take action based on prophecies. Heck, ask Oedipus who tried to wiggle out of his own foretold future.
- How many of us consult tarot cards and scry with crystal balls? Listen for voices transmitting through Ouija boards? Scroll down rendered pages of Google in search of enlightenment? Read the horoscope in the daily paper? Snap open take-out cookies yearning for happy news?
Invariably, it’s the fickle unreliability of these devices and prognostications that leads hero and villain, royal and commoner astray.