April 19, 2017

I'm a Fortune Teller

Over the years I've spent as a fortune-teller, I've learned that people generally see me as a cheap entertainer who belongs in a circus sideshow outside the confines of polite society. There's also a general sentiment that it's okay to be rude to fortune-teller - like we're not real people - because we exist on the margins. And you know, for the most part, I think that's okay - society being what it is, and me being the misanthropist that I am, I think we're all happier this way. I don't seek approval and acceptance, and truth told I'm quite happy being seen as an entertainer. Some people expect fortune-tellers to be sainted prophets or  infallible seers, and that's absolutely not what I am. I don't want to put myself in the position where I claim perfect knowledge, because I think that's not only impossible but also requires me to pretty much take responsibility for my clients' problems - and there are few things for which I have less patience than a client coming coming back into my life months later only to complain that I wasn't right. It doesn't bother me that I can be wrong - that's just part and parcel of being a fortune-teller - but it does bother me in spite of my advice to the contrary some clients refuse to take responsibility for themselves and whine to me later that they couldn't just coast on my prediction.

But that's just the general perception that I've observed among society at large. My parents, for example, no matter how often I remind them that I'm full-time self employed they just don't seem capable of disabusing themselves of this assumption that I'm living on the dole and am begging for hand-outs from anybody who'll take pity on me. I feel as if I ought to be insulted by this, but for the most part I just find it humorous. My parents came from a generation where the rules of the game stipulated that if you went to university for at least four years, you could apply to a corporate job where you'd work nine-to-five and be promised vacation time, health benefits, spend every weekend with your family, and in 40 years get a pension. For them, those rules are still in play and they're reaping the benefits, and while they understand plenty about the world, they don't at all understand how the world in which I live is not at all the same as the world in which they live. The promises they grew up with don't exist for me, and because I'm not living by their rules, they'll always think I'm a bum. Which is fine - their opinion of me stopped being important a long time ago - but the difference in world-view between our generations is a lot different. I don't think there's anything I can do to change it - I know I've tried - so there's not much else to do except keep calm and carry on.

Now, my friends - there's a different story. Satanists are an extreme majority, and no matter how you define Satanism and the people who claim the Devil's name, the absolute number will always be a fraction of a fraction. I've only met two other people in my city who identify as Satanists and as it happens I don't particularly like either one of them (but that's a story for another day.) But the reason I bring up friends is because my interests in Tarot, divination, and general occult flippity-flap brings me closer to the local Pagans than anybody else. I'm not one-of-them, but they interpret me through their Pagan lens anyway and see what they will. None of them have ever said it, but I've gotten the general impression that they think of me as Professor Quirrel - the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor who was secretly murdering unicorns and carrying the bogeyman Voldemort within his own flesh. Aloof, deceitful, and overall occulty. I can live with that.

But if you thought my friends' perception of me was something else, you're going to love my clients' perception of me. Due in large part to how I market and present myself, my clients frequently see me as a kind of demonic intermediary: "I have such sights to show you!" For the most part, I'm glad for this dramatic perception and am happy to know that my theatrical presentation is doing what I intended. There are fortune-tellers who prefer to keep everything cool as a cucumber, and that's their prerogative, but I've found that a little drama goes a long way toward creating an experience that my clients will come back to over and over again. And honestly, part of the reason that I've nurtured this perception is because I want my clients to know before they put their money on the table that I'm probably going to tell them something they don't want to hear. This is not only part of my promise to read the cards no matter what they say, but from a sales perspective this is about framing my clients' expectations. If they know that they might hear something they don't like, then it doesn't become a problem when it comes up. But if I sell them on sunshine and butterfly farts and then tell them something they don't want to hear, you can bet they're not going to like it.

And how do I see myself? Some people are surprised to know that I see myself not as a prophet, seer, or even a hell-priest, but more like a detective who's very observant and connects the dots from scattered pieces to see the whole. My clients typically observe me at work and call it magic - and who knows, maybe it is magic? I embrace the magic and mystery of fortune-telling - but the reality is that if they knew exactly how I told their fortune they'd find it dry, analytical, and probably boring. And that's okay - they don't have to know how I do it or even want to do it for themselves. I do fortune-telling my way because it works for me, and they're welcome to consume it their way because it works for them. See? Everybody's happy.

But no matter how I feel about myself as an observant detective, after removing fantasy from the equation the reality is that I'm the Wizard of Oz: a man who's learned to perform a few tricks very well and hides behind a curtain while his vaunted avatar is believed to be doing the real work. Does that make me a nobody? Perhaps. But going back to the example of the flim-flam man behind the curtain, he did ultimately give Dorothy the way home, the Lion his courage, the Tin-Man a brain, and the Scarecrow a heart. And not because he gave them what was missing, but because he gave them opportunities to use what they already had. I find that this reality is frequently true for me: I don't honestly give my clients anything at all, I only give them opportunities to exercise their will and do for themselves what nobody else will do for them.

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Freedom of Expression =/= Freedom from Consequences