Friday, May 30, 2008

Oracle Anxiety

So apparently, I’ve developed a reputation as a seer. And I’m not sure how I feel about that. But it’s all geomancy’s fault.

Since I’ve mentioned geomancy a couple of times in the past, I should probably explain what it actually is. At its core, geomancy is a binary system of divination: a question is asked, and in response random numbers are generated (traditionally by making marks in sand or on paper, but dice and playing cards work well, too). These numbers are broken down to even and odd, represented by two dots or one dot, arranged into a series of figures, and plugged into an astrological chart. You end up with something like this:

The chart is interpreted based on the individual meanings of the figures, their positions and how they interact with one another. And even though you’re just looking at a bunch of dots, a story becomes clear, with its own introduction, exposition, climax and conclusion.

In theory, geomantic divination is a lot like that scene in The Matrix, where Cypher explains the stream of strange, green symbols on his monitor: "I don't even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, red-head.” But in practice, it’s like that scene in Lady in the Water, where a roomful of panicky people hang on the words of a little kid who has been charged with delivering a crucial message in a life-or-death situation, but must do so by interpreting the images on cereal boxes.

I don’t doubt that I have a talent for geomancy, and I don’t doubt that, after studying this system of divination for a number of years, I’ve got a decent level of skill. What I doubt is my ability to deal with the pressure that comes with reading for others, as well as the pressure that comes with consistent accuracy.

I started actively reading for friends a few months back, and word spread fairly quickly amongst my acquaintances. At this point, I get a call or an e-mail requesting a reading at least once every other week or so, and while I’m always happy to do it, I sometimes worry that the acquaintance in question might make a critical decision based solely on me playing metaphysical connect-the-dots. And I sometimes worry that I haven’t provided enough information, or that I’ve provided too much information. It’s kind of mortifying when one of my readings hits the nail on the head, but the readee’s fingers are still in the way.

Oh, and speaking of: what the introductory “Divination for Dummies” books never tell you is that a spot-on, all-pistons-firing, oh-my-Gods-how-did-you-know-that reading is fucking freaky. It’s one thing to give a yes/no answer to a “Should I or shouldn’t I…” type of question. It’s something else entirely to go all clairvoyant and blurt out facts that should simply not be accessible via a collection of indiscriminate marks on a piece of paper. Makes my inner logician want to pack up shop and head back to Protestantism.

But this is where coven-based Witchcraft comes in handy. Whenever I freak myself out with a reading, I call Co-Witch A., who freaks out right along with me, acting as my personal cheerleader and offering solidarity through mutual hysteria. Then I call Co-Witch B., who calms me down and thumps me upside the head if I start pulling a prophet schtick. After that, I call Co-Witch Y., who sympathizes capitalistically:

“True psychic experiences, especially unexpected ones, can be really, really unnerving,” she’ll say. “Which is why you should be charging $40 a pop.”

And usually, this makes me feel better. However, the last time I had a geomantic meltdown, I decided to give the Witches a break and called Apocrypha Jones, Mistress of the Postmodern Occult.

In addition to being my best friend since before I could legally drink, Apocrypha’s been reading Tarot for nigh on twenty years, so flashes of insight from the Beyond are as nothing to her. She kept silent while I ranted for a few minutes, then cut me off.

“Evn, listen. As long as I’ve known you, you’ve had a divinatory urge, and you tried system after system, but none of them really grabbed you until geomancy.”

“Well, yeah,” I said, not quite clear where she was going.

“Think of it like photography,” she continued. “You’ve just been putting the wrong filters over your camera lens. It makes sense that the filter that finally worked for you would really work.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, but it did make sense.

“Besides, you’re a Virgo. Earth signs tend to be late bloomers.”

I took her word for that. But overall, I think she’s right. If I’ve always had this push to find a system of divination, then it’s probably because I’m supposed to be divining. Maybe, instead of having anxiety attacks every time I give an accurate reading, I should accept that I’m doing something I’m called to do--something at which I’m gifted, that can ultimately benefit other people. In fact, if any Loyal Strifemongers ever want a reading of their own, let me know and we’ll see what happens.

But it’ll cost you $40. Cash up front.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Banned Book Project

I got this from Belledame, who got it from Sarah J (who has the best name for a blog ever).

How it works: these are the 110 top banned books. Bold what you’ve read, italicize what you’ve read part of. Read more.

#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 A Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Émile by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Émile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I tag everyone. Go read.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Color me kooky...

...but this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Accepting change (or not)

Apocrypha posted a really good essay. Read and learn, pumpkins.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who loves ya, baby? Ganesha loves ya.

My CEO called me back to his office this afternoon for a quick meeting, and, remembering the Ganesha statue situated on one of his shelves, I decided to aim for some employer/employee bonding (read: kissing up) based on shared spirituality. Once we finished our discussion, I got up to leave, turned towards the statue and feigned delighted surprise: "Oh, hey! Ganesha!"

"Pardon me?" He looked confused, like he couldn't tell if I'd just sneezed or not.

"Ganesha," I repeated, pointing to the statue.

"Ah!" he replied, finally catching on. "So that's what that's called."

At some point, I need to accept the fact that not everyone has the same understanding of non-Christian religious symbols as I do. But at the same time, I can't imagine referring to a God as "that" unless That was really His name (Greek: Tehahte), which prompted me to keep talking.

"He's the Hindu elephant-headed God," I said, hoping I wasn't moving into one of those situations where I blurt out inappropriate things at the workplace. "He rules writing and travel. I keep Him on my desk, too."

The CEO actually thought that was pretty cool, so yay for Ganesha helping build corporate bridges. But unless the CEO comes bounding up to my desk and asks how to give proper puja, I think I'll try to keep our future conversations on the secular level.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I knew it, I coulda sworn...

Awhile back, I mentioned that somebody meme-tagged me, but I couldn't remember who it was. The follow up to that nail-biting cliffhanger is... happy day! I was poking around on Cosette's blog and accidentally found it:

Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
Open the book to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people.

The closest book on hand was The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age, by Richard Rudgley:

"All this time, the chief 'surgeon' was keeping up firm pressure on the uterus, which he continued to do until it was fully contracted. No sutures were put into the uterine wall. The assistant who had held the abdominal walls now slipped his hands to each extremity of the wound and secured there."

Wow. What the hell am I reading?

Anyhoo, I tag Grian, Apocrypha (you owe me one), Yvonne, Cat and Yellowdog Granny.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I want my 10%

My buddy Georges is starring in an all-transgender production of The Vagina Monologues.

I was his Speech and Debate coach in college, so if the show is a hit, all accolades and modeling contracts should be sent directly to me. If the show gets mixed or negative reviews... well, I told him to stop twitching, didn't I? But would he listen?

Seriously, though: if you're in Houston through May 31, check it out. It promises to be fabulous.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Death Takes a Parking Space

I make it into the office by 5:30 a.m. on weekdays, so around 7, when most people are smacking the snooze button and going back to sleep, I'm on my third cup of coffee and needing a cigarette. I'm walking through the lobby on my way out to the smoking area when this woman, visibly agitated, stops me.

"Do you work here?" she asks.

"Um, yes, I do," I respond cautiously.

"There's a lady in her car, up in the parking garage," she says. "And she might just be asleep, but she doesn't look asleep, and I'm worried that something... you know... happened to her, and maybe someone who works here should go check on her."

Okay, so I'm a Witch. I move freely through the liminal space between this world and the next. But I'm also struggling to understand how this woman's inability to deal with the cold reality of Death is in any way my problem. Plus, I don't want to start my day off with a dead body. I just don't.

But I'm also thinking that we have a number of elderly employees, several of whom have gone through some dicey health issues. If one of them did shuffle off this mortal coil at the end of their morning commute, then we've got a situation that needs to be handled post haste. And the woman looks like she's about to scream, so I tell her I'll take care of it and head towards the concrete stairs of the garage.

It's like every bad horror movie you've ever seen. The walls of the stairwell feel like they're closing in as I slowly ascend, and I swear I can hear creepy organ music playing softly in the background. I reach the second floor landing and turn the corner, where I see one of our older commissionable salespeople kind of flopped against the front seat of her car, eyes closed, mouth ajar, head at a weird angle... overall, she looks pretty dead.

Willing myself not to panic, I inch towards her car and peek through the window, because I want to confirm that she's not breathing before I call 911. I'm counting seconds and trying to see if her chest is moving, when her eyes pop open and she sits up.

Despite the waves of vertigo provided by the heart attack I'm currently experiencing, I can tell that she's wondering why a middle manager is hunched against her car and staring at her breasts. I smile weakly, offer a little wave, and flee back down the stairs.

Later, I learn from other employees that she usually arrives at work early to catch a few extra winks before facing the day. This is apparently common knowledge around the office, and I'm glad to be clued in. Regardless, her perception of me as a pervert, along with my perception of her as a zombie, will probably add an awkward slant to any future interactions.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Marrying Kind

While I'm not terribly overt about my sexual orientation, most people who know me understand that I'm a card-carrying member of the Greatest Show on Earth (note to Red Delicious: that means I'm gay).  So imagine my surprise when, one bright morning at the office, our receptionist asked me to marry her.

Noting the stricken look on my face, she clarified.

"Remember how you told me once that you're an ordained minister?  Well, my fiancé and I were going to get married in Hawaii, but then we decided to get married in Houston.  So will you marry us?"

I quickly flipped through my mental files, desperate to find this particular recollection, and uncovered a folder marked "Stupid Things I've Said To Make People Think I'm Niftier Than I Really Am, Which Will Later Come Back To Bite Me In The Ass."  Opening it up, I learned that yes, I did indeed inform our receptionist of my ordination when she told me she was engaged.  There was even a little sticky note attached, which read, "Offer to officiate at her wedding, knowing she'll never actually want you to do it."

"So will you do it?" She asked.

Yeah, here's the thing about my clerical credentials.  I didn't go to seminary, or on a vision quest, or even to a Leisure Learning workshop.  I went to the Web site of an online, nondenominational church, entered my name and contact info, and received an e-mail announcing that I was now and for all eternity a Legally Ordained Clergy Person.

I've met Pagans who use online ordination to make themselves and their practices ALAP (As Legitimate As Possible), but to be perfectly honest, I got ordained for the hell of it.  And I wanted to be able to use the title "Reverend" in personal correspondence.  I just never expected I'd ever have to, like, do anything. 

The receptionist was still waiting for a response, so I thanked her for the offer, and explained that since I'd never really done any actual officiating, she might want to go with someone a little more experienced. 

"You know what?  There's a first time for everything," she replied.  "If you screw up, it'll be funny.  Besides, I already told my fiancé that you're doing it.  He's looking forward to meeting you."

Personally, I don't think I'd find it funny at all if the minister at my wedding kept asking what page we were on and cursing to himself, but different strokes, I guess.  Taking a deep breath, I said, "I'll do it," then hopped on my computer to order an officiant's manual and a copy of Texas' marriage laws.

It's apparently going to be a very small, casual ceremony, just family and a couple of friends.  And as it happens, I recently acquired a smart new sports jacket and a handsome pair of dress slacks, so my ministerial ensemble is ready to go.  I'm sure everything's going to be fine.  But if you have a spare moment, go ahead and pray for me, 'kay?