Thursday, May 7, 2009

Omens and Portents and Subways! Oh my!

Mercury, planet of the mind, entered retrograde today. It's sitting in Gemini, the sign which it rules, the sign of communication. It's going to be an interesting time for introspection and expression. There will be an overhaul in the way we think through things, which could be a refreshing change from quotidian mentalities. I just wouldn't enter any contracts for a few weeks if I were you.

With communication being reevaluated, it sparked a new line of thinking (thanks, retrograde!): how do we communicate with the world around us? More importantly, how does the universe communicate with us? There are many "signs" (both literal and figurative) that we experience on a daily basis. Advertisements are the most obvious signs that we see, being actual signs. Standing on the very crowded subway this morning, I couldn't look right in front of me (into the hair of a woman who would have slapped me for such contact in any other context). Nor could I look to either side of me where I was bracketed by two very large men in suits. There was really only one place to look: up. Whoever thought to put advertisements at the top of the subway car was brilliant. When you're stuck on a crowded subway, or even on an empty subway and bored, you tend to look for some kind of stimulation. For a small amount of time, you're entertained (or, in some cases, slightly nauseated) by the colorful pictures on display. On the subway this morning, I saw ads that helped me if I was bankrupt, pregnant, had a hammer toe, or even bad skin. I also so ads that recommended the best new book, alcohol, and English-learning language center. How convenient!

Were these mere signs or were they "signs?" When I was in college and agonizing over the decision of whether to transfer schools, a friend of mine suggested that I go on a "vision quest," a practice commonly traced back to Native American culture. She said that you walk around wherever your feet decide to go (obviously, not into traffic or anything) and look around and notice what's happening around you. That will give you your answer. So I did. I walked all over the campus and saw numerous things, but were these signs? The bird that took flight when I came near - was that a sign to leave? The leaves changing colors - was that a sign to change schools? While this was a valid suggestion, I think this was closer to a Rorschach test for me than actual signs of what to do. It brought out my deeper desire to leave and I began to look for validation in the world around me. While the vision quest may not have worked the way it was meant to, it certainly worked. I had my answer. If I was looking for a reason to leave, then obviously, that was the right thing to do. Turns out, it was.

I still have to wonder, are there signs that occur in our lives that might change the way that we live if we saw them? I've often heard that illness is a sign that you need to slow down. Or a missed connection means that you just weren't meant to get that job or meet that person. Everything happens for a reason, right? We've all heard that at one time or another. Should we have read the signs beforehand? Would that have given us a clue as to what was coming up? And if we did read the signs, could we have changed our destiny?

If I'm feeling down and I look up and see the words "Yes, you can!" on a subway car, was I meant to see them and feel better about myself, even though the ad is about losing weight? How much of this applies? Do we see signs because we want to see them? Is there harm in seeing signs? I don't think so, but I certainly don't think you should always wait for a sign before you take action. That's a "speak when you're spoken to" rule and as Alice (that crazy girl from Wonderland) pointed out, if everyone followed that rule, nobody would ever speak at all!

One of the major areas that I think signs might be a possibility is the iPod. Strange as it sounds, that "shuffle" option can be awfully oracular, can't it? You're thinking of a song and it starts to play. Or the song that reminds you of your friend starts to play and two minutes later, they call you. Does the iPod know? Is music a conductor of universal communication? I mean, it's a universal language. Maybe that phrase has more meaning than we think. I wonder what a vision quest would be like with an iPod shuffle soundtrack. Would that change our perception of signs?

Everything is symbolic. That's part of what gives our dreams such meaning. And dreams are personal, so the symbols mean different things. My dream of a snake may be a sign of danger, but your dream may be a sign of wisdom, and another's dream may be phallic and sexual. It all depends on the context and the person. So that "Yes, you can!" ad that gives me so much hope may be pushing another person towards suicide. Extreme example, of course, but you get the point. A symbol is a sign only if you see it as such.

It might be time to discover our modern-day oracles. It's not such a crazy thought. After all, people still read their horoscopes and astrology is an ancient art/science dating back to before 2000 B.C.E. People are still interested in getting their Tarot cards read (said to go back to at least the 14th Century). There are so many ways that people read life around them: numerology, rune-casting, I-Ching, graphology (handwriting analysis), etc. It's not really so far-fetched to think that subway ads and iPods are the wave of the future. It is the Age of Aquarius (technology), after all.

Plus, it beats the hell out of studying sheep entrails.


  1. I've seen the shuffle phenomenon manifest itself in other ways. A few of my friends live together in a place they call "Mighty House", and there tend to be a lot of ridiculous parties and gatherings there. They have a stereo with somewhere around 50-100 cds and generally leave it on shuffle. The interesting thing is, usually whoever in the room has the dominant personality (or at least the one that's taken over that particular situation) the stereo plays what they want to hear. I've experienced it on a number of occasions and it's eerie.

  2. That's fascinating! I wonder how it knows... Looks like a post about the sentience of machines is due. Thank you for sharing!