“75% of Americans believe in angels,” says an article last week in Time magazine.
The crux of the article in Time’s Society/Self Help section was reporting on the trial of James Arthur Ray, the self-styled guru that delivered three people to the angels via his sweat lodge in Sedona, AZ.
Since the Babylonians first started basing the ways of the world on zodiac celestial time, regular human folk have been looking for ways to reach a higher plane, even if it means passing out with fellow sweaty devotees who have paid a premium for the pleasure. Take it from someone who has walked a labyrinth or two in Sedona, you’ll tell anyone that the majestic rocks have indeed come to life as animals and Gods just so you can stop walking in circles and seek a cool beverage that in itself has healing powers.
And who can blame the believers who followed Ray’s advice and sucked hot air until their lungs exploded? The fifth and final season of Big Love shows that not only did the top wife, Barb go to a sweat room; she has now broken away from her polygamous State Senator husband, Bill, to become a priest,of all things. And she has found her calling, just in the nick of time since Bill may be going to prison for statutory rape, a charge he and third wife Margene deny.
But facts are facts and the Time article states, “‘self-improvement seekers are likely middle-aged and affluent and live on one of the coasts’”.
As a middle aged east coaster, a recent phony poll amongst many has exposed that most people are avid horoscope readers, regular visitors to astrologists and tarot card readers, and more than a handful believe in angels and ghosts.
In 1988, Nancy Reagan made her ‘borrowing of designer gowns’ all the more distasteful by having it revealed that the President’s schedule, speeches and travel were being dictated by an astrologists friend of Nancy’s living in San Francisco. Who can blame her for seeking a guiding factor having had no formal education? On the other hand, after having been a Hollywood actress ending up in the White House married to someone she was mad about and wearing couture, she had nerve asking, “What’s next”?
Thing is, people usually pursue the unknown for their own advantages. Personal growth is the excuse; love and success are the reasons. Face it, if you pay to subject yourself to an inferno in the middle of the desert, the only thing you’ll learn about yourself is that you’re fire retardant, if you live long enough to reflect on this discovery.
Last Saturday I went in to the neat, eclectic store on Mamaroneck Avenue, Brigit, where most Saturdays you will find Amy Benesch in the back of the store doing tarot card readings. There is a danger that you might buy something when you’re in the shop, but for $25.00, Amy gives you as much time as you need to ask whatever life altering questions you have. First she throws out a dozen or so cards: although somewhat general, the card with the child wrapped in a snake did look like one of my kids, but the fun part came when you get to ask the questions—‘”should I bother writing another book since the last one I attempted had agents responding with, ‘I wanted to kill myself after reading this’, and ‘are you afraid to write about sex?'”
When I did a phone ‘reading’ last spring with a psychic that a close friend uses on a regular basis– the psychic Gwen first hung up on me after finding out I had her on speaker phone– it turned out her last call ended up with the driver in a ditch due to the alarming accuracy of the reading. When safely ensconced in a chair at home, Gwen channeled dead people I knew, although she didn’t say who they were. She spoke with them, back and forth throughout the call while telling me I should eat more broccoli; that I should look for an Irish person in my future and to put the book on hold. For $39.95 you receive a recording of the call. Only Gwen’s voice and my own were picked up on the tape, but its incredibly inaccurate predictions are worth playing over and over.
Since she told me I wouldn’t be writing for The Loop as of last August, I thought of other misfires, like the pauper in a temple in Bangkok who told me I would be dead at 84, maybe, and that I would have two girls. Wrong. Maybe it meant if I had married the guy I was dating then, or maybe the pre-teen translating mixed up the genders. When I met my Feng Shui master Queng duc, 15 years ago, he read my I Ching coins and declared I was half man half woman and that I am The King. I learned the yin/yang is good but my anticipation of the throne has grown thin.
I stopped in the Art of Astrology this week. For those that don’t know it, it’s one of four stores in the area, this one across the street from Harbor Park on the Post Road and the tiny hut in front is the office for the idol adorned house behind it.
A girl answered the door and took me in to the office which is the perfect place for a T.V. murder.
It could have been set-designed by Tim Burton, but she was very sweet and although I couldn’t get my chart done because the ‘chart machine was broken’, I could have a tarot card reading, beginning at $69.95. When I balked at the price, while still not accepting her offer to sit on the ripped leather chaise, she said she could do it for $29.95, with ‘really the same information’. Fleeing like Tippy Hendren, I remembered that there was another shop on Mamaroneck Avenue. The Art of Astrology! They had cornered the market.
Not that I’m giving up my daily computer delivered horoscopes provided by newspapers from every town I’ve lived in, but I’m going to take a page from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As reported this week in the same edition of Time that questions our need for a higher self, it turns out that Justice Thomas, who has sat since 1991, hasn’t asked a question during discussions in five years.
Clearly he learned that any seeking of his own higher self brought him nothing but trouble.
Kim Berns is a writer and interior designer living in Rye.