While walking home the other day, a psychic passed me a flier and I let my eyes linger on her’s long enough to invite conversation. “I’ve always wanted to be a psychic,” I said. “But do you have the gift?” she asked. “I think I’m good at listening and reading people,” I answered. She then gave me a five minute bullshit reading in the street, starting with flattering my intelligence. I was smart, but I had a lot of blockages. The last six months have been rough for me. (Actually, the reality was just the opposite, but I neither confirmed or denied it.) Then she delivered a punch in the gut: I had a lot of darkness and pain in my past. Who doesn’t? But losing control of my faculties, I started welling up. As she wasn’t the most astute of clairvoyants, she moved on to talk about my ethnicity and how I descended from a lineage of powerful leaders, giving me time to bounce back to my senses. This is why I will never visit a psychic–I’d start crying and never stop. // From what I’ve seen from mainland China and my family, people have a very confusing relationship with spirituality. There are Buddhist holidays, Buddhist architecture and art is everywhere you turn, and Daoist customs still live on in everyday practice. But the Cultural Revolution wiped out the belief in one god and old superstitions, so although cultural spirituality is preserved there is little fundamental ideology to back it up. Before my paternal grandpa passed away from lung cancer, he got very interested in the I Ching. He’d grab whoever he could and read their fortune about anything under the sun. First, he’d make you ask about a general area of your life you needed advice in, and then close your eyes and draw six popsicle sticks out of a pill bottle he kept in his desk. Each stick had either a solid or broken line, which he’d first carved into the wood and then hand-drawn with marker. Depending on the order you drew them, they combined to create one of the patterns in the chart below, and he’d consult his I Ching to determine an answer.
The only memento my dad brought home after my grandpa’s death was his popsicle sticks and I Ching book, and he’s since taken very fondly to them–as much as a a bio-chemist who despises organized religion and spiritual woo-woo can take interest in divination. I think it’s softened him in a good way. Reading into the future while knowing your days are numbered seems like it would be very comforting. Believing in a higher power when life is out of control…Like when I was a kid and first discovered a book of superstitions in the school library–I memorized that shiz from start to end. I wished there was a way to make meaning from the chaotic world. Then you get older and don’t believe in, or perhaps need, everyday magic as much. Until one day you find out you can’t get out of bed anymore, and your family is both too busy and scared to visit you. Then the I Ching comes in handy.