My resistance verges on the pathological, although I usually keep it to myself. If you asked me why exactly, I would be hard pressed to give you a satisfying answer. But in the way that so many of our deepest attitudes derive not from logic, but from a more visceral sense of things as they are and as they should be, my resistance to divination is instinctual.
It’s not that I’m down on the grandeur of the universe and all the possibilities known and unknown that might be harbored here, nor do I submit to the limits of knowledge as if they were some kind of dark and impassable border. It’s more that I am profoundly turned off by the scrambling of time that is involved in predicting the future. To me, prophecy is a gesture that turns the perfect unattainability of the not-yet-arrived into the granular absoluteness of the present. It transforms the unwritten into something readable, knowable, and anticipatable, even when it is foretold in broad enough strokes, so as to leave room for all the unexpected details.
Now, before I sound overly dogmatic about this, let me say that for the most part, these thoughts lack sharp edges, surfacing more in the form of abstract feeling than the solidity of a well-plotted argument. And, somehow, I assumed that most people felt the same way I did, not realizing how very much in the minority I was. A while ago, a good friend sent me a horoscope, knowing of course that I would receive it with my usual degree of skepticism, devil’s advocating my way through the article. But as I read it, and all the great things it augured for the month ahead, it suddenly struck me that the majority of my friends are taken in by the lure of a compelling prediction. And I’m not just referring to my hippie, new-agey friends here, with their extreme form of cosmic open-mindedness, but my otherwise-cynical and irreverent friends, the ones who are usually the first to call shenanigans when they see them. And to boot, it’s not just that these very wise and worldly friends occasionally indulge in astrological readings. Rather, they go to psychics. They open their palms to strangers. They draw tarot cards from cryptically illustrated decks, and tell you things like, “of course you had a shitty day, Mercury is in retrograde.”
So all this got me wondering about the allure of the horoscope, the little giveaways about your future, the specific alignment of the stars that portend love on the 12th, money problems on the 18th, and big changes at the full moon. And when you just so happen to be thinking about these kinds of things at the same time that someone open fires on a school of children, or when the great Mayan apocalypse misses its arrival date, and the new world that was supposed to follow fails to materialize, it lends a slightly different tenor to things.
It occurs to me that divining the future is rooted in our primordial need to make sense of the chaos of existence. It means there is a plan, there is sense, there is meaning to be found in what otherwise seems haphazard and arbitrary. The future cosigns for the present as part of a much larger drama already mapped out, one in which all that is intolerable will look different soon. You will one day find love. You will eventually make good money. Your life will swing in your favor, even if it always pendulums back again. The stars give reason to believe that our losses are recuperated, perhaps in terms we did not anticipate or expect. That is, the stars are our guarantor that the future bears our little lives in mind. And who doesn’t intimately know this desire to be seen and cared for by the universe?
When I think about it in these terms, it seems to me that reading one’s horoscope has something to do with the inherent longing for a witness. The fortune teller proleptically calls out what’s on its way, however murky the details remain. And, I guess, to this end, divination is like writing for me. It is not just bearing witness to what is, but to all that might have been, the possibilities we continually forego, the things we pass up, what we might have done, but for one reason or another, did not. Perhaps divination, like writing, calls things into existence without determining anything once and for all. Perhaps it, too, understands that meaning is not found, but created at each moment. So as the New Year approaches, and talk turns from prediction to resolution, and we momentarily take upon ourselves all the risk and creative possibility for what lies ahead, I adamantly resolve this to be a good year for Scorpios.
-by Jacqueline Abrams