On Sec­ond Thought:

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - WHAT’S INSIDE - Writ­ten by LAURA BYRNE PA­QUET Illustration by RON MARTIN

Open­ing the mind to the pos­si­bil­i­ties . . .

When it comes to psy­chics, Tarot card read­ers, ghost whis­per­ers and other things “mys­ti­cal,” colour me a con­firmed skep­tic. It’s not that I don’t agree there are things in the uni­verse we don’t un­der­stand; if that were the case, sci­en­tists would pretty much be out of a job. It’s just that I doubt the things we don’t un­der­stand are try­ing to scare the heck out of hu­mans or re­lay their lot­tery num­ber picks to us.

Ge­net­i­cally, I shouldn’t be a skep­tic. On my dad’s side, I’m Ir­ish – you know, the good folks who brought you uni­corns, ban­shees and leprechauns. On my mom’s side are the Scots, a na­tion that tra­di­tion­ally begged de­liv­er­ance from “ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beast­ies and things that go bump in the night.”

I to­tally see the ap­peal of ghost sto­ries around a camp­fire, in the same way I get why peo­ple like to read sci­ence fic­tion. But there’s that key word – fic­tion. When crys­tal ball read­ers step out of the realm of Hal­loween tales and start ac­cept­ing online credit card pay­ments for their prog­nos­ti­ca­tions, then I start tak­ing is­sue with the whole idea. You don’t see Wil­liam Shat­ner of­fer­ing to ac­tu­ally beam any­one up, do you?

And be­cause I be­lieve for­tune tell­ers and their kin are ei­ther fab­ri­cat­ing their pre­dic­tions out of whole cloth or wil­fully de­lud­ing them­selves, I think they should have to be tested for ac­cu­racy be­fore dol­ing out “pre­dic­tions.” If some­one gets their tea leaves read as a harm­less lark, that’s one thing. Heck, who hasn’t glanced at their horoscope oc­ca­sion­ally, hop­ing for a bit of in­sight? But if peo­ple are go­ing to make ma­jor life de­ci­sions based on ad­vice sup­pos­edly com­ing from their late grand­mother via a Ouija board, that’s an­other thing al­to­gether. Call me Christo­pher Hitchens, but I think this kind of think­ing is dan­ger­ous.

But wait, I hear many of you cry­ing, why are you be­ing such a killjoy? Don’t you have room in your heart for a lit­tle bit of magic? Ab­so­lutely. In fact, I’m cer­tain it’s all around us. Dew glit­ter­ing on a spi­der web. A lit­ter of kit­tens sleep­ing in a furry, purring pile. A brownie recipe that fi­nally, af­ter umpteen re­vi­sions, de­liv­ers that per­fect com­bi­na­tion of sweet­ness and chewi­ness. A sym­phony or­ches­tra and a choir per­form­ing Beethoven’s Ninth in per­fect har­mony, or the Rolling Stones elec­tri­fy­ing an arena of 25,000 fans. Talk­ing late into the night with a close friend. The way your heart­beat skit­ters when you first meet the per­son you’ll even­tu­ally marry – and the fact that you even meet that per­son at all.

These are all mag­i­cal glimpses into the in­tri­cate won­der of evo­lu­tion, chem­istry, hu­man achieve­ment or hu­man emo­tions. They and count­less other marvels are avail­able to all of us, with­out a sin­gle seance, and many don’t cost a penny.

So, sure, la­bel me a skep­tic, if you’re talk­ing about palm read­ing, crys­tals and auras. But don’t tell me I don’t be­lieve in magic.

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