Palm pilots

The business of predicting the future and ourselves in it.

An astrologer and psychic, 26-year-old Lisa runs her business out of her home in Ravenna. I was surprised by how young and un-"psychic" she looked in a white T-shirt and a slim gray skirt. Her living room looked more new money than new age, with an entertainment center, champagne-colored sofa, and thick pile carpeting. There wasn't a stick of incense in sight. After she greeted me, she turned on the radio to a station playing Mariah Carey.

What am I doing here? I don't believe in this stuff. I read the horoscopes only because I edit this paper's weekly column. I've only been to a palm reader once—when I was 10, and I was upset when she told me that I wouldn't get to marry Simon LeBon. Blame it on Dionne Warwick, but the words "psychic" and "fraudulent" are twinned in my mind.

Nevertheless, the business of predictions is huge—and profitable ($75 an hour for a one-on-one psychic reading is average). Popular belief in psychics doesn't seem to be waning in the face of our increasingly technology-based culture; in fact, a quick look on the Internet suggests that these fortune-telling services have been growing and evolving with the times.

Perhaps it's because the year 2000, with its strange triple zeros, has been an obvious target for many doomsday predictions. The year itself already sounds like a nonentity, so it's not so farfetched to assume that we aren't supposed to be around after the clock strikes, right? Of course, if you were living in the 16th century, like Nostradamus, 2000 was probably so intangibly distant that it could have belonged in a different universe altogether. This New Year has been a fictive concept for much of history. Now that it's our reality, one might wonder, what next?

When I met with Lisa in December, she dismissed the idea that anything disastrous would happen. Unlike doomsday theorists, she didn't relate to the Bible's raptures, and criticized those who planned on cashing in on all the Y2K hype. Instead, she talked about the preventive measures that have been taken during the last couple of years and thought that we'd experience a few delays and glitches, but nothing major. She also predicted that we're headed for a stronger, more positive century. She's observed more optimism and social concern among her clients and said, "People are willing to spend more effort in solving problems."

For my personal reading, Lisa held my hands. I looked down and concentrated on radiating my psychic aura, whatever that was. Apparently it didn't take much preparation on Lisa's part, because right away she started telling me about the kind of person I am: She said that I was healthy (correct); outgoing and outspoken (wrong); that my mother is a strong woman (right, but then whose mother isn't?); that I've had a painful breakup in the past (who hasn't?); and that I should be open to a new relationship (huh?!). This one through me for a loop. I had recently told myself that I wouldn't date anyone for several months. Lisa instead advised me to be more social and foresaw that I was going to get involved with someone soon, and that within a month of dating I'd know that he's the One. When I looked surprised, she told me that I wouldn't have to look for this person, that he'd come to me. (How many times have we heard that one?)

Still, the reading affected me. Lisa seemed honest and has been a practicing psychic since the age of nine. It's hard not to heed the thoughts of someone who comes across so sincerely and genuinely. Later that night, when a male friend called and asked me to go Christmas shopping with him, I found myself thinking, "Hmmm . . . he's sweet, understanding, and pretty darn cute. Could he be the one?"

A search for a second opinion led me to Karen Cornell, a numerologist who has a weekly radio show on KUBE 93FM (and who happens to be the mother of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell). Like Lisa, Cornell thinks that we're headed for more positive times. With big blue eyes made even larger by owl-like glasses, Cornell is a dynamic, quick speaker, and she made some grand predictions. I'd barely asked her anything when she rattled off her thoughts on the new millennium.

Cornell said that our society has made profound "lightwork," or positive changes, in the past 15 to 20 years. "People are realizing that their powers of creativity and intuition are valuable in addressing real-world problems," she said.

For the last 1,000 years, we've been in the age of "1," according to numerological charts—in other words, we've been under the influence of things masculine, left-brained, and martial. We're now entering a "2" year, which is more compassionate and community-oriented. Cornell cited the growth of feminism in the past century and the emergence of "sensitive men" as proof that we're headed for a more nurturing age. "The Goddess is returning," she said winningly. You hear that, guys?

The changes won't be immediate. Cornell predicts that it'll take 10 to 12 years before we settle into it—and not everyone will benefit from the shift. "Some people just won't do well, because their energies won't be able to adapt." Translation: Machismo will have to go.

Yayoi Winfrey, a Tacoma native who used to work for the Psychic Friends Network, admitted that most of the people who called her were women with love troubles. "How come he's not calling me?" was a question she fielded all too often. Now a filmmaker and an astrologer for Northwest Asian Weekly, Winfrey, who with bright clothing and loose blonde curls looked like she stepped out of a Hawaiian travel brochure, had some radical things to say about relationships in the near future. "We're entering an Aquarian Age, which is all about sexuality. Everyone is moving towards bisexuality. It's going to be a more creative and experimental age." She explained that in the past, or Piscean Age, people made sacrifices and became martyrs. Aquarians, by contrast, break with traditions and move toward self-actualization.

Convinced we're heading for good times? I wasn't so sure after my readings, but I emerged much less cynical about the nature of predicting. Prophets have been prominent since the Oracle at Delphi, and the world, full of believers and disbelievers alike, was somehow better for having known that someone was actually busy focusing on the unknowable. There is also the factor of the self-fulfilling prophecy, Winfrey told me as our reading came to an end. "If you will something to happen, it will happen," she said. "Your outlook in life affects your future."

Any good therapist would concur.

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