The real live psychic

Hypothesis.  Extrapolation.  Imagination.  Visualization.  Intuition.  These are all words that define a part of our brains that separate us from other animals.  Some scientists claim these mind skills were an evolutionary breakthrough.  The ability to anticipate and envision the coming of winter, the possibility of flood, or the movement of a thunderstorm may have given us an extra survival advantage over instinct.  The ability to see a range of possible changes in our environment allowed us to prepare for each one.

It’s an ability that we still cherish to this day.  It allows for the possibility of art, science, philosophy – almost all of the high points of current culture.  It can be overdeveloped in certain areas – I think here of the socially awkward genius, so strong in his innate understanding of certain systems, but not others.  Yet it also shares an edge with less provable extrapolations.

If we are to believe in the strength of human perception, estimation, and generalization, does that make the ideas of fortune telling and psychic advice really seem that far-fetched?  True, the idea of tarot reading or crystal balls may not seem scientifically accurate.  And yet some of us are better judges of character than others.  Some easily pick up on the visual clues that tell the life story of a person you are meeting for the first time.  A good detective might be able to ascertain the perpetration of a crime with very limited factual information and without any experience in crime.  Does that make someone like the self-proclaimed ‘intutionist’ Laura Day seem more credible, despite her lack of expertise in a particular field?  Perhaps.

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Sometimes people look like monkeys.

There was a girl in my class who looked like a monkey.  She had highly mobile, flexible lips.  The fine hairs on her face were vaguely reminiscent of something animal.  Even though her face was pretty narrow and her cheeks were not overly fleshy, there was something, well, monkey-like about it.  She was not an unattractive person – vivid brown eyes, long dark hair – but the hard wiring of my brain always said ‘monkey’ whenever she was around.

There’s nothing wrong with this type of hard wiring.  There are theories that such casual groupings and distinct first impressions are how we identify and associate experiences with words.  How else can you tell that this dog, which you can see and touch and feel, is in some way similar to some other dog you may encounter at some future date?  How else do you know that a tomato is not an apple, if not by such proprietary groupings?  The problem comes when such distinctions and identifications become stereotypes and stigmas.  No one wants to be known as a dirty monkeyface.

Still, sometimes politics causes the protection of individual or group rights to go too far.  Take Wal-mart’s decision to take a Mexican comic book off their shelves.  Yes, the hero’s physical features may seem derogatory to African Americans, because the main character emphasizes and embodies certain negative physical stereotypes about African Americans.  Still, I’m not sure this is a bad thing.  The character is, after all, a hero.  Wouldn’t the embodiment of negative stereotypes shown in a positive light help to dismantle some of the negativity surrounding those stereotypes?  Isn’t that the empowering tragedy of many of the best superheros?  That despite misfortune, loss, horrible scarring, mutations, and ugliness, they can still do good and be good?  I don’t mean go Pollyanna, but it seems like a Mexican cartoon icon could have had a positive impact on the American public if he had been allowed to stay on the shelves.

Woo you, woo me.

However facebook chooses which ad to give you, they are genius. For example, take a previous post regarding the targeted marketing of curly hair products. They got to me, via tag words, pictures, or a little gnome picking up the random fallen hairs of generations. Or maybe they’ve tracked the DNA of all people now living, and are targeting towards my specific genetic code. Who knows?

Another example is from the continuing current ‘big event’ of my life, the breakup.   Changing my status online from a whole heart to two jagged pieces has caused a revelation in dating sites advertising. Obviously, now that I’m single, I need an instant man. Possibly one data-matched to my genetic code on file for a nominal fee. And what better way to rebound than to throw yourself at someone online? I feel like there’s been at least one movie involving copious amounts of alcohol about why this is a bad idea. But I guess it’s socially more acceptable than drinking alone?

Anyway, the woome site has been hard-core in my face for days, possibly weeks now.  And while I do feel it is someone else’s obligation to win my heart, the name of the site itself sounds like the petulant demand of a five-year-old child.  Woo me!  Now!  No, YOU woo ME.  That’s really what I’m looking for in a significant other.  There remains a certain charm to the idea of being wooed.  Unfortunately it doesn’t realistically pair with advertising or the imperative.