Monday, June 29, 2015

COLUMN: Psychics

I know what you're wondering, Quad Cities, and you're right. There IS something different about me this week. I bet you're thinking to yourself, "Why, that Shane seems like a new man. It's almost as if he's attuned himself to the Aquarian Age." And you'd be correct.

I am a huge fan of all things weird and wonderful. If it's unexplained, mystical, or magical, I want to learn all I can. A world without wonder is a boring place to be, and I think it's naive to assume that science has given us all the answers. You might think it's silly, but I fully believe in the benefits of meditation. I know first-hand that elderberry syrup cures the common cold. Researchers estimate that over forty billion planets in our galaxy contain the basic building blocks of life, and it seems incredibly short-sighted to believe ours is the only one with tenants.

But I'm also a realist. I find it a little far-fetched to believe that my future destiny depends on what astrological sign I was born under. I've never been healed by a crystal and I've yet to harness the power of the pyramid. I don't believe that Bigfeet roam the wild or monsters swim in the depths of Loch Ness. In order for me to truly buy into metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, I need to experience it first-hand. So when the Quad Cities Psychic and Paranormal Expo rolled through town last weekend, my attendance was mandatory.

This was the second year of the expo, and it's rapidly becoming my favorite annual event. If you want to get socked in the head with weirdness, this is the place. Over 60 vendors showcase every kind of alternative science under the sun. It's a nerd paradise, and you don't even have to dress like a superhero to fit in.

Let's be completely honest here -- it's a great time, but a lot of the booths run a fair bit north of believability as far as I'm concerned. I know folks who have used hypnotherapy with great success to quit smoking and lose weight, but a hypnotist who claims he can cure AIDS and augment your breast size? That's a stretch. When I was a kid, I had a rock tumbler and thought polished rocks were pretty cool, but I never knew that driveway gravel was a tumble or two away from becoming "healing stones" with "positive energy" and a $20 price tag. But half the fun is wandering around and figuring out which vendors you believe in and which ones are total bonkers.

But who cares about believability? Everywhere I looked, people were having fun. Psychics were hard at work doing readings and crystal sales were through the roof. Everybody was having a blast, and that's really what it's all about. I made an immediate decision: I needed to find the kookiest vendor there was, shut down the naysayer in me, and give it a shot. It didn't take long to find him.

The expo was dominated by two top-selling products: crystals and pyramids. Crystals are purported to have healing properties that bring focus and direction to your aura and energies. Pyramids are supposed to harness and focus these same energies into powerful positivity. So what's the only thing better than crystals and pyramids? You guessed it: a pyramid made out of crystals.

This vendor created a man-sized pyramid out of copper piping that was hollowed out and filled with crystal fragments. For $1 a minute, you could sit in the middle of this contraption and let the combined properties do their job, which was purportedly nothing shy of a miracle. "You will move into a state of multidimensional consciousness," the vendor promised. "As you attune to the Aquarian Age, you will manifest all that you see and need physically and spiritually to live in unconditional love and bliss."

"How does it work?" I sheepishly asked.

"I have no idea," the vendor explained, or rather non-explained. "It just does." I was sold.

I was directed to the center of the pyramid and told to sit. What I assumed to be a stool was actually a bucket, and inside that bucket was a GIANT crystal. "Just as the pyramid draws in the positive energies," he explained, "the crystal draws out the negative." Let the metaphysical enema commence!

"Cover your lap with this cloth," I was told. "Close your eyes and we'll begin."

Fun fact: A didgeridoo is an Aboriginal woodwind that looks like a tree trunk and makes a sound like an elephant passing gas. I mention this because he suddenly grabbed one, aimed it at my skull, and spent the ten minutes aurally assaulting me.

An immediate realization washed over me. No, wait -- that was just spit. As it turns out, the fabric spread on my lap, which I assumed to be some kind of mystical prayer cloth, was in fact a catch rag for didgeridoo spittle, which shot out at alarming frequency. Sure enough, I looked at the stand upon which the instrument had been resting, and there at the base was a pool of what can only be described as didgeri-drool. I didn't know if I was about to be transported to different dimensions, but I could only hope that all of them had invented Purell.

About five minutes in, I noticed I was sweating -- a LOT. By the time it was done, I was dripping like a marathon runner. Quickly it was explained that my perspiration was a sign of becoming attuned to the Aquarian Age as the negative energies were expelled out of my body. Personally, I think it had more to do with the full-on panic attack I was experiencing upon the realization that a small crowd had gathered to watch a guy blow a didgeridoo into my face for ten minutes.

"What were the multiple dimensions like?" my friend asked as we walked away. All I could really tell her was that they smelled kind of minty.

Am I a changed man? I guess who's to say. I've never been attuned to the Aquarian Age before, so I don't really have anything to compare it to. It certainly didn't hurt anything other than my wallet, and now I know what it feels like to be on the spittle-soaked receiving end of a didgeridoo, so I can cross that off my bucket list. But the whole experience got me thinking.

I don't necessarily believe in everything I experienced that day. I don't think crystals harness your aura into focus. I just think they're rocks that are pretty. But based on the sales I witnessed that afternoon, others sure believe in their metaphysical properties. And if you feel better off and a more positive person because you're carrying a crystal in your pocket, then, in a sense, crystals DO work. If you feel more focused when you're underneath a 3D triangle, then bully for pyramid power. If it makes you feel better, why question it?

Take it from me -- I am, after all, freshly attuned to the Aquarian Age.

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