While putting away the Thanksgiving decorations, I came across a Magic 8 Ball. Am I the only person in the world who didn’t know, until thirty seconds ago when I gave it some thought, that this “magical” toy was named after the black 8 ball from billiards? Harmless, mysterious, entertaining, and possibly slightly evil, a Magic 8 Ball exists in a class by itself. What could it possibly have to to with a pool ball? If pressed, I might have said it is an 8 ball because it has 8 possible answers. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never made the connection.
Wikipedia had the answer, of course. At one point in its commercial history, right of sale of the device belonged to a billiard company. Further research revealed that there are twenty possible Magic 8 Ball responses. Ten answers are positive, five are negative, and five are neutral. The odds are ever in your favor if you phrase your questions right.
Let me see a show of hands: who has ever asked a Magic 8 Ball a serious, life-altering question? Of those of you who have, how many have gone back and asked the question again because you didn’t like the first answer? My answer to both questions is “I have”.
I’m trying to figure out what that says about me. I don’t believe in fate, destiny, or divination. I do believe that our futures hold a vast number of possibilities. Our choices can both limit and expand what is possible. Often, we aren’t aware of what’s possible because we rely on past decisions, routines, and habits to dictate what we can and cannot do. Relationships, whether they are with, lovers, coworkers, friends, or even strangers also affect what is possible, both expanding and constricting our futures.
When I shake a Magic 8 Ball as I silently ask my question (sometimes repeatedly), I experience this irrational hope that the plastic sphere will confirm my hushed desire. I look to it to break the circuit of cause and consequence, or at the very least to provide insight into what is yet to be. In other words, I want it to work. I want it to be magical.
Impossible, of course. But that’s not to say that the Magic 8 Ball is powerless. By asking it a question, it allows me to confirm of deny possibility, if only slightly of superficially. Ask it the question, and “Yea! I’m go to ____” or “Aww, screw that. I’m going to ____ anyway” or “Meh. This thing is stupid. It can’t even tell me about ____.” And I become a little more hopeful, or determined, or defeated as it infinitesimally directs my thoughts in a specific direction, sometimes in agreement, and sometimes in opposition.
Give it a try and let’s see how it works for you. Ask a question in the comment section and I’ll ask my Magic 8 Ball and post its reply.