I streamed the movie Nightmare Alley recently even though I hadn’t heard anything about it. What I did know was that it was directed by Guillermo del Toro, and the actors included Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, and Rooney Mara, among other noteworthy cast members.
Carnivals and their various hustlers create the context for the film. Highlighted are the grittiness of life and the ingenuity of the people who entertain.
As I watched the film, I was struck by how, historically, some individuals have been able to make a living and even fortunes by manipulating the vulnerabilities of others. The manipulators have been able to convince intelligent people that they have the gift or power to read minds, to know a person’s past experiences, and to predict someone’s future. Stunningly, people who use logic in their everyday life can be fascinated by the idea that some people may be endowed with powers of the mind that defy all logic.
About 20 years ago while in New Orleans, a couple of friends and I were strolling through the streets and saw a sign in a window that read Bottom of the Cup. Finding it both hilarious and fascinating that someone would “read” tea leaves and tell us all about ourselves and even our future, we decided to have our tea leaves read.
As strong skeptics, we went into the shop “knowing” that this was just a way for the tea-leaf reader to make money and provide some entertainment for tourists. Yet, I think there was a small part of us that hoped the tea-leaf reader could tell us who we were and what we would do in the future. Aren’t we all desperate to know these things?
I was disappointed that almost none of the revelations about my current circumstances hit the mark. However, the tea-leaf reader recorded the readings to take with us. Years later, I came across the tape of my personal reading. I played it and was surprised that one of her very particular predictions that I thought came out of left field had actually come to pass. Coincidence or not, she said that this situation would occur. As I’m thinking back on some of the other things that the tea-leaf reader said, I think that some of what I saw as inaccurate about my life at that time may not have been misses, but the time had not yet come.
Many of us are thinking more about what lies ahead for us personally and for us as a community of people. If only it were true that we could find some sense of stability by having our tea leaves read.