My friend appeared in a local production of the play Vanya and Sonia, playing the part of Cassandra.
Cassandra is a fortune-telling housekeeper. And my friend was brilliant. Easily the most interesting person on the stage, playing her part with gusto. Multi-colored headbands, crazy eye shadow, striped socks and funny sneakers, wild skirts with funky shirts. Throw in some interesting jewelry and hairpieces and you get the idea. And those are only the trappings.
What she portrayed was a half-crazed, half-possessed, but wholly compassionate dervish who transitioned from quiet domestic servant into a tornado of words and action. In some scenes she danced about, flailing her sticks and feathers and other voodoo goodies to exact revenge. And throughout the play she warns everyone of the nefarious “hooty pie.”
Fortune telling, soothsaying, and astrological prediction have been around as long as we’ve had questions about the future. Many of us pay good money to know what our horoscope says today. It doesn’t matter if it’s almost always wrong, because, sometimes, it’s right. Right?
Oh, so many fancy shmancy people think that gypsy palm readers and tea leaf readers are absolute charlatans. These fancy people are so full of themselves because they read the business news and understand advanced mathematics.
I thought of these things as I watched my friend scream and chant across the stage and into our hearts, and then I realized something crazy. What if I was an alien watching this play as my first exposure to humanity? How would I know that my friend was not truly a clairvoyant?
I wouldn’t! Unless of course you provided me with absolute proof.
Being an alien, I wouldn’t trust your words, or the words of your friends. I’d prefer hard data. In fact, I’d probably really want to see it for myself.
As I smiled to my alien self, I realized that there was another type of human I wouldn’t believe.
Economists. Yes, modern economists. If I was an alien, and you told me that economists were the only people on Earth who could foretell the future, I simply would not believe you.
Yes, you can find me millions of people who watch their newscasts, who pass laws based on their words, or even set policy based on their massive calculations. But can you show me and my alien friends true results of their predictions? Better yet, can I see those for myself?
Is there even a scorecard that shows, unequivocally, that what an economist predicts today comes true tomorrow? Or next week? Next month? Even next year?
Somehow, I doubt it. Somehow, I feel that there is a vastly overpaid economist predicting the future, and doing it in a way that is boring and tiresome.
Meanwhile, on the stage stands my friend. She is vastly underpaid, far more entertaining, yet her predictions are equally as valid.
As an alien, I smile. As a human, I sigh and shake my head. Then I sit back and enjoy the rest of the play. By the way, if you go see this play, I predict that you will like it, too!