Tools of Discernment

Recently, I was trying to decide whether to stay on site for a conference I was attending or to stay at a nearby hotel. Both choices had merit. On the conference site, I could be close to the action and would limit my commuting time. In a local hotel, I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone I know seeing me in my sweatpants and uncombed hair when I went out for my morning run. The cost was pretty comparable, as were the amenities. After weighing the choices and waffling about it for longer than I should have, I decided to let the ultimate authority decide for me.

I asked the Magic 8 Ball.

I admit it. It’s not a scientific approach to decision making but sometimes it’s really the best choice. Certainly, the decision making process of the Magic 8 Ball is more decisive than Congress and it’s rarely steered me wrong.

Holding the classic black sphere in my hands, I asked my question of the oversized pool ball emblazoned with the mystical number 8.

“Should I stay on site at the event?”

Turning it over, I peered into the mysterious blue liquid, waiting for the orb to offer me an answer in the clear triangular shaped window.

Better not tell you now it replied.

I couldn’t believe it! Why couldn’t the answer be revealed to me now? Perhaps I had asked the question the wrong way. I tried again.

“Should I stay in a hotel for the conference?”

Reply hazy, try again

Calming myself with a deep breath, I decided to phrase my question much more simply and directly. I closed my eyes and asked my Magic 8 Ball guide the question again – this time speaking slowly and really articulating my words as I would if I were repeating my question to someone for whom English was a foreign language. Who knows the real language of the Magic 8 Ball, I thought.

“When I go to Boulder next Sunday afternoon, should I stay at the conference center lodging onsite for the entire conference event?” Whew! That should do it. Every word, every nuance, even the date, city and purpose for my visit was now clear for my enigmatic friend. Just to avoid jinxing myself, I kept my eyes closed while I turned the ball over to read my answer.

Opening my eyes, I saw that the little 20 sided die inside was stuck on its corner, poised between two answers. The thing was clearly stumped, I thought. No wonder I had been unable to make this decision on my own, even the 8 Ball didn’t know. But then I wondered, was it simply refusing to answer me out of spite?

The instructions say not to shake the Magic 8 Ball since it could create air bubbles that may interfere with the letters’ ability to seal against the clear window, making them illegible, but I shook it anyway. Hard. “Answer me!” I shouted, as I asked it again, “Should I stay at the conference center lodging?”

Finally, the answer came, Signs point to yes. I relaxed. But then it wobbled and flipped to Don’t count on it.

I gave up. Clearly I wasn’t going to get a sensible answer from this childish element of divination. I called the conference center to book a room. The reservation agent informed me that all the rooms were booked, but she would add my name to the waiting list. Thanking her, I realized that I was disappointed. The feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that I really had wanted to stay at the conference center. I couldn’t believe I had wasted all that time with the Magic 8 Ball trying to make a decision when I could have just listened to my gut.

While looking up the number for the hotel, my cell phone rang. It was the conference center, they had a cancellation and I could stay on site after all. I was elated.

As I picked up my Magic 8 Ball to put it back on the shelf, I thought “I guess I knew in my heart all along what I really wanted.” Before I put it down, I flipped it over one last time and it read

You can rely upon it

Maybe next time I’ll flip a coin.






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