By Clay Wilson
For some reason, I've been thinking a lot lately about astrology. I've never really paid much attention before to such things as horoscopes and fortune cookies.
For one thing, I was raised in a conservative Baptist environment in which such things were taboo. As I've gotten older, I've also been influenced by the dose of Western skepticism administered by my liberal arts education.
But recently, just on a whim, I've started occasionally scanning the horoscopes we run in our paper. And here's what I've discovered: Either these "predictions" are so vague and nebulous that anyone can think, if he's so inclined, that they apply to his life; or they're just plain old advice.
For instance, last Monday the horoscope for my sign, Sagittarius, said, "Think about how you can improve your health today. Stop doing one thing that is excessive or harmful to your body ?"
Is this really a horoscope? Couldn't I have gotten this revelation from my doctor as easily as from Mystic Sister Zelda, or whoever writes the horoscopes?
Does this mean that if I write in my column, "Readers should clean their homes today" that I qualify as a psychic?
On a slightly more esoteric note, yesterday's "prediction" for Leo is that "You feel strong affection for someone from a different background than you ?"
This one, like most horoscopes, is so general that it could cover almost anyone.
Fortune cookies often fall into this category, too. The little pieces of paper inside of them will say something like, "Hard work will pay off for you."
Well, duh. Although it certainly isn't always true, many times success is the result of hard work. I don't need the Cookie Fairy to tell me that.
In light of the general inanity of horoscopes and fortune cookies, I am contemplating launching a new product: misfortune cookies. These would be the perfect alternative for those who are down on life or just tired of the Pollyanna optimism of the typical fortune cookie.
Each misfortune cookie would bear a message of cynicism or doom. For instance, one might say, "You're going to die anyway, so why bother trying to succeed?"
Another might proclaim, "Those people who seem to like you are just pretending. They're only using you temporarily, and soon they'll drop you like a bad habit."
But the ultimate misfortune cookie, the one prized by really hopeless enthusiasts, would say something like, "You will perish in a fiery backhoe accident, and no one will come to your funeral."
I bet there will be a huge market for misfortune cookies among angry teen-agers, angst-ridden young adults and bitter middle-aged folks.
So I think I've stumbled onto a great idea. Now I've just got to get up the chutzpah to actually do it. Of course, as my misfortune cookie for today says, "Anything worth doing is probably too much effort, anyway."
Clay Wilson is the education and public safety reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.