“Mind if we join you, old-timer?”
“Join me, m’son. Join me.”
“You work for the railroad, grandpa?”
“I work for no man.”
-O Brother Where Art Thou
What is an oracle? Our histories, our cultures, our families, have centred around this mysterious figure for centuries. Somewhere in our collective thought, there exists a person we all seek. They are the voice of our own introspection; that “gut instinct,” the urge to move forward in our lives and seek resonance with someone and something other than ourselves. We cling to them as a guide.
What I find interesting about the oracles in our lives is that 1) we consistently attribute them to outside forces (they are our friends, our ancestors, our books) and 2) we so fervently believe in our capacity for futures that we have created an archetype for individual inspiration.
The oracle as an outside force, I believe, says something about our need for other people in our lives to act as enrichers. Isolation is devastating, and the more isolated we become, the more in need of an oracle we find ourselves (someone to pull us up and out, back into the mainstream). The people around us hold the key to changing our processes of thought; they can break cycles that we’ve sat in for years. They can create new passions, dig out new personality traits, and recreate us as people. As a nod to modern media, consider Dr Who. The show features the Doctor, a constant individual who travels through time (with an emphasis on his isolation), and his companion. The doctor must continue to find new companions because these people hold the key to emotional shift in his life; they are the energy that helps allow him to solve the greater puzzles of the Universe. Watch the show for any amount of time and you will see the companion of the Doctor save the visited worlds several times over--and in this way, the Doctor is choosing not only a companion, but his very own human oracle.
Now typically, part of the function of the oracle as a person in our lives is the spontaneity of their appearance. Again, the doctor spontaneously finds his companions. We seemingly spontaneously create our groups of friends. And even within a solid, consistent group of friends, we find our oracles when we ourselves deem it necessary: a voicemail appears unto us, as it were. Or a message on Facebook. Someone thinking something unrelated to how much your life needs to change, which somehow manages to be so very relevant, and suddenly we have an oracle on our hands. We find our puzzles being solved.
We also have a set position of readily available change, which we seek out in favourite authors. And I don’t say this as a mockery, because I believe authorial voice, in its function as an oracle, is incredible. We have these authors who motivate and change us; those who do so with the same story throughout the decades end up within the literary cannon because of their capacity to do just this.
The commonality between authors and the spontaneous voice of our friends in our interpretation of their voices; their advice, their songs, their stories have entered into our universe, and they become our keys. Allow me to become a touch literary in this moment, because I think it’s important that we discuss this incredible capacity for art to take on its own life. Foucoult, literary theorist and tremendous author, submitted the idea that writing, once released into the ether, “kills” the author. By this, he meant that the author’s intentions and interpretation of the piece are no longer so important as the small infinity of interpretations created by one work, these infinities coming to life through the minds of the readers. We re-shape our lives within our interpretation of our encounters (literary and otherwise), and that is the process of the oracle.
But what of our futuristic resonance? How do these friends, these authors, these communities, come just at the right time, in exactly the right way? Surely if it is all within our power of interpretation, then we didn’t need that “oracle” to trigger our motivational change?
I think the answer here lies in the value that we place on the world outside of ourselves. Our idea of worth for the future stems from the idea that our future is worthwhile. When we think of value in future investments, we think about people and relationships. So to reinforce the idea that our investment in our motivation is worthwhile, we need a seed of faith--external input. That external input revitalises our sense of connectivity with our larger communities, and reminds us that our individual motivations have value. It is in the value that we place on the world outside of ourselves--our value in others that makes our vision of the future worth while.