David Rodeback's Blog

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004
A New Psychic in American Fork

First the Material Girl takes up Jewish mysticism. Then the august Dan Rather gets caught with his objectivity down, trashing President Bush based on obviously forged documents. Then we hear that Michael Moore is coming to Utah County, of all places. Now this. Is it the end of the world? Are the armies of Heaven (the beyond-the-veil kind, not the worldwide Islamo-fascist jihad) even now moving their lightning bolts within easy striking range of Center Street, American Fork?

Last year I did some programming for a promising high-tech startup which set up a small call center in downtown American Fork, on Center Street just south of Main. Alas, the startup didn't survive the year. Last evening I happened to drive by the building, and I saw that the space is no longer vacant. There's a psychic there now. Forgive me, spirits, but I laughed.

I suppose that a psychic isn't exactly the sort of "niche business" that Downtown American Fork, Inc., envisions when they talk about attracting businesses downtown which will complement the commercial development to the west, rather than being plowed under by it. And I'm fairly certain that a segment of American Fork's churchgoing populace will read this as a sign that the Devil is taking over American Fork, thirty feet of frontage at a time.

My personal theory is that superstition advances to fill the vacuum where actual religious faith used to be - or should be, or could have been, or whatever. Sometimes it may actually be a step in the right direction, a midpoint of sorts between shallow materialism and actual faith. (My favorite definition of faith is Truman Madsen's: "trust in a being about whom we have some knowledge." I can defend that in purely theological terms, but that's a discussion for another time and place.)

So why would a psychic expect to make a go of it in American Fork, in the most pious of major Mormon counties? Is there something we ordinary mortals might see to explain this?

Here is my market analysis:

If we measure faith in terms of something obvious, such as regular church attendance, at least among the able-bodied, there are thousands upon thousands of little spiritual vacuums here in "the hub of northern Utah County" which might suck in superstitions of various stripes. A lot of those little vacuums are nominally LDS, simply because that is the predominant culture here. I'm not saying that waves of these souls will inundate downtown American Fork's newest service provider, but some will go there.

Others will continue turning to more conventional superstitions, such as inspirational Internet spam or its spiritual precursors. These include the thriving oral tradition of anonymous, generic faith-promoting rumors (not just LDS) and its written equivalent, the almost ubiquitous multivolume phenomenon, Especially for Mormons. All of these are substitutes for one's own religious experience.

But a lot of folks will probably remain content to keep looking for four-leaf clovers, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, consulting groundhogs for long-term weather forecasts, accepting predictions made by economists, and believing that Social Security taxes go into a lockbox somewhere with the taxpayer's name on them.

To each his or her own.

As we welcome the weird arts to our fair city, I am moved to question:

Is it necessary to treat every little thing as if it were a sign of something? Can't some things, such as the opening of an unusual new business, just be interesting? Or amusing? Must we take everything so seriously all the time?

In that spirit, I am moved to question further:

When psychics look for commercial real estate, do they look for properties which are currently vacant, or are they able to detect properties which are about to become vacant, whether the present occupants foresee it or not?

Is it merely a coincidence that the Psychic Friends Network declared bankruptcy on Groundhog Day in 1998?

Is it necessary to call to make an appointment to see a psychic, or will he or she just know you're coming?

Is it a waste of money for a psychic to get caller ID?

And could our fair city's newest downtown business help us discern at what point in the space-time continuum City officials will begin to take seriously the Downtown American Fork, Inc., proposal for downtown rehabilitation? (Oops, how did that get in here?)

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