Superstition and illusions of control

We’ve been so busy and distracted trying to sell one house in Portland and buy another in Oakland.* No matter how much logic I try to apply to the situation, no matter how I recognize that probabilities, procedures, and other reasonable things underlie these processes, I feel overwhelmed by the desire to consult horoscopes, look at fortune cookie fortunes, knock on wood and ward off the evil eye in various atavistic ways. The whole thing is reminding me a lot of early teenagehood. You know why 13 and 14 year old girls are so into astrology and fortunetelling? Show me someone who has spent several years trying to figure out why her body,  skin, social and emotional life have turned entirely upside down and I will show you someone who has at least a passing familiarity with the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The desire to assert control over a consistently unpredictable situation leads to these predictable efforts to constrain the present and future, no matter how silly the method.

In this state of mind I was thinking about our governor, as one does. His recent statement that  the IRS is the new Gestapo has generated a lot of attention. (I started writing “outburst” instead of “statement,” but prepared remarks which are formally posted on the official Maine state website don’t really meet the standards of an “outburst.”) If there was ever a doubt that deliberate efforts to offend were a central part of Governor LePage’s approach to politics, let that doubt be dispelled now. The man relishes a good nose-tweak like nobody I’ve ever seen. I would bet lots of money that there have been multiple recent references in the Blaine House to uncomfortably-positioned underwear.

In my unmoored and teenage-esque state of mind, I can’t help thinking about how well Governor LePage fills the role of “the Fool” in the tarot deck. In the traditional meanings assigned to the card, the Fool is kind of a chaotic change-agent, without a whole lot of concern for risks, precedents or consequences. I feel like there’s a lot of that kind of energy to LePage’s leadership. If you’re in a position right now where you don’t have a lot, you’re probably not too concerned that he seems to be tearing down the existing edifices of state programming, government and propriety. On the other hand, if you are invested in or generally like the way things are in Maine, his behavior is likely to be of some concern to you.  Either way, the Gestapo comments confirm that the man is who he is, he is quite up-front about it, and no amount of requests that he be attentive to the concerns or feelings of others is likely to change him.

As I said in my opinion article in the Portland Press Herald this weekend, the governor does what he wants. A focus on his rhetoric is only humoring that part of him that gets a kick out of it. The idea that public outrage will somehow change the governor’s approach to politics is, sadly, no more effective than my efforts to scry successful house sales out of the leaves at the bottom of my teacup. Just as I should simply continue to focus on things that increase the probability of my preferred outcome — keeping the house in shape, maintaining communication with my brokers — people who would prefer not to be governed by a chaotic change-agent should work to elect people this year who will inhibit the governor’s more Foolish impulses.


* The obligatory advertisement:  interested in a well-maintained two-family house in a great Portland neighborhood? Call me for the special blog-reader’s discount!

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