Dreaming Of Reluctant Leadership?
A Bed Time Story, From
The Fortune Teller’s Tent*
Once upon a time, a much younger Fortune Teller (who had not yet learned the wisdom of hiding behind fictional characters) found herself on a rather poorly marked spiritual path. There were many brambles and forky twists in the road, and the Fortune Teller was afraid she would lose her way.
She thought it would be nice to have few more landmarks and maybe a map (not to mention a few less brambles).
So she sought out others who were on a similar path, others with experience and knowledge and hedge clippers.
And she found them!
But the Others didn’t offer her a map. They didn’t have a compass either, and worse? They didn’t really appear to be *doing* much of anything.
They just sort of milled around, muttering about moss and North and trees, and the spiritual infusionality of non-existant sorts of energy. It appeared that they were building a sort of compound on the crossroads of the path, but without any method or plan.
The whole thing looked very haphazard and Dr.Suess-ish, made mostly out of bits and pieces apparently stolen from nearby towns and trash piles.
And when she approached them, the Others shocked the young Fortune Teller, by immediately turning to *her* for their own direction and guidance!
Flustered, but moved by their need, she did her best to help out where she could, telling herself that it was only for a few days… then weeks… then months. Slowly, she helped shore up their community, taught them how to brace the walls of their mismashed homes-of-belief (so that they didn’t topple under their own weight). She even told a fortune or two, here and there, where it seemed appropriate.
Then ’round about a year later…
It all went horribly wrong.
A few of the Others began referring to her as their “spiritual leader,” which gave her a case of the blithering-wonkers.
(If you don’t know what the blithering-wonkers are, I can’t really enlighten you. I can only assure you that they are indeed very blithering, and quite wonkers.)
Now, she didn’t much care for being called a “spiritual leader”, and she was certain that the “g-word” (guru) wouldn’t be far behind. Images of airports, flowers, and red Kool-Aid floated through her head, and her ego was horrified rather than flattered by the prospect of “followers”.
She’d embarked on this trip in hopes of guidance and a sense of center for her own life, not so she could play at being a guru-ess, and she had no intention whatsoever of taking responsibility for other people’s spiritual goof ups onto her shoulders.
Besides, she’d look terrible in saffron robes. Totally wrong for her complexion.
And she was frightened to within a hair’s breath of catatonia, without the comfort of the cats.
So the Fortune Teller threw a very public temper-tantrum-hissy-fit, and made her position quite clear: She was not their leader, she was not their teacher, and they were to immediately stop giving people the impression that she was anything of the sort.
She brought her point home by stamping her feet repeatedly, and offering up her current behavior as supporting evidence of her unsuitability.
After all, real spiritual leaders don’t go around throwing temper-tantrum hissy fits, right? Right!?
But the Others wouldn’t drop it. And one woman in particular? She started bleating, loudly, that the Fortune Teller *was* the leader, and she was going to follow, and that she’d damn well better get used to it!
The rest of the group took up the cry, and soon the forest path was filled with calls of “Our Leader, our Shepard!” and “Do not abandon us in our hour of need!” and “Where are the cookies? Will they be shaped like ponies!?”
Hearing this, the young Fortune teller plopped down where she was, and cried.
“How had this happened?” she sniffled to herself. “One minute, I was blundering along a bramble filled path, and the next, I was being shoved into a leadership role by a bossy, self-declared sheep! It’s down right disrespectful, it is!”
But it wasn’t the bizarre, backwards sort of disrespect of calling her their spiritual leader, and yet refusing to listen to her, which troubled her – it was her own fears of responsibility and failure.
What if she led them down the wrong path?
What if she was mistaken in her ideas? What if they misunderstood her intent, if she mispoke, if they got MORE lost, because of her?
So she fretted and fussed until her guts were in a knot and beyond, until well after 3 am or so. (You see, back then, her preferred form of devotional prayer was the ritualized twisting and knotting of internal organs. In case you’re wondering? She no longer recommends the technique, and has mostly discontinued the practice in favor of more ordinary anxiety attacks. It’s saved her a fortune in antacids.)
Eventually, she drifted into a pseudo-sleep with the help of a grocery-store-bargain-paperback rescued from the trash pile of the not-really-a-compound-at-the-crossroads-compound.
A supporting character in the novel was an absurdly stereotypical Hasidic Jew. He sleuthed through the chapters in orthodox clothing (hat, underwear and all), liberal sprinklings of Yiddish accenting his conversations, then he sleuthed into her dreams.
“Oy, vey!!” came the voice in the Fortune Teller’s head.
“Always the nervous khalere!” (She knew, from the book, that “nervous khalere” meant, roughly, that she was a blithering, wonkified wreck.)
A broad, bearded face appeared out of nowhere, nodding back and forth as if to say Tsk, Tsk, it’s movements accentuated by the a wide brimmed hat.
“Do not be such a meshugeneh!(madwoman) Lead like a GOAT!”
At the word “goat”, the face pop-POPPED! out of existence, only to be replaced by an image of a carousel goat, as sharp as if it had been plucked straight from a stock photo service.
It was carved in intricate detail, each curve of his curly coat gleaming, a blue ribbon and gold bell around his neck. Slowly, one corner of the image began to curl, and it was handed to the Fortune teller out of her dream, as if it were a page torn from a book.
The voice rang out again, “Gai shoyn, gai! (now don’t be silly, scram!)” The dream vanished with an audible *BANG* and, then she was wide awake.
“Lead like a goat!! Of course!” Comforted, the young Fortune teller tucked the image of the bellwether deeply into her mind, snuggled back into her pillows, and drifted into a deep sleep, accompanied by the purring cats of catatonia.
*This previously published in a slightly different form on MindTweaks, ’round about 2007ish, and told in multiple ways before that. In other words? This is one of my go-to tales. So if you’ve heard it before? Deal with it. If this was your first exposure? Expect to hear it again.
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There is a moral and meaning to this story, but I’d love to hear what you take away from the poor, tortured ‘Teller’s tale. Share? Pretty please? Don’t make me beg!