Justin Gitlin ’15 having his fortune told by the Oracle of Middletown aka Ron Shalom GRAD.
If you haven’t been around the Usdan courtyard lately, you may have missed a couple fun and mysterious happenings in the last week. A bodysuit-clad individual serenaded people outside of Usdan on November 3, and last Friday the Oracle of Middletown appeared to tell people their fortunes for 25 cents or a few points (an old cassette tape was used for swiping purposes). The person behind both of these incidents is Ron Shalom, a graduate student in Music Composition. He was kind enough to answer some of my questions on his experiences as an Oracle and his inspiration for these events.
What motivated you to sit on the ground on what was a cold afternoon and tell fortunes?
Deep anxieties about life in the academy, the absurdity of living in dystopia, having too much energy, the everyday urge to open irruptions in everyday life, como excusa para hacer florecer la intimidad, to cradle love and support, to touch and hold people’s hands for a long time, an attraction to being blind in public.
Did you find out anything interesting about Wes students through your experiences?
Every student who had [a fortune told] reported having a fair bowel movement that morning, although its quality was never attributed to the same feature.
Did you discover anything about the art of telling the future?
It seemed to frighten some people, which was perplexing because of course the future is terrifying, so why do they seek to know it? I tried to be loving and reassuring for this reason, though.
What was your favorite fortune that you told? What was your favorite moment of the afternoon?
People were generous and careful with me. Someone brought me tea because I looked cold, another took the time to lead me to the bathroom, several paid more than the symbolic coinage required for their fortune. Many questions about love, relationships. Seekers entrusted me with questions of gravity. I was forced to curtail prophecies, there is always more than can be told, but one in particular I wanted to say much more. Someone asked whether she will be able to find a way of life as a feminist that was both instrumental and personally fulfilling. I basically responded that she was fighting a war that required everything of her but that love was on her side. I didn’t say that if she takes the matter seriously then it’s far past the time when she can worry about personal fulfillment. Obviously I have my own hangups about that.
How did you decide which props to use?
I hoard things, collect trash, accumulate tools and appendages. Daniel Fishkin GRAD lent me the portable speaker he built. Much of what I do is just a matter of arranging crap in the right way. Ritual is a useful pretext.
Do you plan on doing this again anytime in the future?
Yes. I’ll be doing this sort of thing a lot I think.
If you see Ron or any other mysterious happenings around campus, you can participate, talk to him, and maybe snap a few pics and send them to staff[at]wesleying[dot]org.