Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life

Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life

by Robert Moss


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608683369
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 10/13/2015
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 276,907
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Robert Moss, the creator of Active Dreaming, teaches people around the world to transform, heal, and optimize their lives. He is also a poet and novelist. His books include The Three “Only” Things, Active Dreaming, and Dreaming the Soul Back Home. He spends half his year on the road and half at home in upstate New York.

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Sidewalk Oracles

Playing With Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life

By Robert Moss

New World Library

Copyright © 2015 Robert Moss
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60868-337-6



There is one common breathing, one common flow; all things are in sympathy.

— Hippocrates

We are embarking on a path of real magic. Real magic is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this world. We do this when we go dreaming and when we remember to bring something back. In dreaming, we go to other realities that may include places of guidance, initiation, challenge, adventure, healing. When we bring something back from these excursions, and take action in ordinary life to embody the guidance and energy we receive, that is a practice of real magic.

We go dreaming in the night. We do it quite spontaneously. We can do it by setting an intention for our nocturnal adventures. We can do it as lucid dreamers, awakened to the fact that we are dreaming and able to navigate the dreamlands consciously. We can do it in the way of the shaman, traveling intentionally, conscious and hyperawake, riding the drum to locales beyond the ordinary, and bringing back gifts.

We can also walk the roads of everyday life as conscious dreamers, learning to recognize how the world is speaking to us in signs and symbols, and how a deeper order of events may reveal itself through the play of synchronicity. In night dreams and conscious excursions, we get out there; we go near or far into other orders of reality where the rules of linear time and Newtonian physics do not apply. Through synchronicity, powers of the deeper reality come poking and probing through the walls of our consensual hallucinations to bring us awake. Sometimes they work to confirm or encourage us in a certain line of action; sometimes they intercede to knock us back and discourage us from persisting in the worst of our errors.

Synchronicity is when the universe gets personal. Navigating by synchronicity is the dreamer's way of operating 24/7. Though the word synchronicity is a modern invention — Jung made it up because he noticed that people have a hard time talking about coincidence — the phenomenon has been recognized, and highly valued, from the most ancient times. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that the deepest order in our experienced universe is the effect of "a child playing with game pieces" in another reality. As the game pieces fall, we notice the reverberations, in the play of coincidence.

When we pay attention, we find that we are given signs by the world around us every day. Like a street sign, a synchronistic event may seem to say Stop or Go, Dead End or Fast Lane. Beyond these signs, we find ourselves moving in a field of symbolic resonance that not only reflects back our inner themes and preoccupations, but provides confirmation or course correction. A symbol is more than a sign: it brings together what we know with what we do not yet know.

Through the weaving of synchronicity, we are brought awake and alive to a hidden order of events, to the understory of our world and our lives. As in the scene in the movie The Matrix when the black cat crosses the room in the same way twice, riffs of coincidence (for which I have coined the term reincidence) can teach us that consensual reality may be far less solid than we supposed.

This book provides roadside assistance for the conscious traveler in the dream of waking life. We will learn how the world is speaking to us in many voices through signs and symbols and synchronicity, and how we can bring from these many voices guidance, joy, and a deeper sense of what it is all about. This is a book of practice rather than theory, and I will follow the Gryphon's advice:

"Explain all that," said the Mock Turtle.

"No, no! The adventures first," said the Gryphon in an impatient tone: "explanations take such a dreadful time."

[Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland]

Adventures are more fun than explanations, and a story is our easiest way to get to the truth of a matter and to carry that truth. I will start with three personal stories because I agree with Mark Twain when he says, "I do not wish to hear about the moon from someone who has not been there." These stories are not about traveling to the moon (I have written about that in other books), but about encounters with a deeper reality in quite ordinary places: a pub, a gritty urban street, and a backyard.

You do not need to travel far to encounter powers of the deeper world or to hear oracles speak. You are at the center of the multidimensional universe right now. The doors to the Otherworld open from wherever you are, and the traffic moves both ways.


The fox had put his name on the pub, which should have clued me in to the possibility that stopping here for a beer and a bite might be more than a routine affair. The Firkin and Fox. Thoroughly English sounding, but used on the American side of the big pond for a chain of airport restaurants that do not have English ales on tap, and where you probably will not find meat pies or bangers on the menu. It was the only sit-down place with alcohol available that seemed to be open on that long concourse at Washington's Dulles airport, so I was ready to take the best I could get.

There was already a tilt to my day, that shift away from the sense that the world is solid or fixed that comes when your plans have been screwed up and you are traveling on a completely different itinerary from the one you had had signed, sealed, and emailed. I had discovered in the early hours that the first flight in a long journey had been canceled. I had to wait only twenty minutes in a phone queue before a helpful agent rebooked me. I was now traveling via Dulles instead of Newark. So be it. Such changes in plans bring a Trickster energy into play. If you can avoid type A personality disorder and are not allergic to surprises, you may find things and people coming together in unusual ways, giving you, at the least, the gift of a fresh story.

However, it did not seem that the Firkin and Fox was going to be part of my story. The place was jam-packed.

I was moving on when a woman started disentangling herself from her seat at the bar. The young man next to her reached down to help her with her bags. As she came toward me, I moved to take her seat.

"Your timing is exquisite," I thanked her.

"You are going to enjoy that young man," was her unlikely response.

The young man at the bar was behaving oddly, hopping back and forth between the now vacant seat and the one he had been sitting on. He finally decided I could have his previous seat. Clearly, there was going to be some kind of engagement here. His baby-blue eyes floated up out of a pale and desperate face.

He declared, "I know you are an elder. I have been asking for an elder to help me."

He asked me to guess his age. I did, and got it right. Twenty-two. Now he was almost beseeching. "What can you tell me about life?"

"Never leave home without your sense of humor."

"I know. But I get so intense, so aggressive. Like, if someone bumps the back of my seat" — he thumped on the back of my seat to make his point — "I want to get up and get in that guy's face."

He hit the back of my seat a second time, but I did not lose my beer or my patience. "I'll tell you something else I have learned about life," I said carefully. "We always have the freedom to choose our attitude."

He stopped banging the back of my seat. "Oh my God, you're right. It's amazing you just sit down next to me and say that."

He pushed his face close to mine as if he needed to be petted. He reminded me of someone. Who was it? Got it. He resembled Sméagol in The Lord of the Rings, in his gentler, beseeching mode. The absence of hair on his head was the least notable point of resemblance.

He spoke of how he was headed for San Francisco, to make some new life. He knew nobody in the Bay Area. I assured him he would make friends soon enough, and gave him a few suggestions about the city.

He wanted something more from me I could not yet fathom.

As he went on talking, questioning, I began to sense the shape and the history of his need. He talked about his military family in Virginia and his estrangement from his father, who sounded like an iron-hard soldier of the old Southern school. He had suffered some recent shaming and rejection by his father, and he was bleeding inside. It took no great intuition on my part to realize that his dad had not been able to accept that this young man was gay.

I told him that I, too, came from a military family and that I had been estranged from my father until three years before his death, when we became the best of friends. I told the young man that if it were my life, I would make it my game to make all well with my dad while he was still in the world.

"You're giving me goose bumps." He showed me. His whole arm was chicken skin.

"Truth comes with goose bumps."

He was crying now, leaking onto my shoulder.

"You come into the bar," he sobbed, "you take a seat, and you tell me the most important things I've ever been told."

"Here's something else I've learned: The world speaks to us through coincidence and chance encounters. It's a kind of magic."

"Is that what you are? A magician? You got me crying at the bar, for chrissake."

"Well that lady who gave me her seat did give you a good review."

I was ready to leave.

"Can I see you again?"

"No, this was our moment. The only time for us."

He wanted to pay for my burger and beer. Of course I would not let him.

"Can I at least have a hug?"

I gave him that.

As I headed for my departure gate, I turned back to look at the fox on the sign of the pub. I said in my mind, Thank you. I had the deep feeling that my chance encounter with the desperate young man at the bar had pulled him back from the brink of suicide. There is often more than chance going on in a chance encounter.


One of the everyday oracles the Greeks valued most highly was the kledon. A kledon is sound or speech coming out of silence or undifferentiated noise. In the formless hubbub of a city street, I received a kledon one summer that gave me very direct guidance on a conflictive situation. It not only echoed the situation back to me in a way that enabled me to grasp its essence; it gave me an immediate and practical means to handle that tricky situation with tact and bring it to happy resolution.

A kledon is often something you overhear — a snatch from a stranger's conversation, a song from a passing car radio, the croak or cry of a bird, the siren of an ambulance. My kledon that day was pointed at me, inspired by my little dog, Oskar.

Oskar is a miniature schnauzer who weighs about twenty pounds. He has hosts of admirers. It is not unusual for him to draw three cries like "What a cutie!" in a single block. That morning, he drew a different kind of remark.

Walking Oskar toward the park around breakfast time, I was debating with myself whether I could really manage to take on two big new projects that season. Each project would demand a great amount of time, energy, and focus. Worse, it was possible that they could prove to be mutually competing and that I would find myself out of favor with both project managers.

I had not asked for specific guidance that morning. But I had the theme on my mind when a stranger got out of his truck a few houses up the street from my home. He hoisted a huge carton of stuff out of his vehicle, raising it to shoulder height. As he approached me, he pointed his chin at my dog and said, "He can't kill us both at the same time, can he?"

I was startled, slightly shaken. Instead of coming up with a riposte, which I am usually good at, I walked on, trying to make sense of this unexpected wisecrack. I felt that behind the joke, a Joker of a larger kind was in play.

I played with possible fits between the humorous question the stranger had addressed to me and the inner question that was on my mind. The inner question was, Can I handle two new projects at the same time? The kledon I received was, "He can't kill us both at the same time, can he?" It did not cause brain damage to figure out the connection. I had been told I could not tackle more than one project at a time.

I accepted the message. I could not "kill" two big projects at once. I would have to "kill" one of them in the sense of dropping it, in order to "kill" the other in the sense of successful execution. I knew which project I would now drop. Having made that choice, I needed to find the right way to communicate my decision to the very nice project manager I was about to disappoint.

I picked up the phone a couple of hours later. The project manager was unhappy when I told him I would have to bow out of plans made long before, especially when I explained that this was because I was choosing another company and another venture over his. The conversation was a little strained until I told him my dog story. When I repeated the kledon, "He can't kill us both at the same time," the manager roared with laughter. He shouted, "I get it!"

I thanked him and gave a nod to the Joker I sensed behind the joke on the street that day.


The more grave the issue, the more important to keep our sense of humor. Death is much too serious to be approached with solemnity.

I was at home on a bitter winter's night, working feverishly on a book that became The Dreamer's Book of the Dead, when I felt that a mythic trickster came into play in the small, furry body of a backyard animal. I was up at 4:00 AM because I was determined that on this particular night I was somehow going to crack the Yeats Code. The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats made it one of the great quests of his life to deliver a grand modern myth, a Book of the Dead that would match the famous ones from Egypt and Tibet but speak in images and forms better suited to the contemporary world. With his immense power of poetic speech, Yeats had the voice to carry through his design. His lifelong dedication to experiential research into the realms of spirit and the spirits, his experiments in "mutual visioning," and his craft as a working magician of a great esoteric order gave him the raw materials for a Book of the Dead that would be founded on firsthand knowledge of the things that really matter.

But he exhausted himself, and his readers, with his efforts to pull it all together in prose in two versions of the book he called A Vision. I was determined, that night, to follow him as far as he was able to go. And come 4:00 in the morning, I had a headache and was utterly exhausted by the complex machinery of the last version of A Vision that he had published. While Yeats' poetry had thrilled and winged my imagination since boyhood, I felt that his attempt at a Book of the Dead (the part of A Vision that he titled "The Soul in Judgment") was actually cramping my mind and narrowing the gates of perception.

That winter, I was living, as well as working, in the basement apartment of my family home in a small Rust Belt city in the Northeast. I call this space my Cave. I staggered to the bedroom, dropping my clothes in a heap on the floor, and threw myself naked under the covers. I was on my way to dreamland when I heard a series of noises just behind my head. Scratching and scraping, then some rustling and scampering and — yes — some palpable gnawing.

Squirrels. I had been vaguely aware of their nesting activities around and under the back porch. Since the thermometer dropped into the single digits, they had been working to keep themselves warm and cozy, gathering old papers and leaves and garden trash into snugs and shanties under the back stairs. I had not felt any desire to interfere with their comforts — until now.

I was so very tired. Maybe if I pulled the covers up over my ears, I could ignore the noises from behind the wall.

I heard scratch, rustle, BANG! The last sound was exactly that of someone knocking.

My effort to ignore the squirrels was not prospering. Near the foot of the bed was a downstairs door to the garden, but we had not used it in years. I pulled a book table out of the way and struggled with the locks. When I finally got the door open, the squirrels fell silent. Naked, shivering against the deep snow in the yard, I snarled threats about what would happen to them if my sleep was disrupted again. I needed rest, and I also wanted dreams to ripen the words I was forming for things that were hard to express.

Scratch, rustle, scrape. Now one of the squirrels was running up and down the exterior wall of the house, inches from my head. I could picture him, fat and big and cocky, showing off to his harem and to lesser males in the pack, or whatever a collective of squirrels is called.

Knock, knock, BANG!

This was too much. Still naked, I wrenched open the door and yelled homicidal threats into the dark. Silence. Maybe the squirrels believed me this time. Back to bed.

Ratta-patta-tosk-BAM! Louder than before.

I pulled on my clothes and flung myself out the back door, into the snowy yard. I made snowballs and ice balls and threw them into the dark below the stairs. I found a hoe and poked and jabbed with that, at the litter under the back porch where the squirrel's nest must be.

Back inside my Cave, I listened for a while, calculating my next moves if the squirrels started their wild rumpus again. In my little world, there was now deep silence. But I was deep awake.


Excerpted from Sidewalk Oracles by Robert Moss. Copyright © 2015 Robert Moss. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Prologue: The Speaking Land

1. Making Real Magic

2. A Walk around Jung’s Tower

3. Becoming a Kairomancer
Twelve Rules of Kairomancy
Whatever You Think or Feel, the Universe Says Yes
Chance Favors the Prepared Mind
Your Own Will Come to You
You Live in the Speaking Land
Grow Your Poetic Health
Coincidence Multiplies on the Road
By What You Fall, You May Rise
Invoked or Uninvoked, Gods Are Present
You Walk in Many Worlds
Marry Your Field
Dance with the Trickster
The Way Will Show the Way

4. The Book of Sidewalk Oracles
Games to Start or Make Your Day
Game #1. Play Sidewalk Tarot
Game #2. Walk a Dream
Game #3. Keep Your Secret Book
Game #4. Listen for Your Daily Kledon
Game #5. Do It by the Book
Game #6. Play with Shelf Elves
Game #7. Chance an Encounter
Game #8. Notice What’s Showing through a Slip
Game #9. Check Your Inner Sound Track
Game #10. Déjà Vu All Over Again
Game #11. Expect the Unexpected Guest
Game #12. Look for the Spiral Question Mark
Game #13. Recognize Personal Omens
Game #14. Try the White Queen Gambit
Games for Two or More
Game #15. Play the Lightening Game
Game #16. Consult the Index Card Oracle
Game #17. Write a Message without Sending It

5. On Other Planes

6. Fox Tales

Select Bibliography
About the Author

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Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At several points I found myself smiling along and nodding to this approachable book. Coincidences and flukes can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your attitude. Mr. Moss uses Jungian archetypes to explore life's hiccups. The games are delightful and, surprisingly, helpful. There is an extensive bibliography, notes, and quotes to spur further reading into everything from anthropology to poetry. This was an easy read that provoked a lot of thought and fun.
WindOwl More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book you will want to keep nearby after your done enjoying it the first time! Sidewalk Oracles covers such topics as ancient ways of asking for guidance and Carl Jung's theory of Synchronicity with a delightful menu of practical ways to incorporate and use this wisdom in your daily life. It's filled with fun ideas, games and many examples to help you approach the world with joy and confidence and a touch of wonder.