I’m pretty sure that every kid in the 80s wanted a rock polisher. I never got one, although I included it on my Christmas list until at least 1986. I wanted the rock polisher, although hadn’t ever seen one in real life — none of my friends’ parents ever got them one either and to this day I’m not sure why. My only guess is that they were not only expensive, but loud. Now that I’m a parent myself I understand that costly and noisy are prohibitive features when it comes to children’s toys.
The rock polisher though, that wasn’t a toy. You didn’t play with it, at least not as I understood it while flipping through the pages of the Sears Wishbook each fall. You took ordinary rocks of the sort that I found in the shoulders of the road, buried in flower beds, or in muddy creek beds and tossed them into the contraption, and shortly thereafter they’d come out looking like gemstones, which to elementary school me, was nothing short of a miracle, and I wanted in on that action.
I planned to play with the gemstones I hoped to create, to incorporate them into my rich fantasy world of princesses, dragons, unicorns, and pixies. The folklore and fairytales I loved were filled with talismans and amulets, enchanted stones, and jewels with the power to exalt their owners from humble mills to imperial palaces. I think I thought that one such pebble might be hiding in the gravel of our driveway and that a rock polisher could bring out its true magic.
Like I said, I never got the rock polisher, and by high school I’d given it up for something better: real magic rocks. Crystals to be exact.
I’ll start by blaming Shirley MacLaine for my intro to New Age spirituality via The Oprah Winfrey Show. My friend and I sat glued to the television set listening to the mom from Terms of Endearment tell us about her past lives and UFO sightings in the remote altitudes of the Peruvian Andes, and I was so riveted by the possibility that this stuff could be real that after the show, I immediately checked Out on a Limb out of my local library and devoured it cover to cover even though I was only ten years old and had no context whatsoever for what I was reading. It didn’t matter though. This was the proof I needed: Magic. Was. Real. It had to be. An Oscar-winning celebrity said so!
From there it was only a few short years before I, black clad and trying desperately to look mysterious, could be found regularly skulking about the occult section of Waldenbooks. I wanted to cast spells to make boys like me, and I mean, isn’t that why witchcraft was invented in the first place? To bend the chaos and unpredictability of nature to the whims of our hearts? Surely there was an incantation that could make me popular, pretty, smart enough to pass introductory algebra? (Looking back I probably could have at least started by not looking like Lydia from Beetlejuice and studying instead of mooning over crushes.) Crystals gave me hope, though.
In the late-80s and early-90s all the cool kids wore little shards of wire-wrapped quartz on black silk or leather cords around our necks. The more the better, because our jewelry wasn’t just pretty. It had powers. My favorite necklace was rose quartz, because the pale pink stones were supposed to attract love, and isn’t that what I’ve always only ever longed for?
Unfortunately, I can’t say the rose quartz worked. The boys weren’t exactly beating down my door, and the ones whose attention I did manage to grab were probably far more attracted to the fact that at sixteen I was 5’6”, and 112 pounds with big boobs, than they were to my rose quartz. (Note: I no longer possess these enviable proportions — is there a stone that can bring back my adolescent figure? Selenite? Tourmaline? Diet Quartz?)
After the early 90s, after we stopped with the silk cord necklaces, it seems like the New Age craze died down somewhat, save for ya few wacky aunt types who moved to Sedona to channel spirit guides and bathe in energy vortexes. Also people in LA, but they’ve always been glamorously weird anyway.
Now we’re all that weird. And honestly, how can we help it? The world has lost its ever loving mind. We live in terrifying, stressful times the likes of which none of us Gen Xers ever dared imagine. Back when I wore my rose quartz choker as an idealistic eighteen year old, I believed with all of my heart that racism, war, communism, fascism, homophobia, and oppression were relics of a terrible bygone era. I knew that my generation had come to build a new, fair, peaceful and just society where everyone could thrive and listen to awesome music like Sonic Youth and The Pixies. Maybe we took for granted that that future was guaranteed so we carried on and ate our veggie burgers and got MFAs thinking everything would be fine, and we just didn’ t do the work. Maybe we thought because we educated, middle and upper class mainly white kids were okay, that surely everyone else was too. Looking back, I seem to recall that the term “slacker” was coined for Generation X. We resented it at the time, but I think it may have fit. So now?
I don’t know what the fuck happened because thirty years later Donald Trump is our president and I’m listening to Ariana Grande telling someone to break up with their girlfriend so they can “hit it in the morning.” God help us. I actually mean that. God? You listening? Please help us.
On the bright side, we do have the camera phones we always imagined in our futures, but before I digress..
New Age spirituality has become mainstream. I get it. We are desperate. We need some goddamn hope around here and magic and faith has always, always offered us some hope. Maybe there is something else. Maybe everything does happen for a reason. Our world is screaming to be saved and we have fucked shit up so badly that it looks like our only way out is a deus ex machina, so motherfuckers, that deus better exist or we are royally screwed.
What I’m saying is that as a society we are very sick. We are anxious, depressed, terrified and insecure. Our terror manifests physically as chronic illnesses, and violence against ourselves and one another. We don’t know who to believe. We don’t know what’s real anymore. We are hurting one another deeply and half the time (or more) we don’t even realize we are doing it. We are being gaslit and ghosted. Everyone’s a fucking narcissist, including me. Our futures are no longer guaranteed, and by futures, I mean tonight. Tomorrow. Next week.
Give us whatever can help us feel better and fix things. Give us all the magic rocks.
Last year I finally had to make the difficult decision to quit working at the yoga studio I loved very dearly. My decision was based solely on the fact that my two real jobs as a teacher had become too demanding (in a good way) to continue working my third job at yoga. It was a tough decision and I still miss the yoga studio a lot, but unless I clone myself, I really can’t be and do everything I’d like. Sacrifices have to be made.
One of the things I loved about working in a yoga studio was that I was surrounded by people who were working on themselves and looking for alternative answers to problems in their lives and in our world that traditional wisdom hadn’t been able to solve. Working there, I got to talk to a lot of interesting people who were all, like me, truth seekers, and often they claimed to have found magic bullet cures for all sorts of ills: celery juice, essential oils, turmeric, breathing out of one nostril and not the other, which I still haven’t figured out, and of course crystals.
They carried crystals in pouches, set them beside their mats, and wore them strung all over their lithe, vegan, Keto bodies as colorful beaded bracelets and gorgeous tasseled malas. In our retail section we sold lots of crystal jewelry, made locally. Our malas were the most stunningly beautiful, handmade necklaces I have ever seen. Yes, I definitely have one and I love it. I fell for cystals, hook, line, and sinker, as they say.
Until only recently, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, I never even questioned it. Moonstone creates harmony? Cool. Turquoise will protect me? GIVE ME SOME. Rose quartz will strengthen my relationship? I need that. BRING IT ON. Amethyst will help me manifest and citrine will attract money? Hell yeah! Pile on the purple and yellow stones. If rocks can do all this, how about a wheelbarrow full of them? I needed all the help I could get.
But nothing changed. I was the exact same, fucked up hot mess I always was, only now I had a bunch of pretty stones and some lovely bracelets and necklaces (which is something, I suppose).
The hard truth of this is that crystals are just rocks that are prettier and shinier than other rocks. They don’t actually DO anything except sit there. Any meaning they have, and I hate to have to tell you this, we instill in them.
No one ever questions how crystals work. I mean, think about it. WHO decided that obsidian elevates your vibration or what that even means? Who figured out that aventurine will make you lucky or that clear quartz will help me attune to my higher self, clarify my thoughts, or ward off negativity? Seriously! WHO? And why did we accept these statements as fact, without question?
The obvious answer is that we accept these arbitrary declarations because they sound great and we want to believe them.
Can we talk about celery juice for a minute? Last year all of a sudden everyone was juicing fucking celery and chugging it like it was beer at a frat party. It was THE thing to do on Instagram. Oh look at me in my Insta-story ramming these nasty-assed celery stalks into my five hundred dollar juicer because I AM HEALTHIER AND THEREFORE CARE ABOUT MYSELF MORE WHICH MAKES ME BETTER THAN YOUR SORRY ASS.
It was so gross. I hate celery. When I cooked professionally I once worked with a chef who so despised celery that he literally banned it from his restaurant because it ruined everything and I agree with him.
But no one else I knew did. Because OMG celery juice could cure everything from rashes to infertility to ulcers to probably freaking testicular cancer, I don’t know, and I’m sure I heard from more than one person that celery juice would absolutely make you skinny, which is usually why anyone does anything these days. Celery juice, celery juice.
And nobody questioned any of these miraculous health claims. Do you know where the celery juice craze originated? A medical study? A team of doctors at Johns Hopkins? Nutritional science? No. None of that.
The fad was started by a guy who calls himself “The Medical Medium” and he has a very long disclaimer on his website so no one sues him for making bogus medical claims. A medium is a person who claims to communicate with spirits, okay? Spirits allegedly told this dude that we all need to be drinking celery juice. Spirits. Ghosts.
Have y’all never watched a horror movie? You should know better than to trust anything a goddamn ghost tells you. They’re trying to lure us to our own deaths so we can be like them. For real. Plot of every scary movie. Ghosts are trying to kill us so please don’t take nutritional advice from them.
I’m kidding of course because GHOSTS AREN’T REAL. And you shouldn’t blindly accept it as fact if someone tells you a spirit told them that you oughta be drinking celery juice every day to fix all your woes and then immediately go out and buy out all the organic celery in the Whole Foods produce section. Do you realize how crazy this sounds? Please stop and think about this for a second. It is fucking insane.
The exact same logic applies to crystals. There is exactly zero evidence as to their effectiveness. Any power we attribute to them is pure faith. FAITH and nothing else.
Does that mean we all need to toss our crystals into the sea? No.
I actually think that crystals are kind of nice and can still be very useful healing tools. In fact, I think if you, like me, enjoy crystals then you should go get some more.
But I’m going to repeat once more. Crystals are not magic.
Crystals are not a fast pass to healing, allowing you to bypass the line of doing the hard work on yourself that will actually manifest the better life you desire.
Here’s an example.
A few months ago, a single friend of mine got sick of dating guys who were a bunch of selfish, lying pricks.
“I need to get some lapis because my tarot card reader told me that lapis will protect me from narcissists,” she said.
I immediately pictured her on a date with an asshole. I imagined her pulling out her blue stone and it withering the man on the spot much like kryptonite’s effect on Superman. I think we know that’s not going to happen.
But think of it differently. The lapis can have the placebo like effect of boosting her confidence and nothing repels abusive men faster than a confident woman.
Crystals can be powerful tools for mindfulness. They can serve as visual reminders of things we need to work on, strive for, and in this case, be wary of.
If I put a crystal on my desk to help me focus when I’m writing, seeing the crystal there in front of me will help me remember not to get distracted. It’s not that the crystal has special powers. It’s that it’s a cue.
One of my malas was supposed to bring me physical health. I felt better when I wore it because feeling it around my neck and seeing it on my body helped me be more aware of making healthier choices. But ultimately I was the one making the healthier choices – not the beads in the mala. I was the one doing the work. The stones helped me remember I needed to stop eating Reese’s Cups and have a salad instead.
Another benefit of crystals that I don’t want to discount is their beauty. It never hurts to surround ourselves with as much natural beauty as possible. Raw and polished stones are lovely to behold. They glitter and glint and it feels good to see the way they refract light. There is nothing wrong with this and everything right about it. And there is lots of actual scientific evidence that says that beauty is healing and so is nature, and rocks are nature. Have as many pretty sparkly things on you and near you as you like. Go for it.
Remember that rock polisher? Well, I think we’re a lot like those ugly rocks ourselves. We are raw and full of jagged edges. We are flawed and muddy, and we seek a million different ways of transforming ourselves. We want to be polished and purified, and on our journeys we might try a lot of quick fixes and weird remedies to help speed up the process. But ultimately, the hard work we need to do on ourselves, like therapy, medication, exercise, eating healthier, learning to be mindful and introspective and to take responsibility for our own bullshit, is what will make us shine, and sometimes it takes a long time noisily tumbling around, over and over until we get it right.
*** And before I go, I’d like to include an important caveat here about crystals. As I said before, a lot of us want to believe in the fairytale of magic rocks, and we want to be surrounded by nice things, but it is very important to also consider where these things come from, what it takes to get them here, and who suffers as a result. If you knew the toll of mining rose quartz, you might think very differently about how much love energy is actually in it. Please read this article in The Guardian which goes more into depth on the dark side of the crystal craze.