Archive for the ‘Tarot’ Category

The Empress (Card 3)

The Empress

We have just seen the close of two major presidential campaigns: one driven primarily by love and hope, and the other driven primarily by hate and fear.

The campaign that was driven by love and hope was a productive and fertile campaign, amazing observers with a stream of innovative methods and creative output; appealing to voters on a variety of different levels.

The campaign that was driven by hate and fear produced little but anger and backbiting, disgusting most of those who watched it sputter and die.

It is true that anger and hatred can lead to creativity—how else can we explain the impressive career of Elvis Costello?—but I have come to believe that the highest and best creative effort comes from love and joy.

The Empress card in the tarot deck symbolizes (among many other things) the loving fertility that makes life both possible and worth living.

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The High Priestess (Card 2)

Some say that 20-year high school reunions are the best reunions. By then, your classmates have sloughed off all they will ever lose of what they unconsciously copied from their parents; and reveal those true facets of their personalities that they once kept hidden, whether from fear or from ignorance. After 20 years, you can see the people you grew up with and know them for the first time.

The High Priestess card in the tarot deck symbolizes what is shrouded and what is occult—in other words, what is hidden in ourselves from others, whether unknowingly or deliberately.

That which is hidden is an essential part of life, if only because almost all of the world is hidden from us. We know so little, and there is so much to be known. Part of the wonder of life is its mystery; the sense that there are hidden depths to everyone and everything you see, including yourself; and that even what you know today might not still be true in a year, as people grow and things wear out and new connections get made. Life has an infinite capacity to surprise, and that surprise is nothing more than the hidden becoming the seen.

Beyond what is hidden without artifice is that which is hidden with artifice, the occult, of which I have little to say. Gnostics, kabbalists, Scientologists, Straussians, etc.…if the wisdom you claim to possess is truly transcendental, then prove it in the open. Until then, why waste the time?

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The Magician (Card 1)

There seems to be a hierarchy in the computer world, with the elite programmers as the superstars and the help desk and documentation folks as the untouchables. The principle seems to be that those who can make the machines do their will are those most worthy of our applause.

In politics, charisma gets awed admiration—the ability of a Bill Clinton to charm others into doing what he wants done. Parliamentarians also get respect, as people whose knowledge of the rules allows them to control that which the rules govern.

These are forms of magic; variations on the theme that to know the right words is to have power over others. I believe a longing for that power is why teenagers are so interested in magic—it’s a fantasy of control treasured by those who control so little.

Before I went to graduate school, I rarely wanted to control anything outside of my immediate surroundings (when I was a teenager, I never understood the appeal of magic). I was happy to be left with my books and my dreams and my pen and paper.

As I progressed through my professional training and began to think of what I would do with it…well, there’s that word: do. What would I do? If I were to want to do anything, then I would have to know how to do it.

And that is the thought that led me to The Magician, which in the tarot deck symbolizes good thoughts transformed into good deeds through the power of knowledge, insight, skill, and disciplined application (spells and enchantments unnecessary).

If I were to want to do a task, then being able to control the machine that does that task is essential. If I were to want to do something more complicated than a task, then being able to appeal to people so that they would do that work with me is essential. Neither skill comes naturally to me—I’d still rather curl up with my books and my thoughts—but if the price of living naturally is to spend the rest of my life being as useless to the world as I was in my 20s, then I will put “living naturally” back on the shelf and continue my shopping elsewhere.

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The Fool (Card 0)

Several weeks ago, I bought a tarot deck and checked out a book about it because I was intrigued by the idea of learning how to give readings. The book’s author recommended going through the deck and reflecting on how the archetype of each card relates to my life experiences; an idea that attracted me.

I am just now able to get past the very first card, The Fool, which symbolizes optimistic and youthful jaunts into the unknown to seek new ideas, new experiences, and truth. The Fool is the starting point, and it has stuck with me because I have always loved starting points.

When I was in elementary school, I would read the World Book encyclopedia. I picked a volume, turned to a random page in it, and off I went, intoxicated by the shallow swirl of faraway places, unfamiliar cultures, and notable people.

In my twenties, I was a “perpetual college student,” wanting nothing more in life than access to a good library and the free time to use it. I dabbled in this subject and that, never delving too deeply or settling too long. I sought novelty and breadth rather than commitment and depth.

In my thirties, I came to see the problem with being a perpetual Fool. But I will save that for the next card.

(A side note: Like the Fool on the card, I did almost walk off a cliff once. During a summer vacation at Sea Ranch when I was nine, I was so engrossed by the book I was reading that I did not notice the approach of certain doom. Fortunately, my sister Amy yelled at me to watch where I was going.)

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