Tuesday, November 26, 2013

stillness, change and choices

It's interesting, how still the two of disks feels in this deck, seemingly devoid of movement. In the traditional RWS image, and in many decks based off of it, you see a man juggling coins, pentacles, trying to keep them in the air. It requires a good bit of effort, that - dexterity, coordination, sheer energy.

Here, instead, you have a motionless figure, with two coins covering its eyes. It's not an unfamiliar image - the ancient Greeks and Romans used to do that, coins on the eyes to pay the ferryman to the underworld, and it is a myth and custom that is referenced commonly enough to this day, in stories, movies, tv shows. So you have a that, suggesting lifelessness, passing, but then the figure is green, with vines and leaves extending across the forehead, the cheeks. Is that not spring, renewal, birth and growth of a sort?

One coin is silver and one coin is gold - right and left, dexter and sinister, yameen and yasaar. One coin has the two-headed picture of Janus - another reference to antiquity. He was, apparently, the god of beginnings and ends, doorways, passages, gates and time. The other coin has an owl carved into it - a reference to wisdom perhaps, wisdom and a bird capable of the freedom of flight.

The thoth calls this card Change, and change see here, yes, in stillness. It is not a kind of change that necessarily brings to mind this cards, traditionally, rather than say, Death. Life begins and ends and if you do burial than yes, eventually your remains might fertilize the earth and some kind of flora might sprout forth in the same place, but usually this card refers to more immediate, more mundane change - the ones you yourself have to make, the ones in your grasp. Choices and decisions and juggling all the things on your plate.

As it so happens, in my case, right now, this card is apt.

Sometimes you can get so overwhelmed with despair, or resignation, or frustration, ennui, exhaustion, whatever you want to call it. It spins around your head and the temptation to just give up is so strong, except you can quite bring yourself to go there, but the pull of it is paralyzing in a way and it is so difficult to get anything done.

Sometimes, the unconventional, extreme type approach is the most helpful: narrow it down to a simple choice, with two options, two coins. Stillness or motion - give up or get to work, but pick one and do it right now, right here, right in this moment.

Not insignificant, I think, that I would pull this card alongside the Star. The recommended choice and change is pretty clear, here. Bathed in a kind of intense, red light, the woman walks through what looks like it could be an ordinary field, but could also be one made of so many vaguely sketched people. She walks forward, and keeps walking.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A deck I could not resist

So my tarot absence of the last half-year or so has extended not just to this blog and working with the cards, really, but also to other tarot websites I usually frequent, and to buying any new decks. After all, if I am not currently even USING the ones I have, I surely should not procure any more until that changes.

So that has been that, up until a few days ago. I was browsing online is a general way, about decks and things and somehow found myself on the Kickstarter page for a new tarot deck. I've browsed Kickstarter before, but never have been tempted enough to actually join in on funding a project. The Light Visions Tarot, it turns out, did indeed tempt me in such a way. I pledged enough to get a copy of the deck because well, it is the first deck in many months to really strongly call to me. Love the art technique and the recognizable but not just a RWS clone nature of it, and yeah.

It is also the first deck in a long time that I have bought without first reading various talk of it on blogs here or on Aeclectic. No idea about anything around this other than what the Kickstarter page says. Fortunately it is relatively easy for me, with things like this, to kind of forget about it entirely for a while, so the wait at least should not be a bother.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On and Off

When people ask how long I've been reading and collecting tarot cards for, I usually say 'ten years, but on and off' or some variation thereof.

This is what I mean. It's like a switch goes off in my head and suddenly for no particular reason I just cannot get my brain to...work with the cards. It slides, drifts about into other things. Later, later it says, and days and weeks pass and my decks sit there, sadly untouched.

I haven't forgotten this blog though, or those I read. Did a series of readings that were kind of an interesting challenge - a character in an online D&D game I DM, reading cards for fictional characters played by other people, except me actually pulling and reading cards for it. It was like pulling teeth actually reading them, but was interesting. Perhaps will repost here once I finish with the last bit of that.

Hope everyone is well, at least relatively speaking. :]

Thursday, April 25, 2013

bit more tarot poetry

Another try at this particular exercise...
change never does just sprout
forth; it does not bloom
in sudden bursts of brilliant color,
come spring.

no, change wildly spins
and be must grasped painfully with teeth.
it must be chased, pulled out
from deepest depths within.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Deck comparison, Three-Fold

So a while ago I asked for suggestions to do a deck comparison type post series on. I've not forgotten about it, and decided to start off with a couple of posts following up on an idea posted by thesycamoretree: something Thothy, something RWSy, and something Else. These will be done purely by my own intuitive readings, with no reference material. Why? Because anyone can look up the difference in these decks as written down in books, so why read me rehashing the same thing?

To start off with, why not begin with the actual Thoth and RWS (Smith Centennial ed., in my case) and add the Mary-El to that mix? 

Starting off with my favorite of these, the Thoth. Here, the King has been transformed into a Knight - less the superior to the Queen than her equal, and more dynamic a concept than the King image. It can be confusing at first, but I find with this in particular its best to just roll with it, is what it is, and onwards.

The Knight of Cups rides his horse, a pure white pegasus, symbols of god and of purity and power. He rides it upwards, away, showing the kind of optimistic ambition that can be associated with this card. Take that too far and you have escape into unreality, escape into dreams, escapism into the cup or so many similar things. Here, more positively, he rides above the wild wave, controlled in his motion so that they do not touch him. Just sketched into one of these waves we can see a peacock: so much show, and isn't it true? Doesn't he grave the applause just a bit? Emotionally he does, for reassurance rather than ego perhaps, but nonetheless.

Emotional energy as power here: the glowing of the cancer crab in the cup, the wings that sprout out of his back. His armor is green, like the suit of the Fool: optimist, faithful, ready to push forward into the unknown anew, but perhaps sometimes less than fully aware of what he should be aware of. His strength is his heart, his connection to others. His horse looks back towards him, ready for the next command, ready to work together brilliantly, as they are wont to. The image scheme here (weird yellow tint of the digital image aside) is largely blue and white, appropriate for the pinnacle of the watery suit, and bringing out the contrast of the armor and the cup even more.

In contrast, the figure in the classic RWS is far more sedate. He sits on his throne, dressed primarily in blue es well. Waves surround this seat, and we can see him holding a cup in one hand, a lotus shaped scepter in the next. We see fish and a ship, just barely, in the water behind him. The ship for movement and fortune (it takes money to launch one, after all) the fish for bounty perhaps?

Looking at this card I am reminded of how, so often, people say that the courts are the hardest of the tarot deck to read. If one is talking about the RWS, I cannot say that I much disagree. We have a king on a throne, facing towards the right, holding a cup and sitting still. He looks comfortable there, I suppose. I cannot say that, from image alone and without my knowledge of memorized meanings, I can get much from this card. This is in major contrast to the Thoth's, where I am struck immediately by all the details and could go on and on about it for ages. This one evokes...nothing. I have to go back to what I 'know' this card to mean.

Color-wise, it is a nice scheme, blues and greens with just a bit of red makes a nice contrast, and I do quite enjoy the muted palette of the centennial edition.

Lastly, we have the Mary-El king. This deck dances to its own tune, its own internal scheme and ideas which are not necessarily drawn directly from either major tarot tradition. The deck creator had very specific meanings for the imagery in mind, but they don't jive with me, so I use my own take.

Immediately, I am struck by the composition of this card. I am reminded of the famous painting of Ophelia, drowned. Like this king she lay half-submerged in water, surrounded by lily pads, flowers. There are many things a king of cups can drown himself in, should the darker aspects of his nature overwhelm. But there is a different here, between this king and the girl: the trident. Poseidon carried a trident, in mythology, a tool through which to channel his godly might, and his symbol.

He does not drown, does not die, merely floats. Perhaps indeed this is merely a swim in the water, a moment of relaxation, a return to easier, less complicated times. Not all escapism must be destructive or dangerous. Sometimes a long bath or vigorous swim is just what we need to take our minds off of too stressful things, to get back the perspective we need.

The nudity of the King also works for me. It general nudity can signify great strength or great vulnerability. This king can exemplify both, at different times. A different take here, on the water element aspects of the card than in the others, but comes through loud and clear nonetheless.

The message of the day then: to move towards what you want, and do not be afraid to let yourself move forward with optimism, or to take a but of a break for distraction - but do not let that distraction take over to the point of causing vulnerability, weakness.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

balance of a king

Still hanging out with my most favorite comfort deck. Here's a quick little reading, asking for advice that I did for myself earlier today, while on the way to an internship interview (which I think went well..)

Not very surprisingly, the first card that comes up is the two of swords. A message of balance here, and strength even in the face of the unknown and uncertain. The lady here keeps holding those two swords up, both raised exactly to the same degree, in spite of that blindfold.

Which is to say, of course, that interviewing for any kind of professional opportunity is very often full of unknowns: what they really think of you, what they think of the other applicants, what they are ultimately deciding based on, what working there would even be like, etc. It's easy to be overenthusiastic or too apprehensive, easy to get overly nervous. For me too, it's easy to feel like you are in the position of powerlessness in such a situation: THEY are judging you, deciding your fate in this regard, you are the little maybe-worker monkey, aiming to please...

The second card reinforces that this too, is in fact an aspect of the whole thing where balance is needed. It reminds me of some advice an aquaintance shared with me not too long ago, about how ideally interviewing is a two way process: you too, are deciding whether going with their position is worth your while. When they ask you if you have questions, the best reply in not some formulaic why I would be a great worker in disguise type question, but you wanting to know: how does your organization fit my goals, skills, career plans.

Of course that's ideal. When you are desperately in need of any kind of income...well. But in my case, I am interviewing for internships, most of them unpaid. Yes, I need the professional experience on my resume, but they are getting my time, intellectual abilities, skills, experience, all of that for free. Not so much a position of powerlessness.

So speak to them as equals, have confidence. Other cards could also denote confidence, personal power, but with the king that first aspect in particular comes across deliberately strong. This king has power, and energy, momentum. He grips the staff, ready for action. He is not desperate, or terribly afraid of being judged and found lacking - he's doing some judging of his own. Things swing in both directions: yes, balance.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

tarot's take on some nerdiness

So recently, some friends have drawn me into the nerdy cliche that is the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Very unsurprisingly, I quite like it. Due to difficulty (different cities, conflicting schedules) of playing in person, I've recently joined a game online. Character building, story telling, writing, lots of fun and silly dice...whats not to love?

The idea of using tarot to help flesh out a fictional character is one that's been floating around my head for a while, and this seems to be a perfect opportunity to do so, using the one I've made for this roleplay game, so.

Shedding some light on Iara Carnagos, Tiefling Wizard (Mage)

I. Crux of the character's strengths:

Restriction, restraint, interference: the woman in this image is tied up and held still, both by her physical bindings and by constraints of her mind - the self-doubt, or fear, or hopeless resignation.

One does not necessarily think of this card as a source of strength, but if can be. Restraint, restraint. So many things that you could do if you were willing to pick up one of those swords... In the D&D universe, in this edition at least, Tieflings are of a demonic heritage, their ancestors having made some kind of pact with demons. They can make things burns, have tails and variously shaped horns. Many are known for being all kinds of destructive and evil.

This character of mine...she had a twin brother once, who chose to go down that path. She did not, and ended up killing him in what was mostly self-defense...a pivotal moment for her. She is chaotic, random, capricious, but she is not evil - there is a line she will not let herself cross, though she could; there are actions she simply will not take, even when refusing puts her in a quite difficult situation. She will even, on the rare occasion, actively refuse to let someone else do so.

In the everyday too...she puts up the facade of being impatient and impulsive, and do some degree that may be true, but...anything of real importance, she does consider, weigh, wait if she must. Restraint, restriction, a much bigger part of how she interacts with the world than most would realize, than she would like anyone to know and...a vital part of what could be called her better nature.

II. Crux of the character's weaknesses:

The juggler hops around, foot to foot, two coins to balance, two boats on two waves to choose between - always moving, juggling, flitting about.

The character too. Class-wise, she is a mage that focuses on both pyromancy and illusion, both blasting attacks and controlling/debuffing powers. A focus on purely one of the other could potentially be more powerful, but how could she commit herself like that?

Otherwise too - she flits from group to group, short relationship to one even shorter, job to job, town to town. Tries this and that, grows bored, moves onto something else. Worked mercenary jobs involving use of knives even though that does nothing to advance her primary abilities. Studied under several wizards even though these kinds of arrangements are not ideal - some wizards only acquiescing to idea of temporary apprentice for cold hard cash.

This lack of commitment, lack of focus and attention, in so many aspects of her life...certainly it is limiting, in many ways.

III. The character's fears:

The queen sits comfortably in her domain, with her wand, her flower, her cat. She is self-possessed and confident in her place. What could one fear here?

Iara does not have or want any of these things. She has not stayed in one place for any significant amount of time since she was sixteen. She does not keep pets, or gardens, does not care for fancy robes and does not hold onto many possessions at all - in fact, one could almost call her an ascetic in the latter regard. Keep few things you do not need, be willing to let those go and start anew too, if you must.

Her friendships and flings do not last more than a few months or weeks, nor do her working partnerships and teams. And why is that?

Fear of that kind of domestication, of a place where you feel safe and things that comfort you and people you trust and feel close to. The more you have the more of a shock it is when the world starts to spin and shake and everything starts falling apart around you. The more you have, the more there is that you cannot control. If you have nothing, just your physical body, your skills, your knowledge and magic...there is so much less that can be taken from you, so much less of a chance to feel helpless.

IV. The character's hopes:

The Hanged Man rest upside down, in some ways resembling a butterfly in its cocoon, waiting in stasis as it develops and transforms. In other ways he can be seen as a mirror of Odin, hanging in sacrifice, losing something to gain more. Perhaps a useless sacrifice, needless waiting around when movement is needed.

This character certainly hopes that all of her work will be a worthwhile sacrifice, that all the hours studying and reading dusty tomes, and all the times and gold she spent with her various masters will pay off.

She hates reading, only went to school as long as she did because her twin hated it even more and quit it - she wanted to show that she had more self-control, or something. She never reads but for the magic books, for what other way is there of learning, always learning and it is just a task sometimes, flipping through so many pages as her mind wonders, another job or adventure tempts... there were other paths to magic, ones that would have been easier for someone of her temperament but she chose this one and yes, she hopes it will be worthwhile, utterly so.

IV. Crux of the character, a snapshot:

The man in the eight works, creates, engraves and molds with care for his work, though it may not be easy at times, is his craft, and his love, and his calling.

Perhaps a compulsive wanderer, perhaps not the biggest fan of the book learning to which she is obliged, perhaps a lot of things but what it comes down to: love of this lifestyle. Love of uncertainty and risk, love of seeing new places to explore, new people to work with or fuck or taunt, without the 'burden' of knowing you might know them long enough to get attached. Love of adventure and jobs and quests.

Most of all, though, the love of magic. Wonder - she can still remember the day as I child, when she first saw magic being done. Her and her brother both, a rare moment of utter unison. Pure, sheer, stunned wonder because what could be more beautiful, more awesome, than magic? She knew from her first glimpse at it that magic is what she wanted to do, her calling as it were, and though attention to it may have wavered, that certainty never did. For all that may change and all the tedious work learning might involve, nothing can touch the feeling of pure inner joy she gets when she summons a fireball, makes something change color, uses a trick to get someone to say yes where otherwise the answer would certainly be a no.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

love of work

Do what you love, and love what you do.

It's the kind of overly-cliched, happy-dandy can do phrase I instinctively tend to shy away from, and yet on the whole I find the advice to be quite true. The artisan in this card-image is making wonderful, detailed engravings on the wall. His work impresses the spectators, perhaps his clients or patrons, but it likely isn't why he does it. So much effort goes into what he does: could a person sustain that, day after day, if the process and the end result didn't fill him with some kind of joy?

It's always been my tendency to excel in the things that I love, and to neglect those I don't necessarily get along with. My grades in high school were a very clear case in point: consistently near-perfect marks in subjects I enjoyed, like history, english, various electives; near-failing marks in those I did not - math, chemistry, physics. I really do believe that a large part of why my overall academic performance has been so much higher in college and now graduate school is because at this level, it is much easier to simply avoid things that you don't want to study (I took symbolic logic to fill a math requirement, in undergrad).

I do good academically because I genuinely love the process of discussion, reading, research, writing - enough to drive me forward even when things get insanely stressful, when the work just piles on. It takes so much more discipline to stick to something you don't have a passion for. But then, should you? Life being short as it is, is it worth it spending time working on things you have no love for, if your circumstances don't necessitate it? Persistence isn't always a virtue. Even if it may feel like failure, perhaps sometimes it is best to simply walk away.

On the other hand, a reminder too, here, about the importance of continuing to engage in activities I love, of combining productivity with pleasure, things I enjoy. The creative aspect of this picture especially come to mind - yesterday afternoon, I picked up my camera for the first time in many months. The cherry blossom trees are blooming again, and they make for such lovely pictures. I took many. Photography is one of the things I love doing, when the mood strikes me - perhaps it is one of those things I should try to do more of...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

walking, going, beginnings and ends

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."
-T. S. Eliot

"March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path."
-Khalil Gibran

 The End and the Beginning
Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won't
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We'll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Going for it - does make sense

Bit of an unintended break again I guess. What can I say? Not enough mental energy, too many things that need doing, prioritization...

Anyway, back with a quick and dirty reading I just did for myself using my most favorite tarot deck. I got an email today about a TA opportunity with a professor I really like. Torn between wanting to apply and intense uncertainty/apprehensiveness, so decided to see what the cards had to say to me.

Drew three cards in a single horizontal line, no specific positions, plus one 'theme' card. This is one of those decks where using reversals still makes sense to me.

10 of Wands, Reversed
On the far left of the line, this card seems to speak to where I am coming from in this situation. Reversed, I see here a lack of the intense burdens depicted in the image: arms not full of far too many sticks, responsibilities, obligations.

The TA position would be for summer and fall, and as of now I have no concrete plans for the summer. In the fall, in stark contrast to my usual status quo, I will only have a thesis to write and a comprehensive exam to take, and hopefully Arabic classes - important things, yes, but far less of a busy schedule than I am used to. In other words, taking this on would not be over-burdening myself, but rather the opposite - I have the perfect schedule for it. It would be doable, without too much stress.

King of Swords
The King was on the far right of the three-card line, but structurally it made sense to read both outer cards before moving onto the center. Here we have the strong, precise, disciplined king. A person who is sure of his capabilities, a person who can focus on what he wants to achieve, who can make decisions rationally, using logic and hard-gained wisdom.

And what do reason and logic say, in this situation? Do I have the ability to carry out the responsibilities of the job? Without a doubt. Would I enjoy working for this particular professor? Without a doubt. Have I anything to lose really, by applying? Not at all.

The World
At the center of the reading line we have the World card, representing completing, a closed circle, achievement and satisfaction. She is dynamic, dancing within her wreath.

Perhaps applying will actually work out for me. Perhaps I will get this position and enjoy the work. Perhaps not. Even so, I will know that I actually went through with it, did what I know I should do and applied, tried, made a step forward. I took action, and there is some satisfaction in that knowledge too. In any case, it can only work out for the best to give it a shot, this card would say.

Thematic: 8 of Coins
Lastly, drawn from the bottom of the deck, we have a theme card, by version of what others would call the 'shadow card' or whatnot. What unites this reading, the three previous draws, the overall message?

We have a man in his workshop, which here is outdoors, in the fresh air. He works on his craft, his creation, completly absorbed in it. He is productive and he is doing what he loves. What more is there to say? I value productivity more than just about anything else in my own life, and just about everything that this would involve would be tasks I enjoy doing. Even if I don't get anywhere, applying is spending my time productively, another sticker on my calendar, a small success.

Sometimes its the little things in life that keep you going.

Friday, March 29, 2013

memory of sun, outdoors

I suppose the Sun is one of those cards in this deck where its Swedish providence is especially noticeable - in the style of the clothes that the two children wear, and even more so in the prominence of the moose. It has to be a pretty northern country if such an animal is associated with sunlight and warm rather than winter, snow.

We have pictures of moose - from vacations is Alaska and, I think, perhaps Maine as well. I was too young then to remember much from those trips, and what does stick out in memory does not include any experiences with such creatures. Deer though, I do remember seeing, outdoors.

Its really kind of amusing how much of an outdoorsy scene this sun card is: children playing in the grass, roosters feeding, butterflies fluttering above it all. It's things like this that remind me of how much of a city kid I really am, both in experience and in outlook, preference and predilection. We had a house in the Pocanos in Pennsylvania for a while when I was a kid. It was a big change going out there - so very rural, foresty, quiet. There was lots of grass and forest, dirt roads, wildlife of all sorts. Yes, there were the deer that I saw, coming in twos or threes across the road to nibble at this or that plant. It was nice, sure, to be able to see them, something certainly not possible in New York City.

In America at least, I've only ever seen chickens and roosters at petting zoos, also in Pennsylvania. It was not they, but the goats, that tickled my fancy. For a while we used to drive down there almost every weekend, two hours in both directions, card trips I hated for the motion sickness they caused. There was so much grass to play on and forest to explore - I did neither, much. I was bored outside. It was boring and uncomfortable with all the bugs, the lack of man-made noise. I much preferred to stay indoors and play on the Sega Genesis: the Sonic games, street fighter games, that random game where you played a team of criminals, one short and fat and one tall and skinny, who had to successfully break in and rob various places. I read history for kids books about Pompeii and the sinking of the Titanic, about the life of Anny Oakley and about the Trojan War. I colored in coloring books or watched movies with my father, many of them (in retrospect) not especially age-appropriate but no one objected. I would sit at the table when my mother's friend, who lived nearby, visited and complained about her miserable job as a hotel maid and her husband, who was over twenty years older than her and who she had only married to secure a green card and whose grumpy ass she was now stuck with. He was nicer to his dogs than he was to her, she would say. I sat quietly and listened to them talk.

I did not see the appeal of that kind of outdoors. At home, playing in the backyard and in the street, on stoops and stairs of houses, always some other people around making noise, arguing, that was tolerable sometimes for our imagination games but so much quiet and trees and grass and bugs and why bother?

To this day I cannot help but feel this way. Place me in a city, any city in the world, and I will happily wonder round in it all day, on foot, and never grow bored. I love exploring cities, the nooks and crannies and changing style of the architecture of buildings, whether they be cities full of metal and glass skyscrapers or Eastern European medieval architecture or low slung white structures and fields of trash and wondering goats.  In a city I can enjoy the sun, and I love the contrast of trees and flowers to the man-made things all around them. Looking forward to taking pictures of the blooming cherry blossoms around DC again next week for just that reason. But in an actually rural place, the kind of naturey environs so many people find relaxing, a nice place to get away...I can appreciate PICTURES of such places, but actually put me into one and I will very quickly grow uncomfortable and bored and possibly very paranoid about bugs and feeling itchy for no reason and if forced to remain there I will very soon pull out a book or a game and ignore it all.

Different strokes, different folks and all that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Deck Suggestion Post!

So ever since I finished with my Favorite Majors/Aces series, I've been trying to think up another similar type of thing, a series of exercises I could do on a semi-regular basis, not quite reading the cards but interacting with them...

I now have an Idea, drawing on some of the things my fellow bloggers have done - card comparison exercises. To start off with at least, drawing a card from one deck, finding the same card in another, and writing a comparison/contrast/interaction type of post about the two. May branch out/mix in some other things eventually, but that is the basic idea. At the very least, I'd like to do one or two such posts to see how it goes.

I was going to just use a random number generator to choose decks for me, but then I thought, why not ask for some suggestions? :0

SO, if anyone wants to chime in... any two decks that I currently own, that you think would be interesting to see in a kind of comparison exercises of some sort together? Any pair, any pair at all!

Monday, March 25, 2013

inspiration vs. organization

It's the contrast between these two cards that sticks out most to me: female and male, casual and formally dressed, standing and seated, flowing and rigid, flower wreath and crown. The page parties with her creatures; the Emperor commands his.

A juxtaposition in concepts as well, here. The page is about creativity, about imagination, inspiration, youthful and naive energy. The page begins, playfully touching on this and that - she can visualize ideas that others would dismiss as impossible. She stands in a sea shell, bringing to mind the famous Botticelli painting of the birth of Venus, or Aphrodite. She rises from the waves, with so much romantic notions - the playful faeries of so many tales. A tortoise carries her, and why not? What rush is there, why not take your time and see and imagine and explore?

A far cry from the Emperor, with his ram-headed stave and throne, his eagle shield, his crown of power. Since getting this deck I've wondered about that panda, something that distinguishes this Emperor card from most others. Apparently, in Ancient China emperors were known to keep them as pets. These days, endagered as they are, it takes a fair bit of organizes effort to keep the species from going extinct, I suppose. The emperor sits up straight, and rules over lands, mountains, sky and stars. Discipline, authority, responsible management of your resources and time.

The conflict between these two has, I suppose, always been a sort of theme in my life. Part of the reason I don't have the negative reaction to the Emperor archetype that many in tarot seem to is because I have always WANTED to have a firm grasp on the best of what he represents: discipline and self control, getting things done, organizing properly what needs to be organized, authority of a reasonable sort. I try and I try, and yet nonetheless so often I find myself rather stuck in the position of the page, a scattered kind of brilliance, imagination without much direction, so many ideas on so little of the concrete to show for it.

A source of frustration in particular as of late. So many examples abound. I am quite clearly more advanced than my classmates in Arabic. I spend hours listening to news clips, political talk shows, historic documentaries to improve my comprehension skills. For a long writing assignment I wrote literary analysis (former English major skills, ha) of Soviet dissident literature that I like...in Arabic, and it was GOOD if I do say so. My professor is impressed with my enthusiasm for learning the language, and yet she has told me that my grade will suffer despite that because I cannot keep from being constantly late. A valid criticism indeed. Another professor is consistently impressed with my written work, but is currently displeased with me and gave me a lowered grade on an assignment because I submitted it twenty minutes after the stated deadline...and again, quite right of him. I don't mean to do this. This isn't me not caring - I write my to do lists and I try and yet things slip away and slip away and slip away. How often to I forget to do something, forget to bring something, lose something? Constantly. I feel like I put far more deliberate effort into trying to be organized and disciplined than many people, and even so I am far more of a flaky, scattered mess.

Without some firm-handedness to things, riding that turtle will get you exactly as far as one might think - very close to the same place you started. How does one find the proper balance then? How?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Story Time - Futility and Faith

Figured another go at this exercise was in order - it's a break from purely academic writing, at the very least ;]

Perhaps once they had struggled, screamed, fought back terror with sharpened swords. Perhaps they started out full of determination, a zeal that slowly transformed into frustration and, later still, simple exhaustion. Where did their armor go, their clothes? Abandoned, too heavy to carry; sold for a bite to eat, fuel to fight a bit more.

Now they no longer notice the hunger that gnaws at their bellies, the prickle of cold against their bare skin. The serpents they once struggled against fill the room, knot into each other as they slither round and round on the floor. Even the swords have defected, increasingly snake-like in form. The two of them do not care, do not look at each other, the snakes, anything else. Even disgust is gone from their senses - careless to the feel of snake against the soles of their feet. They sit motionless on top of me, watch time pass, breath, dream, disappear bit by bit into uselessness.

Even the stupid dog is better off, still scurrying on in search of half-remembered treats. He goes on, stopping at every tree for a sniff, a leap, a lick. Each time he finds only coins, dull and cold, where once perhaps a fruit had once grown. You think he would learn, stop trying, but of course dogs never do. On and on until he sees a single bloom, something sweet perhaps in a while, but how long will it take to ripen and mature, and longer still to fall - silly dogs cannot climb trees, after all. Why does he wait so long, so patiently, eyes never leaving the prize that may or may not come to be?

There are some in this world like that dog, with their faith, looking about and going on until hear the call, the trumpets blowing, the stork clutching a new opportunity, a chance to try again. They look up at the moon and the stars night after night, straining their eyes and their ears, ready and willing when it finally comes. They are willing, even after so much failure and loss, to deal with pain, the birth of a new aeon, so much necessary change. They find the fruit, finally: pain in the midst of so much sound and so many beautiful colors above them.

Others keep eyelids shut, see nothing, hear only the same endless hissing and slithering.

Monday, March 18, 2013

from too much to just enough

Two eight cards, we have here, with rather different images. In the eight of cups we have an image of  overindulgence, or perhaps apathy - unwillingness or inability to appreciate the plenty all around. The woman sits at the table, barely awake, with wine spilt, food and drink knocked over and wasted on the floor beside her. Flowers are still blooming in the table-cup, but already we see them beginning to droop and wilt. Meanwhile, more wine still is being poured - more more, always more. Is she sitting on a dock of some sort, or is that a stage, the beautiful scene behind her simply a painting, an illusion? Does it matter?

Interesting phenomenon this card reminds me of - the fact that sometimes, plenty can be as much of a curse as lack. Not just in the simple sense, over-indulgence in food or drink but in the way it takes away the drive to work, experiment, improve. In political science and economics there are frequent references to the so-called 'resource curse' wherein countries that have plentiful natural resources, particularly oil and gas, tend not to develop diverse or advanced economies and often have stagnant/repressive/unstable political systems as well, whereas some of the most dynamic economies in the world can be found in places with almost no natural resources to speak of at all - Singapore being one oft-cited example. Why is that? Because why invest in building infrastructure, why take on the risk entering the unknown, why go through the hassle of dealing with international investors or partners when you can just sell sell sell what you have and they don't? Why satisfy your people with meaningful political reforms if you can buy them off with your oil money?

Likewise, over-abundance can undermine the ability to appreciate what you have. Who hasn't met or heard of a young child, toys enough to fill so many rooms given by well-meaning parents or relatives, and each played with for a bit and then ignored. Fancy, expensive toys they can be, but when you have so many of them, and the certainty of getting yet more, how could you possibly care much for any one of them? You think of them as disposable because they become so. Contrast that with the child who only has one doll, or even siblings made to share it. It could be a cheap doll, comely, home-made, falling apart - but it is your one toy, your one treasure, to love and to guard carefully.

Appreciation, and satisfaction. While I'm certainly not the type to constantly buy the newest, shiniest things, not the type that sees giving expensive gifts as the most meaningful expression of feeling, neither do I subscribe to the belief that things/possessions are unimportant. In the second card, the eight of disks, woman and rabbit and birds all enjoy the tree, the shade it gives, the shelter and the fruits which can be harvested.

When you work hard to get something, or when you create it because the process of creating - whether gardening, painting, or even putting a computer together - is something you enjoy, then yes the resulting possession can bring you real joy and happiness. When you choose what you let yourself have carefully, realistically, getting only those things that you know are best for you and letting the rest go instead of trying to grab one of everything, it becomes much easier to connect with what you have. Different people and creatures can enjoy the same thing, the same tree, in various ways. Enjoy what you truly need and love, and be willing to let go of the rest.

(In tarot-related terms, a reminder of my intention to let go of/cull some of my less used and less loved decks in the near-future...)

Friday, March 15, 2013

self improvement focus/task

Often, when there are so many things that need attention and doing, its hard to really focus on any one thing. I believe I did this once before here, and thought it'd be a good idea to do again: Pull one card, with the theme/query of one aspect of things or task that would be worth focusing on for self-improvement, right now.

I named this Magician as one of my favorites in an early 'Favorite Majors' series most, and I must say that I'm still of that opinion. I particularly enjoy the fact that the Magician here is a woman, but not in the overly feminized and/or sexualized sense seen in some decks - no, she is presented as powerful, and in many ways stylized, like so many ancient statues. This makes clear that what he have here is still an archetype, and idea depicted in human form, but at the same time it universalizes that idea: power and self confidence is not, nor should it be seen as, just a man's domain.

She wears a skirt covered in pentacles, has sword in hand, cup on the altar in front of her and wand held by the trunk of her elephant shield. What does it mean, that elephant? Wisdom, massive strength, a long memory? According to the almighty Internet, it is often used to symbolize mental and spiritual, as well as physical, power and strength. Interestingly, apparently there is a connection between the elephant and those storm clouds I hadn't at all known about:
"In Siam, Laos and Cambodia, the white elephant grants rainfall and plentiful harvests. But when ridden by Indra, Lord of the Heavens, the elephant becomes the Storm-God."
Other meanings include mastery, and unification of heaven and earth...well, apparently in many cultures the elephant has quite a similar significance as this very card. Since getting this deck I have been intrigued by how symbolism-dense it is, and this bit of research has got me thinking about perhaps looking into that more deeply...

In any case, we have the monkey from the Thoth as well, echoing those meanings, and the storm clouds that can apparently be tied to that elephant shield, but perhaps too can be read as...well, lightening is mighty powerful too, isn't it, and dangerous, but there is so much we would have never achieved has someone not figured out how to harness the power of electricity...

And what does this all mean, as related to my original query? What should I be focusing on in the very current moment in particular? On myself, it seems, on myself and what I can do, my abilities and strengths. I should focus on self confidence, empowerment, the active, can do, inner motivation and drawing on my resources, in spite of any storm clouds that may be lingering above, darkening the skies. Mundane and esoteric, environmental and personal...how can I empower myself?

True enough this. After quite decently long stretch of feeling quite on top of my game I'm afraid I have been slipping back into self doubt, questioning whether everything I am doing is on some level pointless. Career-wise, it's hard not to be discouraged when... no one seems interested in taking you on even for unpaid internships. Of course, the more discouraged and unconfident you feel, the harder it is to push yourself to keep applying and keep trying and that can only add to the problem...

So reminder here to focus on strengths rather than dwelling over much on the shortcomings. Perhaps in some areas of life I have not made much progress, but in others things have changed and evolved much indeed. There are some things you cannot change or cannot, at this time, overcome. Fine. Focus on what you CAN do, what you ARE capable of, and things that make you feel good about you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

on charging forward, and refusing to see

So, seems like I feel like going another round with a deck I quite very much liked last time I worked with it...the Swedish Witch.

We have in this draw the Knight of Swords and the Ten of Wands - and rather strong a contrast, in terms of the mood and the color palette of the two cards.

The knight moves forward over clouds, confidently seated in his chariot and pulled by so many angelic children with their little wings and bright purple hair. They seem to be enjoying the work, not yet seeing it as a burden. The knight has a sunflower-shaped hat and the real sun shining behind him, his sword held firmly upright. He charges forward, optimistic, excited, convinced of his purpose and his ability to fulfill it.

Next to that, we have quite another scene entirely. A bonfire, a pyre made of wands, and a man in the center of it, tied naked to a stake as he burns. Whereas in the first card to two birds made up the side and handrests of the knight's mighty chariot, here they fly into the fire, into the same destruction that he is already doomed to. The fairies and hedgehogs are smarter, getting away while they can, preparing to start anew elsewhere. Will they learn a lesson from this, in the way that the man, the knight could not?

It's funny that I would draw these cards today, when I have just spent the last two days or so finishing readings assignments for one of my classes about the Second Indochina War - that is to say, Vietnam. It's so much a part of our culture, the historical memory around that time, even for those of us who weren't alive yet, who parents were then far and away from this country...

Do the reading, it is mind-boggling how very much these two cards can be seen as representing the approach of the US military (and army in particular) to war. Military leaders that forged on into the conflict, supremely convinced that there methods were right, would provide a quick victory. Lots of soldiers and firepower had won WW2 had they not? They didn't listen to those who would say - but this isn't the same kind of war at all. They did not seek out advice or listen when it was preferred from other militarizes who had fought very similar conflicts quite recently. When things went wrong they refused to analyze why, refused any suggestion that there approach was not the right one. More soldiers is what we need, more purple haired children to send into the fray, so self-assured that they refused to even acknowledge the fire until far after the situation might be salvageable and how many on all sides had died...disaster, oppression, burdens.

And then, US forces withdrawn, the Army proceeded to PURGE almost all the material on lessons learned from their training and curriculum. Why focus on what we did wrong when we can comfort ourselves with what we  know we can do well, conventional wars against proper governments on terrain we like.

Years later history repeats. Iraq, and the oft-cited comparison to Vietnam is not so melodramatic from a certain perspective. The supreme over-confidence of deeply mistaken or misguided high level leaders - Westmoreland or Rumsfeld, so much the same - a refusal to believe things might not go right because that is how we SEE them going and of course we are RIGHT and of course we can the children forward to the front, more and more of them. The missed opportunities, refusing to recognize the problem until it had already gone very deeply aflame indeed. A classmate of mine last week reminisced about being deployed in Baghdad in the months after the initial invasion, seeing disgruntled former soldiers with guns in an area that would later become a hotbed of anti-US insurgency, and having no one ask what is going on there, no one collect information or act concerned or think about what this might become...

The costs of refusing to see what you don't want to see, of not thinking through all possible scenarios, of not recognizing your own shortcomings, weaknesses, mistakes. So often it isn't only you that can hurt - moreso for leaders, sure, but even on a smaller scale. Not all disasters can be avoided, of course, but so too not all are inevitable.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

different kinds of balance

In this particular take on the justice card we have a scale, unbalanced it would see, or perhaps simply in the process of swinging back and forth. We have a card of contrasts and juxtaposition: light and darkness, clear skies and raging storms, peaceful nature the man-made cities, towers, factories. What does it mean to have all of them portrayed just so? The hand move holds what looks to be a clock pointing at the number twelve, noon and midnight, beginnings and ends.

Balance... it was equilibrium that I focused on so many times last year, with Justice as my year card. Balance, the idea of trying to be even-handed, of trying to find that right place in between extremes, of adjusting and carefully weighing and getting it all to just enough, yes, enough.

Life isn't all about things we can balance out through or own efforts though, is it? Part of this 'Justice' and weighing is more in the grand scheme...that some experiences will be balanced out by others, that painful events sometimes lead to good ones, that personal failings we have, but also talents...and so on. People often say things along the lines of evil or suffering being necessary, that there would be no light without darkness, no appreciation of the good times without the bad, and so on.

True enough, I find, though perhaps not as comforting a notion as sometimes put forward to be. There have been times when I have found very much amusement and pleasure from such insignificant things, if only because there was nothing else I could laugh about or focus on. These days...simple moments, the most pedestrian of experiences and such strong appreciation, satisfaction in what someone else might see as utterly unremarkable.

You appreciate how nice it is to go on a walk through a city you like, to enjoy the weather and look around at your surroundings without quite that constant background of gloom, idle fantasies (of say, throwing yourself in front of a car)t hat you could never quite chase away so familiar, ignored and unspoken, same old same old.

You feel so accomplished when you calmly finish a task a few hours or even days ahead of a deadline, rather than staring unable to think or write until it gets so late that you begin to panic as you think of the consequences of failure, of disappointing people, and then stay up for two days straight, not letting yourself do anything else, crying from stress as you make yourself write and write desperately.

You find it to be so wonderfully ordinary when you can let yourself sit in a coffee shop for a few hours alone, drinking a coffee and eating an oatmeal and reading for school because it is such a contrast to so many other experiences, an illusion of sorts and a glimmer of feeling what other people feel when in fact you have not known what it means to eat a normal meal like a normal person since you were fourteen years old and still don't, really.

A constant state of storm certainly does make clear sky days so much more amazing, but perhaps the same would also be true in reversed. Ordinarily I hate rainy days. So much inconvenience, forgetting umbrellas or proper shoes and spending hours wet and cold. It rained once during the ten weeks I spent in Tunisia and I ran out onto the balcony to feel it, because it felt so amazing, after so long without...

Darkness and light and a scale that tips back and forth, back and forth. Justice and balance and what can we have, if not all of both? Is there a way to have the convenience of factory produced gadgets without killing off all those beautiful whales swimming in the sea?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back to [tarot] blogging

So I guess I've taken a bit of a break from the tarot blogging thing again, without really meaning to. Got distracted by other things, but planning on getting back into things now. There are some decks and exercises in particular I've been wanting to write about/try out...

What have I been doing? Many things, some less interesting than others, but among them, I did take the advice of the previous post and let myself go wild with the artsy coloring thing. I can be quite...obsessive when it comes to color, ha. Since watercolor pencils are a new medium for me, experimenting with them in a coloring book made sense.

My most recent page - took forever to complete :0

But yes, time management and balancing things is good so...actual tarot related posts coming soon!

Monday, February 25, 2013

tarot with a bit of... Science!

So while browsing around the internet in search of a bit of a different kind of spread to try out, I came across The Newton Spread on Raven's Tarot Site. I'm not really familiar with the website as a whole, but this spread is the kind of thing that tends to strike my fancy - bit of a different perspective on things, combining tarot with an entirely different field, etc.

I admit physics has never been my thing (I passed that class in high school by the skin of my teeth) but I figured it would be interesting to do an abbreviated version of the spread. Rather than pulling cards for all three of the Newtonian Laws of Motion, I decided to focus on just the first:

"Newton's first law of motion (also known as the law of inertia) states that any object in a state of rest or of uniform linear motion tends to remain in such a state unless acted upon by an external force.
Card 1 is your inertia, the potential inside you that won't act up or get effective without another force or impulse that will bring it into activity.
Card 2 is that other force or impulse that will bring the existing power inside of you into action."
What then, within me,  is in a state of rest, inert until something pushes it forward, gives it momentum? We have here the 9 of Flame Songs, or Wands per regular titles. A colorful image, cluttered with so many objects united by the theme of creativity and self-expression: dance shoes, crafting supplies, paints and musical instruments and pages full of written words. In the center of it all there is something that looks like a cracked egg, the yolk dripping out, connecting all those objects together, the bright orange energy also flowing out in a tornado above it all.

Creative strength, artistic impulses. I've always had them. I used to want to be a writer for a while, as a teen. As a kid art sets were among the most treasured of holiday gifts received. Sometimes I dabble in writing poems. For a while I picked up knitting, then forgot about it again. I used to make collages and graphics on photoshop quite a lot. I go through phases of sketching. I haven't done that in a while, though I do tend to doodle madly, in numerous pen colors, all over what ostensible should be my notes in class; I always have, helps me think and pay attention. When I set my mind to it and found the patience to draw the same thing again and again and again until I got it just right, I managed to design a tattoo which, now that it is on me, I quite love. I once took a ceramics class I quite enjoyed. I go in and out of phases of doing photography. For a while my senior year of college I would destress by drawing/coloring on paper with colored chalk, different entirely and quite fun. Now I impatiently away the silly UPS to actually bring me the watercolor pencils I ordered.

Artistic impulses which come and go, which I rarely stick to for long. I allow my attention to flit this way and that, stop doing things for years at a time. Unimportant, unimportant. How many ideas do I have that are never acted on, ideas that flitter around in my mind until eventually they are forgotten because I do not have the time or the energy. There are more important things to focus on, serious things, things related to trying to eventually procure some kind of gainful employment that is not mind-numbingly dull and deeply dissatisfying... and in that context, these artsy things always seem like distractions, like waste of time, self-indulgent and only ok in limited quantities. Enough to destress, enough to distract when thoughts get too overwhelming but then back to the real things, the real.

So much creative potential that is not activated nearly as much as it could be...

What force or impulse does or could get that creative, artistic side of me moving? Well, the Wheel of Fortune certainly does represent movement, the world and life spinning in cycles, up and down. Here the circle is divided into eight slices, each one showing a different image: success and catastrophe, sadness and joy, the bizarre and the mundane. We find ourselves in a variety of different circumstances at various points of our lives. Perhaps this card is suggesting that certain life phases lend themselves much more naturally to artistic endeavors than others.
At some points, I was taking art classes and doing artistic projects to fulfill academic requirements. Other times I had so much free time on my hands in made sense to experiment with new things. On the other hand, being a student in grad school, studying Arabic, trying to get life in some kind of order and desperately applying to various internships and suchlike...perhaps not the most conducive.

On the other hand, I can also see this as pointing out the fact that life is always topsy-turvy, full of surprises and complications and so many things that must be dealt with. I find time to do other things I consider important in spite of that; hell I find time to do things I know I would be much better of NOT doing - so why not make the time to play around creatively as well? It might not take the same form all the time - perhaps sometimes its more about drawing and other times I have a poem in my head, or a story idea; perhaps right now I have a mad desire to play around with color. Why not? Find time, way, to work on some of those things, to improve my abilities in them. No skill gets better without practice. I can write well, when I try, because I have a hell of a lot of experience in writing. If sometimes I do something artsy and get frustrated because it doesn't come out the way I see it in my head...the only way to get better is to do more of it.

I have, despite my creative inclinations, chosen to try to go down a career path where artistic ability is unnecessary, true. That doesn't mean I should engage in it on my own time, for my own enrichment and pleasure. Perhaps more sometimes than others, perhaps in different ways depending on what is convenient or possible but...something to keep in mind, something to pursue rather than ignore, leave un-moved, for that oh so intangible "later".

Sunday, February 24, 2013

color, wonder and ideas

I usually see the Ace of Swords as being the 'harshest' of the aces - new beginnings yes, but often ones that require cutting of the old, letting go and starting a new. Attitude adjustment, as I once wrote - not just forming new ideas but deliberately walking away from old ones.

In this deck though, the images is rather noticeably a gentler one. There is water in this images as well as air, starlight and a sun rising overhead. The light from the star and the sun seeps into everything, filling it with streaks of bright yellow and white. The girl holds a bowl and a wand, ready to fill and create.

Not just intellectual activity here, but creativity. Thinking new things and applying them in your own unique ways. There is joy in this card, inspiration, pleasure.

New ideas, new starts and new ways of thinking. My mind has been a bit all over the place in some good ways too, of late. I ordered some watercolor pencils and a coloring book. I want to experiment with a new medium, and since I love color this seems a good way to go. Perhaps if my attention holds I may work my way up to something more originally artsy than just coloring...

Still working on finding my way out of certain old ways of thinking...its kind of funny how you can make so much progress with some things and yet find it so impossible to get beyond that last bit - the part of things that has become so internalized you cannot even seem to find it, and how to deal with something that doesn't seem to be there and yet, driven you still are, to do the same stupid things again and again...

Academic pursuits still on my mind but also so much else. Random interests, more than there is time to pursue. Distractions and tidbits. Language stuff, stuff about history of my parents' country that I hated listening to when I was young but now find, from on objective historical perspective, quite intriguing indeed. So far quite unsuccessful attempts to figure out something useful to do with myself for the summer. Another self-help book procured. This and that.

Confusing and overwhelming some of this, but there are definitely pluses too, to having so much to do, possibilities, ideas even if there isn't time or energy to follow through on many of them. Good to remember that, it seems.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

perils of the dreamy-eyed

We have here my first proper draw from a rather different deck I recently acquired - the Songs for the Journey Home Mini. Unlike the other circular deck I once had (Circle of Life), this one is small enough that it shuffles quite comfortably, and can be used for larger spreads without taking up too much space. Usually my preference is against completely redone titles, but every so often I do make an exception...

The image and title of the first card make for a rather different take, but the concept remains a familiar one. Wave Awakening, or the Knight of Cups in regular court terms, represents the idea of the dreamy-eyed romantic, a person overcome by passion, idealized ideas of what is or what should be. He rushes forward, dives into the waves so full of that lust, ready to see what he wants to see. The water must be warm and deep,  rich with rainbow-colored tones and just waiting to wrap him in its embrace. Everything will be perfect, in this starry-eyed vision of the world. It is a vision full of "should" and "fair", things imagined in so much detail, a sort of narrow, stubborn focus.

The Five of Waves songs, as the Cups suit is called, shows where such an attitude can so often lead to - disappointment, disillusionment, misery and moping. Even here, the way of looking at the world is not much changed: unhappy, but still with those ideas about how things should be, that perfectly imagined dream at the center of everything even if now it is broken to pieces and scattered across the floor. Look at those tea cups - pretty, with elaborate designs and vivid colors painted on. No doubt an expensive set; a sturdier set, with cups enough to spare for the occasional accident, could have been purchased at a far lower cost. But that, of course, would not have been living the dream, the romanticized idea of what life ought to look like and include. Now, instead of thinking pragmatically on how to move forward, how to clean up and continue on and learn what lessons can be learned from the mess in front of him, the figure merely stands and sobs, weeps. Woe is me he says, stares at what is spilt, broken, done with.

Though most of us have (unfortunately) encountered individuals who truly personify this outlook, and though we may be far more sensible than that by and large...most people, I think, struggle with this tendency sometimes, in some particularly area of their lives. The idea of the perfect relationship that never seems to work out, the job that is never what you are looking for in a job, the kid who doesn't act or look like the kid you always wanted to have...it can be many things. It's a struggle, to retain our optimism and dreams without falling into the trap of over-romanticizing things. It is hard to fully internalize and accept, without bitterness, certain simple facts: that the world does not owe you anything, that there are no real measures of what is 'right' in a partner or a job or anything else that are the same for all, that what you want to be is quite often not what is or what can be, that some things will simply never work out and that fairness has very little indeed to do with how things in the world tend to work out.

It is difficult to learn and to remember this: how to see the world for how it really is and still dive, not into some imagined, gleaming pool but rather into waves that you know are frigid and turbulent, will have you shivering, kicking and flailing madly just to stay afloat; to see the broken cup and simply sigh, pick up the pieces and toss them, bring out the mop, brew more tea and pour it again. It takes time to learn to drink from chipped and cracked mugs without that melancholy regret.

Monday, February 18, 2013

another go at tarot poetry

It's an interesting exercise, if nothing else. For some reason, the Thoth works better for me with this than anything else.

Magus and Fool

empty and full -
where will you go,
rising from nowhere?
nothing will stop you, nothing will dim
that light in which you spin.

rise then, in ellipses,
in spiral rings that swing
without end, with the flutter
of butterfly wings and the chirp
of a dove beside you.

in fractal darkness you glow,
reaching on stretched toes -
what for? what chews
at your leg and tickles your soul?
fire and ice and purple glow.

where can you go, pushed
by air, wind that blows
unknown and chilled by faith, with
hands full of power, burns,
sharpened blades and golden coins?

can you find it,
the half-dreamt space
beyond edges, lines so carefully drawn?
full of nothing, staring at empty nowhere -
and do you dare?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

traps and being stuck

These three were part of a slightly larger casual reading I did for myself this morning. I thought the similarities in theme, differences in degrees were interesting to ponder a bit...

A bit of a bizarre scenario here, in this four of cups. It has a bit of an Alice in Wonderland type vibe, between, the juxtaposition of the fancy dresses, the sport turf next to the fireplace, the strange creature leaning over the chair with a class of something.

The woman at the center of the image holds a glass of wine. Her posture is that of dissatisfaction, boredom, apathy. We could call this scenario fascinating or uncomfortable, but the fact is, for her, the person in it, it isn't working. She doesn't want to be here, doing this.

She doesn't want to, or is indifferent. Dissatisfaction and yet she sits, keeps sipping from the glass. Ponders what she would rather be doing, but without actually getting up from the chair. Easier to sit and mope than to take action, create change.

Traps that aren't really traps except to the degree that we make them so. Times when we hold ourselves back out of lazyness, uncertainty, insecurity, caution. The trap that the path of least resistance can create. Perhaps change isn't even so hard to achieve here, but well - it won't happen without some effort, determination, will.

In the ten of swords we have a rather different image - a picture of despair, defeat, resignation. A woman sits in the middle of the floor, her dress pinned down by swords, another dangling just above her head. She sobs, face in her palms. Further away we see a letter, a bloodstained pen - and bits of red dripping from her hands onto her dress.

Was this a letter she received, some terrible news? Or was it a note she herself was trying to write, perhaps a last, melodramatic goodbye? What's interesting here is that, unlike in the classic RWS image, she isn't dead, isn't stabbed in the back ten times. Alive still but unmoving, ready to accept that fate, the final sword falling down onto her. There is no struggle left, only tears.

Why is that? This card is called Ruin in the Thoth. Ruin is painful, yes, dramatic, but does it have to be final? Are things truly as bad as all that? Despair and hopelessness - how they can paralyze you, blind you to any other options, possibilities, paths. Perhaps things aren't really so grim. Perhaps something can be rebuilt, or salvaged. But one needs to raise those eyes and look around first to find out.

Last perhaps is most difficult a way of being stuck. Another quite interest Devil image, we have in this deck: we see the goat hooves, ears, that goat that stands so central in the Thoth card. Here though it is anthropomorphized, woman and beast both. She wear's a fancy stage magicians garb, all show and effect. Not just the outfit too - the entire room we she is carefully decorated, classy with its tapestries, the detailed finishes on the walls. Black and white everywhere, two sides, stark contrasts.

Showy magician with so much control, sitting in the lotus position, balancing on her tail, almost floating. The barely visible occult circle hovers around her, behind her, power and danger you do not see until too late. The two human figures in her case must dance, perform like puppets. You cannot even see the string or chains that might bind them, control them. Whereas in the previous image, the woman could maybe move away if she would just stop sobbing and move the swords that seem so impossible to escape, here we have...the illusion of freedom, ease. We could stop it if we wanted. We could walk away if we wanted. If we wanted. Except the power of her influence is so strong, and the world beyond so frightening...and then, perhaps, trying to walk away and finding that it not so easy at all. Try and fail and try and fail. The devil does not care for our struggle. She floats and tempts and controls with so much confidence.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

memory of games

What does it mean - to win, to succeed, to level up?

There are quite a few extra cards, optional, that come with the Silicon Dawn. Being rather traditional with my tarot preferences, I kept most of them out, but the 99's were among those I kept. The culmination of a suit, its essence developed, a sort of opposite to the Ace. The king can be seen that way, is in many decks, but in a way this idea makes more sense - Like the Ace, this is a card representing forces, situations, opportunities rather than people, the personal.

Fire-Disks, the practical in life combined with energy, light, destructive potential. The metaphor in this card is a great example of why this deck so very much appeals to me. I grew up playing video games - Sega Genesis, SNES, several generations of playstations and gameboys and computer games. Books you could get for free from the library, huge stacks of them - video games were what saving up money was for. You fight and walk and solve puzzles and dig around in virtual garbage cans for hidden treasures.

My favorite games were the ones where you could customize your character. Pick a race, a class, skills to put points into. When you leveled up you could further specialize: would you be fast, or strong? Shoot fireballs, or learn to heal yourself and save a ton on potions? In some games, later on, you would have many characters on your team for storyline reasons, and you had to further choose which ones would be the ones you fought with, developed, allowed to level up again and again.

There were the difficult games where you had to grind - to walk around in certain areas fighting monsters again and again to gain experience, go up levels until you were finally strong enough to face this or that boss without being defeated. There were games where you had to strategize how to develop your character, what would help against this or that opponent. Brute force? Picking them off at a longer range? Status effects, attrition?

I still remember my first ever computer game. It was called Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires. You picked a civilization, built cities and roads and armies. I liked being the Indian empire best because of their elephant units. Strategy there was in that, yes. Which buildings will you choose, which advantages, will you lay seige to that city, take the offensive early on or bide your time and hope your neighbor doesn't build up his forces faster than you? There were the city building games too...Egypt, Ancient Greece. You start with a few hovels and farms, and expand. Build temples, mines, bathhouses, theaters, tax collector's offices. A garden next to houses will allow them to evolve, a mine will lower the property value - even in video games no one wants to live next to a mine. Can you level up that city enough, build the infrastructure needed to harvest the resources that will allow you to advance to the next part of the game?

You would calculate and think, in those games, trial and error. Trade offs, budgeting, this for that and you can never have everything. I played three generations of Sims games and even now my thinking about interpersonal relations is so very influenced by them - sometimes I imagine those bright green bars indicating hygeine level, social need, energy. The bars that showed relationships. Talk on the phone to advance, except if you don't have a strong enough relationship that person will not want to talk to you on the phone. Have you leveled up your skills, schmoozed with your coworkers and boss enough to gain a promotion?

In media video games often get so much flak - the violence, the time waste, the people with the
'video game addiction' and 'no life'. They are not mindless though, not all or even most. I read like mad and played video games too. And life too, has leveling up, of sorts. My social skills have certainly leveled up over the years. My ability to prioritize, my confidence even. Some things still need work...even in the Sims it was rare to have, without some kind of cheating, an elder with all their skills maxed out. That was a simple game. Always you can improve, grow, use energy to become more.

Achievement and pride, but fleeting. There is always more to be done, new beginnings, chances for gain and for loss. Some skill and some hard work and sometimes, luck, or lack thereof. I remember sitting in the air-conditioned computer room in elementary school, playing Oregon Trail. Perhaps if you prepared well and chose a good course and prudent actions you would make it to your destination. Other times, you would be mauled by a bear, your comrades would catch a disease and so it goes, game over. When you can you level up, and then you keep going at it.