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 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.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

drifting, climbing and falling

Drifting, drifting a part of you always feels, paddling in this half-world limbo between dusk and dawn. You cradle the moon that holds and that menaces with its scorpion tale - careful, no sudden movements and always that bit of the madness the why not if it does...

The the moonlight reflects in the waters below. How deep are they, these waters? Who can really see beneath the waves, beneath the darkness and light reflected, stillness and ripples that spread across as you paddle and swim, head above and breath and breath, remember, that part it is important, yes.

There is a kind of calm here too in the stillness, the silence, the familiarity. You close your eyes. Are you tired, exhausted? Is that apathy showing, resignation to the things that cannot be changed? Or is it merely a momentary shutting of the eyelids in preparation for something else? Hard to know anything for sure. The darkness and moonlight are full of illusion, fog that covers and obscures, questions.

There is more, of course, then the Moon, the sound of splashing waves. There is the real world, the world around you that you can see and touch, explore. Here you would climb onto rooftops, work carefully, wielding those tools, building up towards...something.

So many waves here too, of a completely different sort. Invisible waves which fill the air and the sky with signal and knowledge, so much knowledge spread in so intangible a form. Waves and waves that connect you to people in little houses and windows so far away. You spread your own words and find that of others. Speak and listen and learn. How much possibility, opportunity did you gain from those waves, from voices and images broadcast over such distances? Where would you be without them?

A contrast to the moon, to isolation, to meditation with a focus on within. Here is the world, close by even when it is so very far. Here is reaching out and grasping and forcing yourself to learn to do things so you can grasp all that much more. Waves in air - you will never see them, never splash and swim in them and you are, windows open in a room, listening to a poem recited in another language as you pull cards because it is beautiful, calming.

And farther out still from yourself, from the world around you, there is space, the universe, things so large and so abstract as to be impossible to truly quantify or imagine - for you at least; you will never be a physicist, a mathematician.

Tree trunk and leaves and fire-colored flowers, earth and whimsy, fall through that space, the glittering darkness. You laugh while falling, laugh at all you cannot see and cannot control. What are you falling towards, and does it matter? In a way this space, this absence of, makes all things at once quite close and very far away indeed. Like memory - the smell of jasmine flowers, the little potted plant on your dresser starting to bloom; nostalgia for the bush that grew on the wall of your landlord's courtyard under the hot summer sun, the little boys who tried to sell necklaces and bushels of the plaited, aromatic flowers, "one dinar, one dinar". Close and far, you fall away from things and into other things and you laugh though sometimes, often you land ungracefully, with a thunk, with pain and groans.

Dreams, abstractions, ideas, memories, flights of fancy, carelessness. Which is more overwhelming - to be drifting through waters of you, you, so much you or to plunge downwards through so much vastness, the realization that you are really so very small and there is so much you will never see or know? A matter of perspective as always - you live all three at these at once, every day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

kings and knights and pondering technology

In a quite distinctly modern take on the King of Swords, we have the man piloting what looks to be a fighter jet of some sort. I say that based solely, of course, on my experiences in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. One thing I love about DC is that there are so many completely free museums...

But yes, planes, jets, bombers. It's amazing when you think of it, how rapidly aerial technology developed. We spent thousands of years never more than dreaming of flight, and then suddenly two brothers put together a flimsy contraption that manages to take off and stay in the air. Less than two decades later planes are being used in the first world war, with stunningly high casualties for pilots. Scouting missions at first, but well...someone gets the bright idea of shooting from the plane and then everyone does it and then there is bombing, gassing, machine guns mounted on. By the second world war they are made of cold metal, different types, models worked by nascent air forces, day and night bombing, the blitz, firebombings that kill so many millions in certain cities, nuclear bombs dropped too... Now we have drones, man-less aerial craft that can go across borders, spy and kill who knows what and where and why...

Isn't he all about precision, focus, this King?  Isn't he all about coldly judging what to do, using logic, and getting it done? Efficiency, detachment.

And quite similar to the Thoth knight he is too - the same armor but now of course it is a shirt with a modern decal. Instead of the golden steed we have the jet, its windows tinted yellow, the screen in front of the knight so that he may measure, analyze, target. No more need for extended daggers and swords. Now you point and click and things are destroyed, accomplished, undone.

Now you point and click. It boggles my mind, how much of a pain focused, graduate-level academic research must have been before the advent of computers. I have a topic and I type a few words into some search engines and pull up numerous articles going back decades, pull up a list of relevant books, many of which have the parts I need available on google books, others downloadable, or easy to reserve so I only have to stop by the front desk of the library. I can pull up newspaper articles from any number of publications. I can even find documentaries in other languages, programs from the National TV station of Algeria and from Al-Jazeera, and sit back and watch. All of this in a single afternoon, and save everything that looks relevant to my oh-so-easily-searchable gmail account, and voila the bulk of the legwork for an important project is taken care of, to be continued at my leisure.

The same spirit and drive this knight has, in both depictions, and the same goals and purpose. But means change, presentation changes, even attitudes change. Technology does have its drawbacks and I think many of them have more to do with attitudes it engenders than anything else. Why memorize when you can always look up, right? And yes, in many ways memorization is not efficient these days but stretch the brain muscles it does in interesting ways, to be able to recite things at length from memory, lists of names and poems. Even worse is the way so many people use computers and tablets and such in class. I've tried it both ways, and granted, my note-taking is always questionable - but my mad doodling helps me think, and more importantly paper and pen do not offer nearly as much opportunity for distraction and shortcuts which undermine learning processes. I had a classmate in Tunisia who would look up words while speaking in class on google translate, his laptop always open, and yes so you never search for a word but you also never remember the ones you use afterwards.

But so it goes and so everyone chooses for themselves how to use the tools they have, and in many ways, if you are like the king of swords...there is so much you can do with it. There is so much possibility. You can fly so fast and so unimagineably far. Goggles and gloves and glittering wings; even with so much power, he still enjoys the experience, the forward momentum of his ability.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

hermit's world and strife

The Hermit here, dressed in jester clothes, walks alone as a hermit is wont to do. However, the path she walks on is a peculiar one - pink and peach and violet colored. There are gears, visible and embossed around her, and the passageway to what looks like a door in a much more ordinary world. Alone, perhaps sitting behind that door at home... but really she is somewhere else completely, the inner world of vivid color and inspiration. This is a place where one can only go alone.

The five of wands features two figures, noticeably less human than the Hermit with their black skin, antennas and tails. Given the switch of elements in the disks and wands suits, I debated how to compare these to the Thoth minors...despite the element switch, I think sticking to original Thoth suits makes more sense. Strife I can see in this card, Worry not so much. So Strife then - not so much against others, the way the RWS tends to present this card, but rather against circumstances, environment, luck - things that you cannot necessarily influence or control, but with which you must struggle and deal with nonetheless. The creatures tries to eek out his living tilling the soil, in spite of the angry volcano, the cracking apart of the earth. The stick above his head, something taunting him, the feeling of something always getting in the way, another obstacle or annoyance to face no matter how much you try to think positive, do the right thing...

Hermit, turn inwards for inspiration and productivity even when the world, your circumstances provide you with yet more strife to deal with. So it goes. Last weekend I had ten cavities drilled and filled, without anesthetic. That was not fun, though hardly a new experience for me. Much more annoying is the pain in what seems like all the back teeth in my mouth that started two days later, that radiates into near-unbearable headaches if I don't take ibuprofen constantly. Last night I forgot and tried to eat hot soup and almost cried because my teeth all hurt so much. My mother says its the nerves reacting, that she's had this too, that it will go away eventually and to just use sensitive toothpaste and wait and it could be up to two months...

And so and pain and so. Do feel Hermit like today, not going to a meetup I had planned to attend because I don't feel up to dealing with people. But doing reading, working on ideas for the Arabic blog, trying to get some errands done...gears and cogs spin on.