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 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 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!