The Tarot takes the lead. (2495 words)


A while ago, I was trying to make this a "normal" website with articles, and links and all the typical layout bits and pieces you would expect like drop-down menus, and navigation bars, and on and on. Setting up a site is hard, however, when you are wandering around in the Cascading Style Sheet dark and banging your shins on divs and selectors and .IDs and all that.

Then I thought: Why not let the Tarot lead? Just pick a card to write about on the landing page and take it from there. If the Tarot actually works, as it does, of course, then something good and useful will emerge, or grow, or unfold, or become clear.

I find it's often easier to make sense of a card when you are using it to answer a question. My plan was to choose three cards to explain the Tarot itself and its use - in the past, present and future - but one fell out as I was shuffling, so here we go.

The card that answers my wide-ranging question was the twentieth major trump: Judgement.

JudgmentIf we start with just the name of the card, then the Tarot will help us judge, or make better decisions. That's a good start.

Miles Dawson writes at the beginning of his Ethics of Confucius (1915):
The central idea of Confucius is that every normal human being cherishes the aspiration to become a superior man—superior to his fellows, if possible, but surely superior to his own past and present self.

So we're in life and we can't help but live. That's easy to say, of course, but how are we going to do it; how, we might ask, are we going to become superior to our past and present selves?

How do you handle a problem?
Let's say something goes wrong. It may be a big problem or a small one; it doesn't matter which, but the question is: How are you going to react? Depending on your beliefs or perhaps on your upbringing, you might decide that this event proves that you are well and truly doomed, and that this is a sign of how useless, unworthy, helpless, or whatever, you are.

Or you could have an opposite reaction and decide that you are going to treat this problem as a challenge and see how well you can deal with it, or how quickly you can overcome it.

It's up to you.

Look at the picture on the Judgement card: we see that there is, or there can be, renewal and escape from confinement, or from a situation where you maybe think you cannot take action. We may be being reminded that life is for living, and for the living.

As Bob Dylan once wrote: He not busy being born is a-busy dying.

Well said, Bob.

Along similar lines, Rudyard Killing asks us if we can: Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run.

Human thought
Some say that human thought is creative. This probably doesn't mean we can conjure up things like a new car out of nothing just by thinking hard about them. Maybe the meaning is more that humans have imagination, or can imagine different possibilities, and it is these scenarios that come into existence. If you think pessimistically or despondently about a condition, then it gets worse, you're defeated and your worst fears come true. If, on the other hand, you can make yourself - or choose to - think constructively or confidently, then that too will come to pass. It's up to you; and that's the truth.

Say you find out you are going to lose your job within a couple of months; you will get some extra cash as severance pay, and that's good, but you will have to find some other work, and that might appear to be a problem. You need to decide what to do - to make some kind of judgement about the situation you will soon be in. If you pick a card, you can use it for guidance.

An engineer by the name of Eli Goldratt has written some books on how to get business running efficiently. Part of the solution is to identify the bottleneck, and organize production around it. The manager of a particular department or two might not like the new setup, but what is important is the overall direction and profitability of the company itself. There is the local optima (the best things to do for the part, or the department) and the global optima (the courses of action that will produce the best results for the company as a whole).

I like to think that the Tarot will always answer from the point of view of your own, personal global optima. You may not see fully what it's doing, or you may want to argue with what it's telling you, but if you follow it (and you are really following the guidance and wisdom that comes from your own self), you will be happy. At least that's my take on the matter.

An example
So let's say as an example for card reading that someone is going to become unemployed. What is the best way for that person to deal with this situation? Have a rest, perhaps; go on a trip; find a new job in the same line of work; start something completely different; go back to school; take some training; find a rich husband or wife; take the summer off and become a writer; and so on. These may all be good suggestions and right at some time or other in the person's life, but we need to know what to do over the next few weeks and perhaps beyond.

If we pick a card to get an idea of what part of the life-cycle the person is at, it can also provide a comment or two on the best course of action. Look at the picture on the card and use it as a starting point for figuring out the answer. Don't just read "the answer" in a book or in the booklet that comes with the cards. It is not always easy to relate supposed "meanings" to an actual question, yet we want the card to indicate where the person is, and what is best to do.

A printed answer in a book may tell us what is going on, but somehow that's not enough. You may read about a card and tell the questioner that he or she is going to become poor for a while and that may be true in fact, but it's not much help to the questioner. The Tarot becomes more valuable to us when we can use its pictures and symbols to explain the how and the why of someone's life, and not just the what.

So you might say that such and such a card shows that you are going to break a bone in your right hand and that will be very inconvenient.

Or: this card shows that you are going to break a bone in your right hand. So over the next few weeks, pay close attention to what you are doing, and do not let you mind wander. Focus on the task at hand. Monitor your thoughts and your thinking; when you find you are expecting the worst or going over past problems and having imaginary arguments with people in your head, make yourself relax and breathe in and out a few times to calm yourself. Don't panic. Carry on.

At the same time, something is going to happen that will be very inconvenient, and you can be miserable about it, or you can use it as a chance to learn something new. If you break a bone in your right hand, learn to use your left. Some time ago, I got a pain in my right shoulder apparently from using a mouse at an awkward height and with no arm support. It was getting worse, so I learned to use my left hand. It was a bit awkward at first, but I soon got better at controlling the cursor, and my right shoulder has had a long rest. It makes me wonder if I am actually left-handed.

What point are we at?
Life seems to go through cycles; there are beginning times and mature ones, as well as endings followed by fresh starts. When we are dealing with a situation, it can be useful to know what stage it is at. We handle a new problem differently from an old or long-standing one. This is normal. If we can know the point in the cycle, we can make better judgements on what would be a sensible course of action. We might then look at the number of a card to understand what best to do.

An Ace can mean a new beginning - maybe in a new line of work, or maybe only in a new company. Either way, it's an indication of a fresh start, so the questioner can be hopeful.

With an 8, on the other hand, you're almost, but not quite, at the end of something (10 or 1 + 0 = 1 being the end of the cycle). You may not have any ideas about what different work or location you should look for. With a 10, you're sort of one step away from a new beginning, so finish what has not been completed; go over the past and tidy up any loose ends; and so on.

Same question: different answers
Let's go back to the question of what to do if someone is about to lose a job. You pick a card and let's say the answer is the 5 of Coins.

5 CoinsThis does not look good - the card shows a couple walking barefoot through snow, outside a warm building. This looks like money troubles for a while, so the advice can be to cut back on spending; make sure that you actually need whatever it is that you are buying or paying for. Do without wherever possible - not that you're going to have to do without forever, but you may be wasteful and this difficult time gives you a good chance to break the habit. This is just Step One, remember - a stage to be gone through; the sooner you learn the lesson, the quicker you can move on to the second part of the solution.

MoonOr you might pick The Moon card, reversed, and this indicates a different situation, or would give different advice.

This card - according to author C C Zain - represents treachery and deception on the part of other people, so you have to be careful about who you connect with, or those you trust to look after your interests. The first priority is defence; offence will come later, but is best left until after you have set up a plan that depends on you and your own efforts. This might mean making an honest list of your strengths and weaknesses, and then doing something to improve in areas where you know deep down that you are not good enough - and that's good enough according to your own standards. People might feel the need to encourage you by telling you that something you did that was really quite ordinary was excellent; you know it was only ordinary, and there can be danger in fooling yourself that it was more than that.

With The Moon, reversed, you are taking a big risk if you expect people to come through and do what they say they will. Some may try to benefit from your problem without helping you; others will be unable - through no fault of their own - to do as they thought they could. If you have people working on your behalf, you ought to keep on top of them. An agency may be looking to place you in another job; call them regularly for updates on what is happening and to find out if there is more you should be doing, perhaps to promote yourself, rather than sit around waiting for them to contact you.

6 CoinsWhat if the answer on how to proceed was the 6 of Coins reversed?

If we look at the picture, we see someone handing over cash to the needy, or we might think that the person on the left has been injured, and that's different from just being short of money. The card seems to be illustrating ideas like: generosity, charitable actions, gifts, donations, and maybe welfare. There is a giver and there are recipients.

When the card is reversed, what are we to make of it? We can read a reversed card as showing delay. In a Yes-No spread, a reversed card can mean No. Here, with this card, the message can be that the questioner is not going to have to rely on charity or welfare. He or she may be afraid that this is what will have to happen - that financial conditions will force them into being dependent on others - but it does not need to develop this way. If the person will look for new opportunities, they will appear.

The giver in the picture is holding scales and they are balanced. The questioner should look on both sides of the coin, so to speak, when considering his or her future actions. When wondering: What are my prospects?, look at strengths as well as weaknesses. Consider both sides and give them equal value. When you think: I am going to lose my job and many other people are already struggling to find work, don't stop there. The statement may be true, but at the same time many more people have not lost their jobs, and every day many people find new opportunities and are being successful.

This card can show generosity. Being reversed, we might think that the questioner should hold back and keep a tight rein on what he or she has. I think it's the opposite because I think that if it's true that we get back what we give out, then being generous and giving - no matter what our apparent situation is - will mean that others will be generous and giving to us. If we're fearful and trying to make do in a shrinking world, where will it end? It will only get worse and more shrunken if we let it.

With this in mind, be generous and helpful to others. Perhaps volunteer your time to help those in need; you probably have skills that could be put to good use by others. If you're having a yard sale to raise some extra money, give purchasers a bonus gift when they buy, or give them a deal rather than dig in your heels for that extra dollar or two. This will change the atmosphere around you; you will get back something different from the usual.