dealing the cards like a meditation

Monday, September 01, 2003

This covers me: the emperor
This crosses me: ace of swords
This is beneath me: king of swords
This is behind me: page of wands reversed
This crowns me: 4 of pentacles reversed
This is before me: 2 of swords
My fears: 9 of wands
What others think: death
My hopes: ace of pentacles reversed
Final outcome: queen of swords reversed

This reading is incredibly martial, dominated by swords, all beholden to the emperor. The emperor is order, the rule of law, the static hierarchy. The circuitry of a computer chip. Mathematics. Reason triumphing over all. This is the mindset that Einstein exploded. This is a description of the world that the existentialists denied existed. My first impression of the emperor is something that is inflexible, something that resists change. Conservatism.

Such a mindset seems doomed to failure. Even the strongest substance, the most well wrought construction, will break and shatter given enough pressure. When force is applied to the extreme, anything rigid is essentially brittle. Witness the World Trade Center.

But the emperor also represents a father figure, and when I think of my father, he does not conform to the stern patriarchal stereotype. He is indeed stern, but he is anything but rigid. While he is set in his ways, his ways always seem to flow around whatever obstacle comes his way. He has made his way through life by adapting, by thinking quickly, by following hunches instead of taking too long rationalizing principles.

Because, if you believe in biology, specifically, in evolution, you will find that adaptation is the key to life. Being able to change quickly to meet the circumstances. While species before us have had to wait for the cruel hand of natural selection, human beings can interact with our environment in real time: making clothes and building houses to handle the changes of weather, farming and husbandry and storing surpluses, diverting rivers, and to our modern era, of vaccination, transplantation, gene therapy, satellite communication, cel phones, fiber optics. We do not wait for natural forces to shape us. In some cases, we can shape these very forces.

But despite all this, the emperor reminds us that there are rigid rules. The laws of physics are fixed and immutable. Most importantly, we must abide by the fact that energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed, and that disorder ever increases. Locally, this may not be the case, but in the big picture, there is no way to stave this off.

In this way, the emperor is a fatalistic card.

The ace, the king, and the queen of swords all represent the quest for truth, often at the expense of emotion. Truth is like cold, hard steel. It is the stark physical reality embodied by the emperor as explicated above. Truth, cliched as it is, cuts both ways. Truth, very much like the sword, is both a weapon and a defense. The queen of swords, being reversed, is in a more precarious position, though, at times perhaps letting emotion get the best of her. But this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The page of wands reversed makes me think that it could be someone in my life, who is, unfortunately, rooted in the past, receding from my influence. Someone who would help me wander out of the sharp labyrinth of law and regulation outlined by the swords and the emperor, who would teach me how to think outside of the system. There are many possible candidates in my life. But, being reversed, it shows that the page is momentarily stymied by the system, lost in indecision.

The 4 of pentacles brings up the idea of defense, of trying to shut out the world, of trying to clutch at the things close by at the exclusion of things that may come. One pentacle sits on the head, blocking out new thoughts. Two pentacles are on the feet, preventing one from being grounded, in touch with the earth, in touch with reality. One pentacle sits on the heart, blocking out any possibilities of love, of feeling. But reversed, it points to the fact that none of these things can remain in place. (Gravity alone will wrench the pentacles out of position, eventually.)

The 2 of swords is in many ways similar to the 4 of pentacles. It is impossible to pass by the maiden, as swords are cast out across the path. She crosses her arms in front of her, blocking out her heart, akin to the pentacle blocking out the king's heart in the 4 of pentacles. She is blindfolded, unable to see the outside world, relying only on internal stimuli to guide how she should react. But the two swords also connote balance.

The 9 of wands seems to be another card of defense. A man who has not long since seen battle, bandaged across the head, stands warily with a staff in his hand, standing vigil for the coming battle. I fear that I will have to fight my way through how many battles, and in the end, I may very well succumb. Interestingly, perhaps the man in the 9 of wands decided to try to pass through the maiden in the 2 of swords, failing, and earning himself a gash across the head. Is the man resting up for another skirmish, or is he just going to wait warily?

Death is always a frightening card. While I've known for a long time that it almost never means physical death, it does mean transformation. And, change can be painful. (Particularly for the emperor, who seems to dislike change.) Yet change is a reality of our life, in fact, it is dictated by the unchangeable laws of physics, that nothing can ever remain the same. Perhaps death points to some greater reality that overrides the physical world we know, somewhere where the laws are different. Even in the iron-wrought world of the emperor ("The Empire never ended," as Philip K. Dick put it), the Black Iron Prison, there is a possibility for change. (What is that cliche? The only sure think about luck is that it will change.)

The ace of pentacles reversed seems to imply the need to let go. While the pentacle is representative of the earth, of reality, of practicality, it, like the Black Iron Prison, can be limiting. It is perhaps time to look out towards greater horizons. (The endless possibilities are, however, not more than a little frightening. Almost like staring at the sun.)

So the queen of swords reversed, as mentioned above, is in a state of turmoil, trying to hold fast to the principles of reason and being non-emotional, but upside down, like the ace of pentacles and the 4 of pentacles, indicates that this can't possibly hold. That being grounded is all well and good, but you still have to dream.

As Tyler Durden says: "It's only when you've lost everything that you're free to do anything," perhaps riffing off of Janis Joplin: "Freedom is just another word for nothing to lose."

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