I have a friend that dabbles in tarot. Neither of us believe in any kind of divination, but the answers we give ourselves about the meaning of the cards can be very revealing. My friend dealt himself a hand around two years ago and has been playing out that journey since. He posed a question wondering about the next few years of his life. In particular, he wanted some direction. He did not disclose the specifics, but the first card was the fool. This represented to him a new life or a new beginning.
I asked for him to lay a spread for me and I posed a similar question as the one he asked himself years ago: what do I need to know about the journey ahead? I’ve been in the doldrums. I’ve been drifting around the equator. There’s no wind and I’m not sure about which direction I’m facing. I know I need to row out of here, but I only have so much energy. After graduating university a year and a half ago and a great adventure that summer, nothing has happened in my life that I can write home about other than a new relationship. My job is not providing me with much professional or personal growth. My surroundings are uninteresting. I am intellectually isolated and very lonely. Change must take place.
His spread was five cards: the sun, judgment, lovers, temperance, and justice. The cards respectively represented the purpose of the journey, the action I must take, the very difficult obstacle, and the two possible outcomes. A more perfect spread could not have been drawn. I’ll summarize our conversation to just an analysis of the cards:
- “The Sun,” representing the cause and purpose of my journey, can mean that I am seeking enlightenment, greatness, vitality, or assurance. I feel that enlightenment encompasses vitality and assurance. I am not so concerned about any kind of greatness. I believe in the old marketing maxim where the product speaks for itself, or for its own greatness. Greatness should be self-evident and a byproduct from other things. Seeking it as an end in-and-of-itself is a nasty hubris. Realizing “the truth” matters most to me in this journey.
- “Judgment,” representing the action I must take, can mean that I must make a judgment, hear a call, find absolution, or feel reborn. All four of these things appeal to me. Regarding making a judgment, I have been sitting on the fence or on the sidelines for too long in my life. I have always been inert and stale except for maybe a short period at the start of university. I view this as a sin of mine. Speaking of sin, absolution is important to me. Some of my habits now are a result of feeling guilt over having wasted my childhood, or really, wasting all my time, resources, and relations up until relatively recently. Perhaps the enlightenment at the end of tunnel might afford some kind of absolution from these guilts and sins. My friend and I reviewed these sins. I will make the analysis available later.
- “The Lovers,” representing the difficult obstacle, can mean the task of relating to others, being sexual, establishing personal beliefs, or determining values. Beliefs and values are something ongoing and are maybe mostly formed, or else as formed as they can be by now, though I recognize that these change over time to a degree. I’m not so concerned about being sexual and I haven’t been for years. What matters the most is relating to others. Establishing bonds, feeling love, making a real connection with people. Moreover, a sense of fraternity or brotherhood I believe to be the most important. I have always had a friend or two who was very close, though I have struggled. As an aside, years ago I dreamed of making a “Stoa” of some kind. Years later I could see the foundation of something like this in La Jolla’s Athenaeum. This library, paired with a few other facilities, would be perfect. I’ll expand more on that dream some other time. Anyway, I haven’t really felt any kind of kinship with very many people: least of all my family, which is sad. My family has always been very fragmented, not so much a family but a collection of individuals who happened to live together. I yearn for that. Perhaps this card deserves a post of its own.
- “Temperance,” the first of two possible outcomes, means achieving actual temperance, maintaining balance, experiencing health, or combining forces. My friend and I got to discussing bodybuilding and how, when bodybuilders strove more for the Greco-Roman ideal which made it more of an art form, it epitomizes eschewing excesses, achieving equilibrium, and representing harmony. Greco-Roman sculpture often depicted men with such bodies performing dexterous tasks or in poses contrasting taut muscles and graceful stature: think contrappasto, where one side is loaded and the other relaxed, where each relative extreme is balanced by its companion limb. It is pleasing to the eye and, I believe, to the spirit. I’ve been aiming to achieve temperance in all aspects of my life: right living, right livelihood, right beliefs, you name it. That is starting to sound like the eight-fold path. I believe this temperance is imperative to health and balance. “Flow,” the Positive Psychology idea, is in effect a practice of equilibrium: one’s capacities have met a well-tailored fulfillment. In other words, the glove fits perfectly. The task meets my abilities and the abilities meet my task, only just so.
- “Justice,” the last of the cards, represents the second of two possible outcomes of this journey. It means respecting justice, assuming responsibility, preparing for a decision, and understanding cause and effect. Tonight on the treadmill I was listening to a professor lecture on stoicism. A just universe is central to their beliefs, as they believed in a semi-deterministic life. They are governed purely by cause and effect with a small garnish of randomness here and there. And that is, I feel, the purpose of this card: illustrating that I am to accept the justice wrought by the universe for my actions. I will reap what I sow in this journey. I must accept those results, good or bad, and the karmic ties I leave in the universe. The connections will be clear.
Perhaps the future is brighter than I thought. Exercising patience and commitment, I may absolve myself of my shames and achieve a just outcome. After all, the only thing I truly have control over is myself, and granting belief in the semi-deterministic world of the stoics, governing myself appropriately over the course of this journey is the very best I can do.