In the Shadow of Science

The FoolThis is The Fool. He lives within us all. He is card zero, the first card in the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana are various smaller cards, in four suits, from Ace to King. This is the origin of our playing cards.

Generally, people consider Tarot cards to be steeped in the occult. I consider them to be like poetry. Each speaks a world of a story in very little space. These stories line up, they juxtapose, and their meanings take on dimensionality.

Here is The Fool, the first card after the minor leagues. He is leaving home with his traveling bag over his shoulder, having passed through the minor leagues and eager to discover what awaits him in the world. He is the first card in the Major Arcana, the first step into the wider world — the step that only a fool would dare make.

Everybody loves The Fool, even the little dog. They are in many ways kindred spirits. He is brightly dressed, enjoying the beauty of a flower in his hand, walking away from familiar places under the sun, completely unperturbed by the cliff he is about to willingly step off. Like I said, he is the first card in the majors, after the minor leagues. Doesn’t it take a fool to trust in fate enough to step off that cliff?

There are a couple stores nearby I frequent. One is the Jack In the Box, with my love of spicy chicken sandwiches and breakfast jacks. The other is the gas station with cigarettes. It began with the gas station, and the young, burly, tattooed, no-nonsense man who works behind the counter. He always calls me “sir”, and that irritates me. A few months ago I told him, “you will address me as Your Majesty.” I had never seen his eyes go wide before, from his dull, habitual movements. He looked at me and laughed. But I didn’t waiver. “I am not sir,” I said. “It is Your Majesty.” He gave me a mischievous grin and said, “well, thank you Your Majesty.” And I graciously answered, “you’re welcome,” and left.

The next time I came in, he called me “sir” again, and I just stood there unmoving, staring at him until he looked up at me in the eye. “Peasant!” I said. He stomped his feet while taking a couple steps back, laughing and bowed with his arms outstretched. “Forgive me… Your Majesty.” I nodded my head slightly to him, smiling, saying “that’s better. Thank you.”

Now, whenever I enter the store, before I even get to the counter, no matter what customers might be present, I am greeted with a loud “hello Your Majesty!” and a grin. Sometimes when the customers stare at me afterward I tell them, “yes, it’s true.”

The same is true now at Jack in the Box, where big woman and a scrawny man both greet me with my more appropriate title. Once I was even bowed to and addressed properly at Fred Meyer by someone who must have been a customer of the gas station and had learned their lessons well. Perhaps it is only a matter of time until I ascend to my rightful throne atop Covington City Hall from which my beneficence might reign upon all. Or maybe a few people will have some grins over their dinner. I hope it is the latter.

towerThis is The Tower. It sits atop a mountain and reaches up into the clouds. The tower is strong, with foundations rooted and strong as the rock upon which it rises. It is crowned in gold, the symbols of wealth and power.

The Tower is unreachable by most. The Tower exists at our very foundations. It is the place that nobody else knows about. It is the place so deep within us that we often don’t know about it. And from that foundation, we build up all things about ourselves. We create our own regalia; our own nobility.

The Tower is the 16th card of the Major Arcana, long down the journey which began with The Fool. And here, the very foundations we have built, are struck from out of the sky, crumbling in ruin.

All that we have laid down for ourselves and all the definitions we have adopted are laid waste by a bolt from above. It does not matter who you are, or what you believe. It does not matter how powerful or weak you are, how high, or how low. The very foundations have been destroyed.

I think words are different from our bodies, but I don’t want them to be. I wish I could write a love poem but half of me fell out somewhere. I think it might have evaporated and went up into rainclouds that make people stay home or bites their face with cold drops that make your eyes feel more awake.

I think you are just curious and will let me dig my own grave so you can leave flowers on it and then I can pull them down one at a time when I need to eat. I was hoping if you do that you would come back every few months to jab me with a shovel but I think I would have fell to the center of the earth by then and got crushed and burnt and came back as a blade of grass every mile or so. And you could blame yourself but I would be happier and try to tell you even though grass can’t talk. But you would suspect.

Or I could just pound you until you felt like everything that wasn’t there was, because every time you looked I’d be there pounding on you again and again until you knew you were just me pounding on you like you need. And then we could get pizza. And you could cry I would tell you that you are safe and loved and you could hate me so I can pound you some more until the night is done and in the morning we can go to the store and buy Captain Crunch with the people in line.

I am feeling like there is nothing left inside me. I wish I could give it to you. I want you to tell me how stupid I am because I might believe you and then I would feel free. I am full of myself for no good reason.

If you were a stranger on the street who told me you could make me feel better I would know who you are and I would not run away but I would feel bad for you because I would love your socks more than you do and it would eventually kill you. but really I don’t know.

I would cry if you punched me a few times in the face and not because it hurt. Then maybe you could put me on a couch somewhere and let me sleep even through a fire. I would want you to rub my ashes on your body like talcum powder and maybe when you closed your eyes you would find yourself everywhere.

DeathMost people think that death is bad. But it isn’t always. Some people suffer a lot and death might be good. Other people may cause a lot of suffering to other people and death would be a welcome ally.

Death does not care who we are. It doesn’t matter if you are a king, a pope, a virgin or a child. It doesn’t matter if you are just you. Death does not discriminate. Death cannot be bargained with. Death comes when he comes, and he make everyone and everything equal.

Sometimes Death does not kill us, though. Sometimes Death just kills some part of us. Maybe it is a lie we made up for ourselves. Maybe it is something we hold dear. Death will take what it will, when it wants it.

But if we manage to live on, what has died has left a large, empty space. It is an emptiness within us that has made room for something else. Perhaps it will be something more, or something better. Perhaps it will just remain empty. That is more up to us, once Death has come. Death is the end. And sometimes, Death is the beginning. Of just a part of ourselves, or sometimes, even, the beginning of an entirely new life.

I never was able to tell you, because we had both been driven mad by tiny sounds, just how much your scribbles, left for me on the kitchen counter each morning, shaped what thoughtfulness meant. The little crumbs you left, and your subsequent returns, expecting everything.

I had not realized that love, devoted to some, merely draws out nutriment, to feed what can never be sated. A drain, that pulls forth in the most beautiful ways, exactly what is expected, until all that is left is expectation. And then, no longer even knowing.

You would be happy knowing I still have your scribbles. I still have all the promises and dreams, tucked in a footlocker, under the stairs. They are a reminder, not of you, but of the real and the unreal. Like your paintings in the strange blue hues that remind me how wide imagination can penetrate.

Four of CupsThis is the Four of Cups. It is part of the Minor Arcana. The four suits are cups, swords, pentacles and wands. Pentacles represent earthly things, like money, endeavors, family and stability. Wands represent power or energy, direction and purpose. Swords represent intellect, reason clarity, and things of the mind. Cups represent the heart, or emotion and fulfillment.

Three is a very stable number and contented almost to boredom. Four is much the same, but the extra one brings something almost hidden or unforeseen.

Here, from out of the blue, is not a lightning bolt, but rather a cup, being handed to the dreamer. You have to wonder, will he see it, on such a lazy day. Will it be something he takes, for his own?

Perhaps it might make us wonder, out there in the world, what cups might be there, just floating in the air. Or what cups we might conjure, in all such sleepiness. He hasn’t gone along far enough yet to be The Fool. Or maybe he has. And this is exactly what he needed.

I’ll leave it to you, to decide. Along with The Magician. And The Sun.

The Magician The Sun