All in the Cards

Last night I had some friends over for what was supposed to be D&D night (Dungeons and Dragons to the uninitiated; yes, my friends and I are that geeky; no, I’m not especially embarrassed about it—quite the opposite). This friend group is the very same I’ve been playing with remotely for the better part of a year (probably more; pandemic time is a different sort of measurement). Unbeknownst to me, our D&D night, much the same as any middle-aged-only book club, would devolve into conversational gossip and excessive drinking and snacking (there is no such thing, really). But you won’t hear me complaining…

It just so happens that I have awesome friends. By what blessing I am afforded this privilege, I cannot say. Regardless, some two hours into our wining and dining, it was decided that we would have our cards read from a Tarot deck. The room sat in eager excitement as an assortment of incense and other such mystical accoutrement foreign to me were gathered and arranged, my default skepticism put aside for the time being. The cards themselves consisted of two decks, the first of which was shuffled, until the cards themselves seemed summoned forth from the ether. We were told that should we like to have any question answered, the cards would provide such clarity. We were also told we could select one of our ancestors from the past to effectively act as a guide for us. I opted not to, on the basis that I’d rather not perturb my resting ancestors for my bullshit, broke-millennial crisis.

“Please, Great Nana, tell me what I should do about my excessive student debt!”

In all sincerity, I did indeed have a question I wanted answered—one I have been asking myself a lot lately, despite it not being at the forefront of my waking conscience.

In life, so I’ve learned, some questions guide us, others haunt us, and then there are some that pick away at us, tapping at our head, keeping us awake in the latest hours of the night, until we eventually get around to answering them. In my case, as you can no doubt tell, the question I wanted answered was of the latter sort.

Watching the cards themselves was a treat. Something about the cards, the ambiance, the anticipation, the warmth of the room—it was comforting. As I’ve said, naturally a skeptic; but then, naturally, I’m also curious. Suffice to say I wasn’t sure what to make of these cards. On one side of me is the analytical, critical faculty that makes me a decent enough writer; on the other side is a maddened creativity that makes me a curious creature capable of writing complex characters; so, altogether, I’m a mess.

This mess of me stared at the shuffling cards and thought the flourish of movements and randomized selections I was witnessing were merely a trick of sleight-of-hand: a game meant only for the smoke-filled tents of the carnival; the other side of me looked at the cards and saw a moment in time, suspended, in which a question I was asking was about to be answered. This other side saw an opportunity, and me not wanting to be rude, listened to it. My question was simple; the reasons for my asking were hopelessly complicated.

The cards were selected; there were four in total. I was told such a number was unusual. According to my friend, for this particular kind of reading three is often standard; but here I was, with four sat before me. The analytical side of me said, “Ahhh, but of course! Naturally, to lead me into feeling special I have been given four. This makes sense.” The creative side held my suspended gaze upon the cards, not wanting to miss a moment of it. “This,” that side thought, “is fate speaking aloud, for me alone to hear.”

I tried my best to set aside my scruples. After all, what could it hurt?

Devout followers of Catholicism (one could argue there are none) would cry, “Blasphemy!” but to me, anyone unwilling to try new things sees only the trials and triumphs of others, and experiences none himself. So I sat in silence and listened to my reading. It didn’t take long—only a few cards being flipped and their meanings conveyed to me. I listened intently, my question at the back of my mind. Soon enough it was over. My question had been answered.

Now the last thing I would want is to leave my friends (or anyone, really) with the impression that I would ever be so reckless as to base the direct decisions of my life upon a deck of cards, and a ritual I have no familiarity with; such a decision would be made recklessly, impulsively—two things I cannot afford and do not intend to be. Regardless, the experience was enlightening, if not altogether inspiring. Now having done it, I think I understand why Tarot readings are such a timeless practice: there is a comfort in the readings, and an assurance one does not receive through simple prayer. There is a question, and there is an answer: what you want to hear is not necessarily what you will be told.

I couldn’t tell you what specific cards were drawn, as I can only remember a few; nonetheless the overall message I received resounded clearly, and my question’s answer came to me in that moment. I was going to include that question in this blog, but I don’t think I need to: if you’ve read any of my writing, you can probably figure out what I might have asked, or indeed guess at what it might concern.

I’m grateful for the experience. I’m certainly grateful for the assurance. In all, it was a lovely night, filled with lovely people, and conversation, and memories I would be sad to part with. We talked about a potential trip to Europe—more on that to come.

If you haven’t tried Tarot already, and aren’t afraid you’ll be smited by our overlord, then I’d say give it a go. Some things are worth trying once, and Tarot certainly was for me. But then, as I’ve explained, I’m a bit of a mess: parts of me dismiss and are eager to reject conspiracy theories, while others seek to carry around amethyst and avoid stepping on cracks in pavement; part of me scorns anyone claiming to know my future, while another part is merely frightened of what I might hear. But I don’t think these two sides have to be so mutually exclusive; I think there’s room for both, so long as there’s a capacity for respect and consideration. Trying new things is fine, experiencing new aspects of new cultures can be great, so long as you understand that you don’t understand, and won’t understand—at least not in the same way as someone from that culture does. It’s okay to be a skeptic, so long as you’re a respectful skeptic.

But despite my grappling with it, I’m grateful for this dichotomy, for my duality. I think it’s somewhat balanced, when all is working well. At the end of the day, we’re all just people, aren’t we? And some of us want help, many of us need it; and I don’t think we should judge another’s method of finding help, because that may indeed be the help we’re in need of.

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