Quiet friend, who has come so far

It’s been a long, long time, my dears. I did not intend to abandon this blog for four months, but looking at the last post I can see how grief and pain have been catching up with me–as well as alternating feelings of overwhelm and idleness/worthlessness. I’m humbled by the steady stream of people who continue to find their way here, most of them looking for information on the Wooden Tarot. I’m very aware that my Wooden Tarot meanings series stalled out right before I got to the Major Arcana and I still don’t quite know if I’m ready to take it on.

Truthfully: I’ve been in a tarot slump for the past few months. I think a large part of it is that knitting has largely taken the place of tarot as the dominant hobby/daily practice in my life. It used to be that I’d bring my tarot cards down to the breakfast table with me so I could do a daily draw. Now I bring my knitting down to the breakfast table with me and try to get a few rows in first thing. Another reason for my tarot slump is probably that I’ve disengaged from tarot social media in large part because I (finally) quit obsessing about which deck to buy next. I enjoy the tarot social media community, but it really was getting to be too much for me. I became too focused on owning and displaying decks (and looking at other people’s decks) rather than my own practice.

But I think most of all, I’ve really had to pause and assess–given the pain in the world, does it really make a difference if I pull out some cards with pictures on them? Over the past couple of months, although I continue to practice with tarot and oracle cards every few weeks, I’ve at times had a sense of embarrassment over the idea that I own about a dozen tarot and oracle decks and really think they could help out in the face of all the things that are wrong in this world.

Even though I haven’t done a whole lot of direct action either, I’ve been resistant to turning inward in response to the pain of the world. I think that part of this is that a slow, dry, low-key depression has been creeping up on me due to the fact that I still don’t have a job. I really, really don’t want to turn inward because it kind of seems like it’s dying, and the parts that aren’t dead are in a lot of pain. I don’t want to look at that, to sit with that. It’s true that I have come a hell of a long way since my depression four years ago, but I still find myself here: distracted and fidgety, overreacting to every thing I do wrong, wanting someone to give me a job so I can just have something to DO, but utterly resistant to doing a job that I think is boring or meaningless.

Despite talking a good game about meditation and spirituality, I still find myself indulging in distractions, avoiding the present moment, and being harshly self-critical. It’s taken me a long time to own up to this fact.

And then…this. Yesterday was a week since the election, and I am really sick of the word election. Already in my town, which is as blue as Babe the ox, a man threatened to set a woman on fire if she did not remove her hijab, gay and interracial couples have found swastikas scrawled on their doors, and a rock that university students regularly paint had “Kill them all” spray-painted on it. Not that any of this shit is new, it’s just been happening with greater frequency and visibility over the past several months, and even more so since the election.

It’s been fairly difficult for me to function, honestly. And I feel so vulnerable in this pain. Fortunately, I have close friends who are feeling the same way that I do so I’m not completely alone. But it feels so overwhelming at times–not only what is happening to human rights in the United States, but the fact that resisting the fossil fuel industry here has become so, so much harder.

And I just don’t know. I realize that the majority of my fellow white people voted for Trump from a place of privilege. Some (seems like a greater number than the media wants us to think) really were just voting for him because he is a bigot who is going to put white nationalists and ultra-conservatives in power. More, however, were so sick of Hilary Clinton and the Democratic party (I don’t blame them) that they were willing to throw pretty much every marginalized and vulnerable group of people under the bus. They might not have voted out of overt racism, but it’s clear that they cared more about their personal finances than justice or human rights.

But–I can’t say I’m much better. I voted for human and Earth rights in this country, all while throwing people in Syria and elsewhere under the bus, so I can’t speak from a position of moral authority here. I did not want another neoliberal war-hawk Democrat in the White House, so I did nothing about the election aside from voting, not a single Facebook post. I didn’t even do anything for Bernie Sanders because, although he and I agree on most issues, I thought he was too far left to have a chance against Trump. Now I see that he was maybe our only chance against Trump.

Over the past week, my feelings have yo-yo-ed quite a bit, from grief and despair, to determination and even gratitude. I am grateful for this wake-up call from complacency, for the shadow of my country being brought to light. I’m grateful that the depression I was feeling about my personal problems seems to have evaporated for now (although the prospect of facing them still seems exhausting.) I’m grateful that in these times I have really found my people. I find myself reaching for connection, rather than retreating into isolation (which is my usual tendency when feeling pain.)

I don’t have any real tarot wisdom except this: We say that the Star follows the Tower as if they were two distinct developmental stages. But I say that the Star is in the Tower, and the Tower is in the Star. They continually make and re-make each other. In disaster we are called to great things.

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself into wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

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Signal Boost: Tarot, Spirituality, #BLACKLIVESMATTER

This post started out as a signal boost for Virginia Rosenberg’s article, but I’m actually just going to add some more stuff because I found some more stuff that needs to be added. The last 4 or 5 days have broken up a lot of encrusted structures in my mind about privilege, whiteness, and white guilt. On Thursday, I bought the book Radical Dharma after hearing about the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile because I didn’t know what to do with my broken heart. Then my heart broke in a different way on Friday morning when I heard about the shooting in Dallas. I wrote a little about all this on my other blog and also began to use tarot to interrogate whiteness, which was heartbreaking in yet another way. I want to write up the results of that reading (hopefully ongoing practice) but for now, here are the words of others.

7 Question for Earnest Allies

by Siobhan of Siobhan’s Mirror

Thank you, thank you Siobhan for this gift.

Use the questions below to journal. Use them as a tarot spread. Use them as a conversation starter but make sure your conversation partner has the energy or interest in engaging these kinds of questions. Use these questions to know yourself better. Use them how you will. Or don’t and save them for later. Take a healing bath instead. May your inquiry be led by love. Even when it burns white hot and lives in you as anger. May your inquiry be a prayer for hope or a precursor for action. May your own truth lead you.

Where does a healer’s anger go? Beyond love and light

by Asali of Asali Earthwork

I could ask you to show me where in space and time it is written that there is love, light, and goodness in the murder of a man in front of his family, but I won’t. I could ask you to show me where in the stars is the hope when Black trans women are killed for daring to live. I could ask you to show me where on the dirt we walk on is the reason for Black femmes and mothers heartbreak and dying. I’ll say this instead.

Your silence is complicit in my murder.

That you remain silent while claiming the identity of healer in any form only makes it worse. That I am asked as a healer to remain silent about my pain is unacceptable and is killing me.

 Converting Hidden Spiritual Racism into Sacred Activism: An Open Letter to Spiritual White Folks

by Virginia Rosenberg

  • Emphasizing “positive vibrations” versus “negative emotions” is another way of perpetuating oppression through distancing yourself.

  • Beware of giving advice that stems from fear. Telling others to “be the light” when they are experiencing intense emotional reactions is destabilizing and promotes falsehood and confusion. Manipulating the feelings of others is psychologically and emotionally damaging.

  • This type of advice robs us of personal inner sovereignty. It removes us from an authentic relationship with our inborn navigation system and prevents healing. It also renders us ineffective to deal with reality and contribute to healthy change.

What Asali and Virginia are addressing is a tendency prevalent in many spiritual communities to avoid discussing violence, oppression, and privilege because those topics are “low vibe” (the New Age way of putting it) or signify anger and attachment (the Buddhist way of putting it.) White folks need to realize that the option of not discussing these things is itself a privilege. Furthermore, shutting people down by telling them that they are too attached, angry, or low vibe in reaction to violence and oppression is nothing other than spiritual bypass at the community level and creates toxic communities. It’s a way of pathologizing our pain for the world.

If we are all interconnected–which most spiritual communities believe–and there is pain and injustice happening somewhere in the world, we will feel pain and that pain itself is a sign of our interconnection. (See Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects for more on this.) Let’s honor our pain, feel it fully, and let it move us to action.

 

 

 

Mid-Summer Check-In

luckLately, I have needed to put my feet in the water. Lately, my life has been feeling so stagnant and stifled and I need to experience the flow of the river. Still no job, but I haven’t been looking for one. I’ve felt like something needs to stay on hold. Yes, I’m doing volunteer work–building my portfolio, I tell people, to ward off suspicions (in others and myself) that I’m just not doing enough, or that I’m being perverse or irresponsible.

But I have never done anything irresponsible in my entire life. Not one single thing. I make good decisions, I have my shit together. How would I have gone from the 17 year old from a working-class background and a 2.8 high school GPA to a 30 year old with a Ph.D. if I didn’t seriously have my shit together? Well, I’ve had lots of luck and privilege too, don’t I know it.

So mostly, I stay in. I knit, I read. I’ve begun a journaling practice again after letting it go for at least a year. I’ve been doing asana yoga and thinking about shadow work and soul work.

The river near me goes through many widths and depths as it winds through the city, but my favorite place is where it’s wide, fast-flowing, and shallow. People regularly struggle to get kayaks and canoes through certain spots, often having to get out in mid-calf high water to carry them to deeper areas. This summer, I have realized that getting out into nature alone must be a priority for me, and right now the river is calling.

I’ve found so much life in the fast-rushing shallows–mussels, crayfish, minnows, dragonflies and damselflies, ducks, geese. I saw an osprey diving for fish, and a painted turtle digging her nest. I sit quietly and watch; or wade slowly and turn the river stones over with curiosity and trepidation. I take my cards, too.

In May, I spent 10 days in an intensive with Joanna Macy, which is an experience I will be grateful for for the rest of my life. I brought my Mary-el with me, and while I did almost no readings for myself, I got the chance to do several readings for other people, and news of my crazy-ass tarot deck spread like wildfire among the participants. People saw and recognized the depth of Mary-el immediately.

After returning, however, I didn’t touch my cards for a week or two. I don’t know why–it just didn’t feel right. When I began doing readings for myself again, they were mostly focused around the circle teachings of the four directions. I’m still not sure what I’m doing with that, but I may write about it in the future.

I’ve been feeling the closest to my nature-centered decks: the Wildwood Tarot, the Wild Unknown Tarot, the Druid Animal Oracle, the Earthbound Oracle. 20160630_150041I feel like my practice is shifting and deepening somehow. I’m trying to take a more intuitive turn, but it’s also been hit or miss. I think my problem is that I want to do bigger spreads (especially spreads I’m just making up on the fly) and it’s not really clicking with me. I’m sort of groping my way to a more body-centered, nature-centered way of card reading.

Looking at my site traffic (which was bizarrely high in May and nearly as high in June, despite the fact that I published almost nothing), I see that a lot of people are landing here looking for info about the Wooden Tarot. I finished the minors months ago, but looking at the majors will take more time. I haven’t even begun with them yet, to be completely honest. I tried to start soon after I finished the minors, but something just wasn’t clicking. I didn’t feel like I could find a way into them. That may begin to loosen up and change a little bit, but I imagine it will be a while before posts start going up.

Today I made up a small daily spread that may be useful to some. Right now, all of my questions are about finding my place in the world–that is, my true place. It’s a much bigger question than getting a job; it has to do with what I was born to do, and I don’t know. Remember how my word for 2016 was UNKNOWN? Well, I’m finally making it into the unknown. It may be irresponsible, perhaps, but I don’t to get a new job–a new set of responsibilities and identities, a new social scene–until I dwell in this place of unknowing a little longer. Anyway, this spread is a version of the questions that I’m asking myself all the time nowadays, so here goes.

  1. Today’s theme, or most important feature
  2. What do I need?
  3. What needs me?

I hope you find it useful; if you do, let me know.

I just felt the impulse to apologize for all this navel-gazing, but you know, I’m not going to apologize. It’s part of what I need, and it’s part of what the world needs from me.

#decklust Part 2: Kelly-Ann Maddox Brings It

One of my favorite people in the tarot community is Kelly-Ann Maddox, whose wisdom enriches any conversation about tarot or spirituality. I first came across Maddox on Instagram, but the real gem of her online presence is her YouTube channel, where she has posted hundreds of videos of  a wide variety of topics relating to spirituality, tarot, ethics, and more. Although much of her channel is about witchcraft, which I don’t practice, I still get so much from watching her videos because of her genuine understanding of the processes of emotional healing, self-understanding, and personal empowerment. And she is really, really no-bullshit.

Recently, I saw that back in December she had posted a couple of videos about what she calls “Witchy Consumerism,” which includes the urge to buy tarot decks, but also expands to crystals, ritual objects, altar setups, etc. I wish I had seen them before writing my #decklust post, because there’s so much overlap and I could have gotten further by using her videos as a jumping-off point. I hope to talk more about #decklust/consumerism in the future, but in the meantime, do take a look at these videos if this topic at all interests you. She has great theories about why consumerism leaks into our spiritual practices and practical ways for beginning to examine and undo those habits.

 

Keeping Secrets Like the High Priestess

A little over two years ago, I took a career seminar in which I found out that my Meyers-Briggs personality type is INFJ. This explained so much about my life to me, I can’t even tell you. Some time later, after I got into tarot, I also learned that my birth card is the High Priestess. Getting this card as my birth card may have been ordained by the universe or it may have been a great coincidence, but in either case it has helped me think about patterns in my personality and how they have shaped my life.

INFJs are altruistic and caring people; they are sensitive and idealistic, but have a strong discipline/pragmatic streak and do well at following through on concrete tasks. This combination of idealism and pragmatism makes them the rarest personality type. (Being idealistic enough to go to grad school for English literature and being pragmatic enough to actually finish the program strikes me as a classic INFJ thing.) The High Priestess, too, has a combination of taking the world (and being taken) very seriously while sitting at the border between worlds in secrecy and detachment.

Perhaps the greatest thing that the High Priestess and INFJs have in common is secrecy. And I’ve got that in spades. Being secretive is not the same as being deceptive, mind you. I don’t lie to people. It’s just that I don’t bother to tell people what’s going on in my inner life until way down the line. For instance, at the age of 24 I left the area my family lives in to go to grad school. When I talked to my family, I mostly told them about my classes or teaching or social life. But then basically, one day, they wake up and find out that their daughter is a Buddhist! Like, she goes to a temple and has taken vows and has a Buddhist name now and everything! They did not know that I had been interested in Buddhism since about the age of 21, or that I began practicing seriously at the age of 26. All they know is that, at the age of 27, I’m now a card-carrying Buddhist.

This analysis from 16 Personalities about the weaknesses of the INFJ personality is a great description of my kind of secrecy:

INFJs tend to present themselves as the culmination of an idea. This is partly because they believe in this idea, but also because INFJs are extremely private when it comes to their personal lives, using this image to keep themselves from having to truly open up, even to close friends.

So yeah, big inner questions and issues are things that I work through on my own and nobody else really finds out about them until I’ve completely processed or figured them out. As another example, I decided over the course of a couple of years that I did not want to go into academia. So one day after I had firmly made this decision and even informed my dissertation committee, I called my best friend and told her that I was not going to pursue an academic career. She was devastated because her whole fantasy is that we’d get jobs in the same department and be academic best buds forever. But that’s not the reason why I didn’t tell her beforehand. It just did not occur to me to tell her my doubts about academia while I was in the process of making the decision.

Over the past couple of years, I have gone from complete obliviousness about this secrecy of mine to being quite self-aware about it. But even that self-awareness hasn’t changed much. My secrecy has been brought to the forefront of my mind recently because of murder of the beautiful men and women at Pulse in Orlando. I am queer, but I’m basically in the closet. (I pass as straight for a number of reasons, so oftentimes my sexuality is erased, even if I am trying to be open about it.) This is not because my friends or (immediate) family would react negatively any way (my mom would probably run out and join PFLAG or something), but I just always felt that my sexuality is a personal part of me, so why bother telling people? Also, I’m married to a man, so it seems like moot point. But it’s not. After the shooting, I realized how I needed to grieve it as a queer person in queer community, which actually means being part of queer community, which means coming out.

So now, at 31, I’m thinking–how am I going to tell my family, but also: why did I keep this a secret for so long?

Well, tarot to the rescue. I realized that I needed to spend a little time with the High Priestess as well as ask some questions.

hp reading

I could have chosen more decks, but I decided to take the High Priestess (or its equivalent) out of six of my decks: Thoth, Waite-Smith, Mary-el, Japaridze, Wild Unknown, and Wildwood. I didn’t do readings with these images; I just wanted to study them and have them as a focus. Then I took out my Earthbound Oracle and asked five questions:

What is the quality of things that I hide? Healing
What is the quality of things that I make known? Death
Why do I hide things? Transformation
What needs to stay hidden? Vision
What needs to be revealed? Voice

I have found the Earthbound Oracle to be the most powerful part of my readings lately, and this is no exception.

I hide things, not surprisingly, that are tender and vulnerable in me; things that I’m still working on, trying to figure out. Like it would be painful and perhaps counterproductive to take a bandage off of a wound to show someone else, I don’t want to show my developing thoughts and feelings to others until I feel that they’ve healed enough.

When things are no longer moving in me, when they’ve healed and become stable, that’s when I show them to others. There are already new questions and processes going on inside me, but the ones that I show to others are dead, not in the sense that they are gone, but that they’ve gone from being living questions to solid properties of my life. They’re dead in the way that death often signifies in tarot, something that has gone through transition.

So why do I hide things then? I hide the process of transformation. I hide things that are wounded and vulnerable in me, that haven’t had the stitches all put in place, are still undergoing metamorphosis. I hide those things like a caterpillar hides itself in a cocoon as it undergoes a transformation that nobody else can see. Transformation through healing is a fragile time for me. Perhaps I fear that I’d let other people talk me out of my process, perhaps I don’t know how to reveal to others what isn’t clear to me yet.

But it’s also clear that I don’t need to reveal everything to everyone. Some things need to stay hidden–the inner vision that drives my life questions is mine and mine alone. I just finished Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft this morning, which is about the practice of actually being initiated into adulthood and finding your true purpose in life (soul) beyond what society or your social self thinks. These encounters with soul, which often come in the form of visions, generally happen when we go through experiences–willingly or not–that shake us out of our everyday social selves. Plotkin makes the point that telling other people about these visions

might even be a bad idea. You’re likely to be misunderstood and very few people –maybe no one–will be able to grasp the luminous vitality that the vision holds for you. (p. 325)

The owl on the vision card is blindfolded, meaning its vision is turned inward, but at the same time it holds onto a jewel. The vision and the jewel, my purpose in life and my guiding light, are mine and mine alone. The vision drives the questions and the transformations in me, and while I might reveal them to others, revealing the vision itself makes less sense.

All that being said, my voice still needs to be heard. I think part of my problem is not that I keep silent about things that I’m experiencing while I’m experiencing them, but I sit on them for a really long time, even after they’ve become a part of my psyche and everyday life.  I need to give voice to these things while they’re still vital because otherwise I’m just sitting on a bunch of secrets that are actually powerful qualities about myself, and I’m sharing them with no one.

Since we’re so close to the summer solstice, this strikes me as a good time to reflect on secrecy. What am I keeping in the dark from others that needs to be brought to light? I’m pretty good at uncovering shadowy places in myself, but once I’ve discovered them, how do I make them into a light for other people? I don’t know if this series of questions would be helpful to others, but if you find yourself in a similar place and want to give them a spin, I’d love to hear about it.

The Mary-el and a small trip

Tomorrow I’m heading out for a 10-day activist training intensive, so I will not be posting here for at least a couple of weeks. The past few weeks have been filled with preparations for my family to come watch me graduate, and then preparations for this trip so my tarot practice has fallen off a little bit. We’ll be digging deep at this activist intensive, however, so I think it’s a good idea for me to bring a tarot deck to process things as they’re happening.

mary el.jpg
My newly acquired Mary-el Tarot, which I bought used in excellent condition. I probably won’t be featuring many photos of it here, though, considering how difficult the laminate makes it to photograph.

This morning, I decided to pack my Mary-el deck, even though I am far from having it mastered. I will not be bringing the book, which will force me to work with it intuitively. I haven’t used this deck that much, but I already trust it enough to handle more intense inner work.

When I get back, I’m looking forward to blogging more and sharing my experiences with my new decks.

#decklust, or, When I own every tarot deck will I finally be happy?

new decks
I don’t even use two of these decks anymore. Guess I really needed them, huh?

For those in the tarot community on Instagram, sharing pictures of newly purchased decks is a favorite pastime. Every day in my feed, I see pictures of packages containing decks, or new decks still in shrink wrap, usually with a caption that goes something like, “Just got home to find this in the mail! I’m so excited!” But a couple of months ago, I saw a post (I can’t remember whose, unfortunately) that featured a picture of two new shrink-wrapped decks and the caption:

When I own every tarot deck, will I finally be happy?

The tiny Buddha inside my head went, “Nooooooooooo! You won’t because that’s not how desire works!” But this was a person I’d never really engaged with, so I didn’t feel like jumping in and giving her a lecture. I also didn’t because, you know, it’s not like I have this shit figured out either.

For those who talk about tarot on blogs or social media, the temptation to share new decks with followers is irresistible. I do it, too. While we might not associate buying a $20 tarot deck with conspicuous consumption–a term we usually reserve for McMansions, BMW SUVs, and Prada handbags–that’s literally what we’re doing: making our consumption conspicuous to others. I don’t think there’s any harm in a person showing off a new tarot deck to their friends and followers, but strange things begin to happen when you share with dozens or hundreds of tarot folks on social media.

I follow about 220 people on Instagram, and while each of those people might buy a deck every once in a while, I see posts about new decks every day–often multiple times a day–which makes it seem like people are consuming more than they really are and that it’s normal to be buying decks all the time. Rather than conspicuous consumption, which focuses on one person’s wealth, I call it the spectacle of consumption–the illusion, though watching mass consumer habits, that each person is consuming more than they really are, and that it’s normal to consume at such a rate. (Not surprisingly, I’m not the first person to make this term up–if you google it, you can find it in critiques of Late/Post-Capitalism. But anyway.) And from what I can tell, this spectacle of consumption causes people to consume more–or at least desire to consume more.

Since seeing that Instagram post, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about the tarot community and what we call #decklust. On Instagram, and probably other platforms where tarot people hang out, the hashtag #decklust sums things up pretty well. As soon as a beautiful new deck comes out, everyone has to have it. And if you can’t afford it, at least you can publicly opine about how you want it. People use #decklust jokingly, of course, but there’s a kind of self-consciousness about it as well. On Instagram and in other places, I’ve seen people talk about how they spend so much money on decks that it’s actually harming their personal finances. Or about how they see tarot as a big part of their spiritual path and feel conflicted about how commercialized it has become. I myself have thought about all these things and have also undertaken measures to work with my own #decklust.

I recently ended a 6-month hiatus of buying anything having to do with tarot. From last April to October, I managed to blow almost $500 on tarot decks, books, and apps. So I decided that from November to May, I wouldn’t buy anything having to do with tarot. I did swap a couple of decks, and received a couple others as gifts. I also made the exception of backing the Next World Tarot on Kickstarter since it was a time-sensitive thing, but aside from that I held to my promise pretty well. During this whole time, however, I was building up my wishlist–putting things on, taking things off. In the end, I had up with a wish list three decks long: the Mary-el Tarot, the Japaridze Tarot, and the Tarot del Fuego.

As I saw these decks on Instagram, especially the Mary-el, I became really fixated on them. But this time I was smart enough and really began to watch the whole #decklust process. I watched the feelings of hope and excitement I got from the idea of buying and owning the Mary-el. I watched the feelings of resistance that came up when I thought: What if I don’t buy it? I watched my state of mind as I purchased it, opened it, and began to use it. The result? I realized very quickly after opening it that, although the Mary-el is a great deck and I will enjoy using it for years, I am not a whit happier for buying it. Furthermore, the amount energy I spent researching it and lusting after it was far greater than the enjoyment I get from actually owning and using it.

My conclusion is that #decklust is a time-waster and an energy vampire. And, most importantly, it’s endless unless you work with it. I still have #decklust, of course, but watching how it works gives me some perspective. Watching other people’s #__lust is helpful, too. For instance, I’m fairly rare in the tarot community in that I have no interest whatsoever in buying crystals. And yet I see people going through the same process with crystals and think, Why is this even an issue? But, of course, most people in the world would look at me and go, Why would someone spend so much money on a pack of cards?

A great way to get some perspective is to poke around in other communities on social media that are centered on collections and hobbies different from your own. One night on Instagram, I stumbled across an entire community of people who collect little pins that you buy at Disney World. I was amazed that anyone would spend their money on this–and then thought about my own spending habits and how stupid they would look to an outsider. My point is that our desires, no matter how well-founded they seem to us, are completely arbitrary.*

But more importantly, just as you can be in love with love, you can desire desire. The desire of desire, masked as the desire for things, is basically what US culture is founded upon. The reason why a new tarot deck will never make me permanently happy and fulfilled–no matter how much I enjoy working with it, and no matter how much happiness it brings in the short term–is that the process of desire is always focused on continuing to desire. It’s a system that is set up to continue desire indefinitely, not bring contentment. Even if I buy a copy of every tarot deck in existence, I will always be waiting for the next one, or turn my sights on something else.

Over the past six months, I have also become more alive to the ethical implications of buying tarot decks whenever I want to–even if I have the means. Why am I buying decks for myself when I could give that money to refugees or famine victims? And what about the reality that decks come from living forests which are chopped down, shipped to China, processed and made into cards using exploited labor and heinous chemicals, shipped back to the US (using tons of fossil fuels in the process), and into Amazon warehouses where they are packaged and shipped by exploited workers. I’m not trying to give anyone a guilt trip, because guilt is not an emotion conducive to positive action, but these are real ethical questions we all have to ask ourselves about anything we buy. Is another tarot deck worth the well-being of workers, the lives of trees, and more carbon released into the atmosphere?

I’ve adopted two strategies for dealing, at least partly, with these questions. The first is to buy used decks whenever possible. It’s not a perfect system, of course, since somebody has to buy new ones in the first place, but I think buying used is a great strategy for many things. The second is to make sure that I donate a dollar to charity for each dollar I spend on tarot. Not only does this curb my tarot spending, but it keeps me from focusing on myself and my own pleasures all the time. I have no illusions that either of these solutions is perfect, but they do make a difference in how I see decks. I’m forced to consider the social impact of spending money on myself, and the environmental/social impact of buying new.

The point I’m trying to make here is not that we should squash and eradicate our #decklust. Rather, I think we should bring curiosity to it. Does wanting new decks make me happy? What does it feel like in my body? Do the decks themselves make me happy permanently? How does it happen that I buy decks even when I don’t mean to? How do I feel about the social/environmental consequences of buying decks I don’t need? Answering these questions may or may not change our habits of consumption. But these are questions that every person needs to answer for themselves, and when approached with curiosity, #decklust is a gift, an opportunity for self-exploration.

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*I want to point out that I’m talking about consumerist desires–hobbies, collections, fashion, gadgets, and the like. Basic desires for shelter, food, financial stability, human companionship, etc. are a different matter entirely.