Don Bisdorf

Inexpert Tarot Reading: March 19

Categories: [blog]

Although I can easily identify several people who've built a mega-successful personal brand out of semi-coherent rambling, it hasn't done much for my readership. Am I too incoherent? Not incoherent enough? What are the metrics on this?

All I know for sure is that today's cards are Temperance and the Five of Swords.

Tarot cards depicting an angel pouring water, and a figure collecting fallen swords.

Temperance is another of those wonderful high-symbolism cards. It looks like a hidden object puzzle. Or like some mysterious painting that's supposed to lead you to a hidden treasure, if you can decipher it. What are the meanings of the forehead-circle and the chest-triangle? Are they map symbols? A geometry puzzle? Why is the water spilling out of that cup at a gravity-defying angle? Why is the sun shaped like an oval? Why is the angel carefully dipping one and only one foot in the water? Does it matter that it's the right foot, not the left? The angel's right, I mean, obviously not our right. Or is that the key...

That toe-dipping thing is just the sort of clue that the hero of the treasure-hunt story would get right when everyone else is reading it wrong. And while everyone else is racing off to Times Square or something, our treasure-hunt hero ends up standing in an Ikea parking lot in Minnesota, excitedly looking at their GPS and shouting "This is it!" And then some Nazis drive up in a van with machine guns, because rather than trying to solve the puzzle honestly, they've just been trailing our hero with a radio tracking device.

Treasure-hunting is complicated, is what I'm saying. It's serious work, deciphering codes and dodging Nazis. You'd have to ask whether there's an easier way to make money.

And there is, of course. The figure in the Five of Swords card has gone into the lucrative business of battlefield scavenging. While the survivors of the battle are staggering off, shivering in horror from the carnage they've just experienced, our entrepreneur is already tallying up eBay profits.

It's a contrast between the hopeful ideal and the grim reality.

The treasure hunt: "The pursuit of wealth will be a test of wisdom, of ingenuity, of bravery, of persistence, of virtue. A perfect test of merit."

The scavenger: "I just wait for people to kill each other and then sell their swords."

There's always going to be a gap between what you think something will be like and how it actually turns out. If you design a tool, you may have a clear vision of how people will use it, but when people get their hands on it they'll use it for all sorts of crazy stuff (you software engineers out there can back me up on this). Any hopeful vision of utopia, despite working perfectly on paper, won't survive contact with its real-world inhabitants. Because people are jerks, that's why.

The name of the leftmost card is "Temperance," and that's a good word for today. It's great to dream big, but you should temper your expectations with a little practical caution.

Fly high, but pack a parachute.

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