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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lent / Tarot / The Depths: The Moon

St Teresa of Avila as depicted by Bernini by Tamara De Lempicka

Some people say, "I have trouble believing in God." Or they say, "I have trouble believing in life after death." Or they say, "I wish I could be creative."



I have never not believed in God. Not even for a second. I have never not believed in life after death. I have been visited by the palpable presence of departed loved ones, as well as other non-incarnate spirits, all my life, and I take their involvement in my life, and my conversation with them, for granted. And … creative? I have trouble turning it off.

When I close my eyes to sleep at night, often, not always, unbidden, fantastic designs flood my vision. I could never create this stuff while fully conscious – I am a writer, not a visual artist. My rare attempts at visual design – Halloween pumpkins, pretty cakes – are stilted, lumpen, and hopelessly amateurish.

But just the act of closing my eyes and trying to sleep releases it. The designs that flash before my closed eyes are always fully realized, and museum-worthy. They might be in the style of Japanese prints or Orientalist paintings or Art Deco – they are always ornate and they appear in complete detail. I can't say that I create them. Something in my mind shoots them out. I watch these designs unfurl and I am amazed and entertained.

My sister Antoinette was the same way. Her mind was always percolating. When we went for long drives, we would "write" spontaneous novels, using passing roadside markers as the stuff of our story. Once we passed a Jehovah's Witness house of worship and our main character was named Kingdom Hall.

One of my roommates said to me once, "Don't ever take drugs. You don't have to. What people try to experience with drugs is going on inside your head all the time."

Is having this kind of brain, a wild horse of a brain, a naked dancer in the desert brain, good or bad? It's both.

Tarot is a deck of 78 cards that attempts to limn the entirety of human experience. The English language tries to do the same thing with 171,476 words. According to Google, that's the number of current words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Given the limited number of cards, it's a given that the cards will have numerous meanings.

The Moon card can be taken very positively, and it can be taken very negatively.

The Moon represents the depths of the human mind and soul, and the depths of meaning and life experience. Humans are diurnal creatures. The moon is the nocturnal light. Humans stumble at night, but they also, away from the day's distractions, touch primal fire.

Good or bad?

On the good side, The Moon represents inspiration and spiritual experience and deep personal truths.

On the bad side? Well … The Moon depicts a domesticated dog beside a wild wolf. Do you miss the dog's domestication, his ability to poop outside, perform tricks, and fit in? Is that wolf a good animal to have around or a scary one?

I know a lot of people who just adore wolves – as wolves exist on calendars, needlepoint pillows, and black velvet paintings.

Me? I met a wolf once. Face-to-face, no barrier in between me and the wolf. I was encouraged to pet him. Feeling peer pressure, I did pet the wolf. I looked deep into the wolf's eyes, and I saw deadly, carnivorous hunger, expert skill at satisfying that hunger, and no conscience. Ever since that brief, terrifying encounter, I have had no romantic feelings about wolves.

On the other hand, is there any sound that so rouses what is deep within is better than the sound of a wolf howl … at an appropriate distance?

The depths may be the font of our life or they may be a featureless room with a metal bed in a locked ward. The Moon card covers both: inspiration and madness.

I'm Catholic. We do both – inspiration and madness – better than any other of the major Christian denominations. Hinduism, though, outdoes even Catholicism. Sadhus leave their homes and families, allow a mentor to break their penises, and live the rest of their lives naked, except for a covering of ash, never cutting or combing their hair, eating only what is donated to them by passers-by. I met such men. One of them sat behind me on a bus in India. I asked him to share some deep wisdom with me. He said something snarky.

I do wonder about a whole pamphlet-full of Catholic saints. I don't want to piss off too many people but I have to mention Padre Pio. I doubt that his stigmata were real.

My stance regarding the phenomena referenced in The Moon card is pretty simple. Is this hurting or helping? If you had a dream about a dead relative and it soothed you, so much the better. If you have dreams that torment you and anti-anxiety medication makes the dreams go away and you feel calmer, all hail modern pharmaceuticals. If you follow your art and you and your loved ones starve, maybe it's time to get a day job. If you have that day job and feel suicidal, maybe it's time to work your creativity into the nine-to-five routine. Even naked dancers in the desert need to apply sunscreen.

On the other hand ... All great truths begin as blasphemy. We need the moon. We need the desert. We need people who see what we don't see, and we need to pay attention to our own taboo visions. 

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