an image diary

"And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be? ... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! If that there King was to wake you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!"

"Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well it's no use your talking about waking him when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

On reading, or: Indolence, the Eight of Cups

Anybody dig tarot? Want a reading?

Friday was the last day of class and the end-o'-the-term bash for my students and advisees. Party at Gina's house. You know they plowed through the munchy food, all of it? Strawberries, grapes, bread, cheese, guacamole, chips, goldfish, cookies, on and on--eight pounds of strawberries, if that says anything. So clean up wasn't bad because there was nothing to put away.

Invariably somebody starts asking for a tarot reading, and I put it off because invariably people start leaving when I start giving readings. Maybe it's boring to listen to somebody else's reading; maybe I put it off until late in the party and it's time to go: late. I think it has to do with people being uncomfortable, too, though. As if sitting around listening to somebody else's reading means you also have to think about the nature of the universe, and about God versus gods or no such thing as god, and about Satan and his minions if you believe in that sort of thing, and about the credulity of the human mind or the skepticism of the human mind or the neuroticism or hysteria of the human mind, if you'd rather think about Freud and would rather not think about fate or chance or luck--not that tired shit again--and about how sad it is that we all want so much, we want so much, and about how there is so much something about death here though it is just a card game, a reading, and like any other reading (for we are all literary people here) or any exercise in realisim, it is devoid of authenticity, or authority, for it isn't true anymore than a reading of a poem is truth, or a reading of a painting is truth, or a reading of a book of paintings is truth, for a deck of cards is like a book of paintings, but less so: a parlor trick: a house of cards: a house of cards:

So yeah:

except for those cards that seem to follow you around, the ones that come up more often than not and you remember them because they speak to you darkly and you're in no mood to hear it, ever? My eight of cups runneth over:

"a rotting sea whose last water is moldering in mud holes. In the air there is a stench of fever swamps where contagious viruses lurk....and on the horizon a pale, sulfurous light is falling.... Although water still streams into the bowls and fills the ones below them, the farmland has long turned into a cesspool and the fresh water is sucked up by the morass."

Makes me feel dirty. And lazy:

"Success abandoned. Decline of interest in anything. Temporary success, but without further result. Things thrown aside as soon as gained. No lasting even in the matter at hand. Indolence in success. Journeying from place to place. Misery and repining without cause. Seeking after riches."

and sorry for myself:

"Instinct: Renunciation, self-denial, resignation to one's fate. Goal: Finding purpose and meaning in the depths of seclusion. Light: Relinquishing control, transformation. Shadow: Depression, suicide, self pity. Quality: Nullification of values; destruction of the form."

and pigheaded:

"this picture warns us of the rotten swamps we are approaching or in which we have already lost our way. It shows that our perspective of the world and our attitude towards life has become mouldy and is deperately in need of fresh waters. No matter if we are threatened with decay because of self-complacent indolence or have become stuck in a dangerous sectarianism: it is urgently necessary to change our ways":

That's some kinda scary shit, depending, of course, on how you read it and on how many times you read it, and through what lens. I think I prefer new historicism to speech act theory here, though I don't know why I say that other than my desire to deconstruct historical assumptions about "indolence" to suit my own purposes--to reassert the etymological [Late Latin indolens, indolent-, painless: Latin in-, not; + Latin dolens, present participle of dolere, to feel pain] sense of painlessness and to challenge the more paradigmatic pejorative sense of sloth, for example--and to avoid at all costs letting that thing speak with any kind of performative authority: "This is my blood. Drink me." Was that Buffy or Christ? Oh, it was Indolence? Somebody please shut that thing up before I kill it.

How is it, shadows, that I knew ye not?

Suzanne wants to know what you're reading. Now you know what I'm reading.


"The Eight of Cups is called Indolence. This card is the very apex of unpleasantness. It is ruled by the planet Saturn; time, sorrow, have descended upon pleasure, and there is no strength in the element of water which can react against it. This card is not exactly "the morning after the night before"; but it is very nearly that. The difference is that the "night before" has not happened! This card represents a party for which the all preparations have been made; but the host has forgotten to invite the guests; or, the caterers have not delivered the good cheer. There is this difference, though, that it is in some way or other the host's own fault. The party that he planned was just a little bit above his capacity; perhaps he lost heart at the last moment."

--Aleister Crowley


"and what is the use of a book...without pictures or conversations?"

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