Albrecht Durer, title page from Sebastian Brant’s Narranschiff, 1494
Some 15 years ago, Brian Williams created a Tarot based on humanist Sebastian Brant’s illustrated tome of moral commentary, the Narranschiff, or Ship of Fools.It was inevitable that my interest in the Ship of Fools Tarot would be reignited. Brant’s 15th century work is not only fascinating in its own right, but it was undoubtedly an influence on Jost Amman, whose 16th century deck of 52 playing cards has become a bit of an idee fixe for me of late. Continue reading →
If you are looking to read Tarot cards by actually seeing them, rather than by an overlay of imposed or associative meanings, you could find no finer card to practice on than the Hanged Man, Le Pendu. Continue reading →
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Those who know of Joanna Field’s fascinating book “On Not Being Able to Paint” will recognize the hat-tip in this post’s title. Her book includes poignantly honest descriptions of the act of seeing. Not thinking about seeing, or seeing what she’d been told was there, or looking “through the eyes of the dead.” Not anything but what happened when, for instance, one object seemed to meet another as she looked out her own two eyes. Seeing for oneself.
I’ve been on an elusive quest to, as they say, find my voice as an artist. The great jazz musician Miles Davis once said, You have to play for a long time to play like yourself. I believe that is true, though I have not “played” long enough yet as an artist or even as just a person. The elusive nature of the quest is compounded by the whole “self” idea. What is myself? The more closely I look, the more slippery the whole concept becomes, Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, a friend suggested we set a special intention for the victims of a horrific act of violence. (Which one, you ask? The list grows daily. Real people died in each one.)
I thought my friend had a good idea; I was on-board with it. But before I could follow through, I heard about another violent tragedy. Somehow it was able to shock me even though I was already reeling. The death toll in the second circumstance was even higher than the first. (Which means what, exactly? If every life is an infinity, is 100 times infinity more than 50 times infinity?)
Suddenly it felt odd to honor one set of victims in light of this news about the others. Yet in smearing the particular into the generic–“we’ll pray for everybody, all at once”–I started to lose focus. Too many faces to visualize, too many names to read. I started to feel the overwhelm that has hit many of us lately. New shocks are coming too fast, I can’t/don’t wish to numb them out but something inside has broken loose and I’m feeling adrift. Continue reading →
I’d been communicating a lot via haiku the last few months, so much so that my students avowed I’d begun to think in haiku. They’d point out the tell-tale twitch of my digits as I automatically parsed the syllables of my thoughts. Uncanny five-seven-five sequences would emerge quite spontaneously in a discussion of, say, vectors or parametric equations. It wasn’t quite like living inside a musical, where people arbitrarily break into song at the odd interval, but still.
Meantime, I’ve been obsessed not just with reading cards, but reading them with grace and verve. Continue reading →