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Month: May, 2020

Wicked pack of cards: The Tower.

N+1st in a series of shortish essays ‘about’ the Major Arcana. On we go. –-wa.


All occult practices begin with one assumption: that it is possible to call down the bolt of revelation, that a person can take definite steps to make this happen.

…And truth, the mystics tell us, cannot be expressed in words. (Rachel Pollack)

Category and order, accumulation, the material brought under control but without vision. Building but not creation. Hubris.

Then the weather changes.

It is not even to be understood by study of the Eye in Atu XV. Perhaps it is lawful to mention that the Arab sages and the Persian poets have written, not always guardedly, on the subject. (Crowley, Thoth, re: the Tower’s esoteric ‘technical’ meaning)

An ex-girlfriend of mine used to say: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothing.’ She was correct and for years I’ve been grateful for that piece of folk wisdom.

Then again, she’s never been struck by lightning.

Rmmaj16 1

THE TOWER.– … Reversed: According to one account … oppression, imprisonment, tyranny. (Waite)

Bad news either way, and I’m left to wonder who, in this depiction, is the prisoner. Pollack reads the Tower as a person, and the lightning as direct mystical experience for which the first two ‘lines’ (Earthly and Inner) have been necessary — if at times maddeningly oblique — preparation; pride goeth before the Fall and such but if the Tower is a folly then Falling is the quickest way out of fatal error, e.g. trying to systematize your way to godhood, to the Godhead…

As a Catholic, I’ve always had a slightly standoffish relationship to the Old Testament. We’d get a weekly Psalm in church, celebrated Passover, got our doses of the Prophets and such during the Liturgy of the Word, heard the Moses litany and the fall of Goliath…but it was all delivered as prequel, in a way, to the triumph (not solely institutional) which was the Christian testament. The center of the Mass, after all, was the Gospel reading and the rite of transubstantiation, recreating the Last Supper.

Well, it is what it is.

I don’t remember the Tower of Babel making an impact on young-me at all — instead of a biblical teaching-tale I received it as…a joke, frankly. ‘Humankind got too big for its britches — and you know what happened?’ Finger wag! The Babel/babble thing seemed stupid, still does, and anyway it didn’t comport with my worldbuilding, my end of our faith’s imaginative cocreation. (You can build a literal stairway to heaven? Not in my private Ancient Earth.) And it had no mystery, as it was a common reference in (ewwww) popular culture.

Pentecost, meanwhile, just terrified me. Still does. And in middle age I know why: not only the vivid, visceral imagery (those tongues of flame! which I always saw as a kind of reverse-Phoenix moment) but the fact that Pentecost, the gift of tongues, involved the maddening disruption of all those minds present in the room. The disciples gather and are able to speak, but God (in Spirit form) sears their brains and for a moment, before they adjust, they are speaking in a confusion of languages. There’s a happy ending, of course, they’re all bilingual now (at least) — but as I always imagined it, for a second there they experienced the pure terror not only of being alienated by private language from their neighbours but of being absolute strangers to themselves. The two stories are linked in my mind.

That’s the lightning, mind. That’s the nice version of the Tower: ‘threshold of revelation.’ The truth hits you, one-size-fits-nobody. Oooh, a gift.

(Fuck you, I’m a prophet!)


‘Pride goeth before the fall’ not least, or perhaps solely, because what else can possibly follow pride? Ascent and then descent, probably (preferably?) in a hurry. A fall is the lowest-energy solution to the narrative problem of having risen…and yes, thinking of ‘rising’ as a problem in the anti-entropic ‘gathering of potential’ sense is appropriately realistic rather than Gus-Gloomy pessimism. Nature abhors a vacuum, e.g. that nice person-size spot you left open on the ground when you started up the stairs, and fort-da is Chekhov’s Gun is Satan’s fall is the safety valve alone knowing the worst truth about the engine. Comedy obeys gravity, i.e. it’s restorative, and the plays that don’t end in marriage end in death because those two figures respectively mean self-organizing ascent and entropic descent (natural selection), potential and kinetic energy, fort-da, and what else is there? Going sideways? How modern (i.e. quaint).

The revelatory lightning bolt lays you low, clears the ground — the way a forest fire burns up the accumulations of the recent past (dead wood, undergrowth) to allow deep time through, the forest to reassert itself… Study and devotion goeth before the fall, complication and fractality goeth before the fall, a good meal before the… The steps you take toward some new unknowable outside (outward outwise) put you in a position to be struck, are the conditions of possibility of a kind of regenerative memory-loss: looking down at the lifelong work of your own two hands wondering, ‘How did I ever care about these things?’

Closer: ‘Who was I, that I wanted in this way?’

Give me apoptosis or give me death, the ironist with just a smattering of biology education says.


The fallacy of the Tower (of Babel among others): I have found what I sought, taken what I am owed; and the taken were owed their fate as well. I deserve the earth. Later, having wandered and risen, I’ll deserve the sky.

When I wrote that on The Chariot I was in a different place though it was only two months ago — as always, I’m less certain now and somewhat more confident, those two self-senses at obtuse angles to one another, the latter a kind of ever-shifting groundedness (‘antifragility’ the self-promoters say) but the former a reifying distance. Immurement: premature ejaculation, talking out of turn.

The trouble with the Tower is that it’s neither sky nor earth: flees the one to penetrate the other — from behind a stone or steel barrier, monumental prophylaxis, no skin or flesh. Tin-can rocketship full of doll-men, bathysphere (fear in form), an entire Valley made of silicon.

Or an entire Tower, if you like, made of ivory. An autonomous field,1 dwellers speaking from fixed positions (not only sinecures but,) solely to one another, like Alan Shepard in the perfect silence of the dark side of the moon, his buddies down on the surface chatting with Houston, collecting with rocks. (Aldrin, listening to Glenn’s halting speech: For this I got a Sc.D. from MIT?) Expertise as incommunicability — or maybe in our plaguetime we should speak of herd immunity to knowledge…

From the top of the Tower the illusion of flight is available but it’s no less an illusion than from the ground, or from indeed the chalk outline on the sidewalk where the last mistaken man found himself completing the narrative movement from ascent to and-cetera. (Chalk-off’s done; oh forgive me.) In the cosmic scheme, so to speak, there’s the same amount of sky above the Tower as above the ground or any star or… The Tower is a ward against falling, a psychological not physical barrier it turns out, reassuring but in the end — rising up quickly to meet you, lest we forget — not actually preventive/protective.

The danger is the sky, mere presence of steel and stone at that height. (‘Danger’ like a kiss or a secret.) After the lightning, after the built-up potential energy discharges with what we’ll later editorialize as ‘violence,’ we’ll brush eyebrow hairs and maybe a limb or two off the ground and wonder what we were thinking, aiming so high. Maybe find ourselves saying it ‘seemed like a good idea at the time,’ embarrassed and likely made fun of for it, though that’s as close as we can come afterward to a comprehensive account of our changed position. I wanted to get higher. I wanted to see. I figured I’d figure out the next part when I got there.

‘What was I thinking?’ Well, I was thinking: More!

And I got it.

Now then, fried and (ZAP!) falling toward (ZAP!) knowledge.

‘Beautiful, beautiful…magnificent desolation.’


It is true that we work with the purest of aims, but that doesn’t mean we have worked wisely. (Ted Chiang, ‘Tower of Babylon’)

Where are we on our procession of trumps?

Let’s not worry about that just now. There’ll be time again and again for worry, later, as there has been before. I mean that’s how time works, it moves in a line and feels like a circle, or sorry I mean vice versa. Er. I mean that’s how people work, or I mean:

‘I can hear you! I can hear you! …and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!’

But I thought we were past all that.

‘Now, I say all this not to re-litigate the past…’


We’ll be here again; wounded pride cometh after the fall. But maybe not only that? The knack to flying is to throw yourself at the ground and miss, after all, which we might gloss as being ready in and for the World. And you learn pretty quick, they say, that there’s no point where our world ends and All The Rest begins or vice versa — only a slow grade from fort to da, leaving home to finding…whatever’s out there, I guess. And after a while you don’t have to climb so many fucking stairs, is (I guess) the lesson or hope, to be reminded of the obvious.

Maybe then to step out of the steel skin and look around already.

Outside the tower, the stars.

Trinity Beautiful

  1. Bourdieu? Did I lend all my books to you irresponsible fuckers in like 2004? This is what happens when you get old, isn’t it. Fuckers borrow your books, or time just passes, and before you know it you’re worm food. (Well but time passes, long minutes(!), before — cymbal crash — I find my mistreated copy of On Television and the passage in question is highlighted, thank you back-then-Wally. Bourdieu! Academia, autonomous field. Check. Now which one of you fuckers has my copy of The Practice of Everyday Life?) 

Note re ‘materialism.’

One difficulty faced by the enthusiast of occult/fringe/New Age nonsense is the constant use of the phrase ‘materialist worldview.’ In a positive sense ‘materialism’ is the belief that the universe is matter and energy and everything supposedly-else is a perceptual effect.

In ‘spiritual’ circles the phrase broadly means ‘not believing that (human) consciousness is a shaping force in the universe,’ plus a dose of ‘Eww gross, it’s a hippie.’

It should go without saying, though it doesn’t, that belief in the power of the human mind to shape human action — sanely understanding the efficacy of magical or devotional or consciousness-alternation practice, say — is wholly compatible with a supposedly antiseptic ‘materialism.’

This view is only ‘controversial’ because people are parochial and easily frightened.

Wicked pack of cards: The Devil.

N+1st in a series of shortish essays ‘about’ the Major Arcana. On we go. –-wa.


When you walk through the garden / You gotta watch your back

I suspect we can’t be tempted by freedom — i.e. what we experience as ‘temptation’ is a combination of desire for relief, for release, for the easing of responsibility on one hand, and a sense of betraying ourselves on the other. It’s the feeling we know we should say No to, a visitation from outside; there’s an element of conscious awareness to it.

The tempter is always also the Liar — which is why no one trusts people in advertising or politics, whose job is not simply persuasion but temptation: creating desire (easy) and insisting it’s need (immoral).

You may hear this referred to elsewhere as false consciousness.

I believe that, by contrast, we long for freedom the way we gasp for breath — and know intuitively when we attain it. Which is why those in advertising and politics, as well as those select few in the being-the-actual-Devil business, gotta work so hard for that paycheck: ultimately any huckster, any tempter, is asking you to surrender freedom — i.e. to hate yourself.


In our parade of trumps, Old Scratch here inaugurates what I’ve referred to, maybe too glibly, as the Cosmic sequence:

XV. The Devil
XVI. The Tower
XVII. The Star
XVIII. The Moon
XIX. The Sun
XX. The Last Judgement
XXI. The World

Someone — Andrew Rilstone, I think, attributing it to Joseph Campbell? to Jung? — said that mythology is psychology misread as history; if no one wants to claim that quote then I’ll take it. The present narrativizing project (like the formation of a personality, hint hint) is just that, at any rate: turning the 2-D field of associations between symbols, retroactively, into an Errand unified by imaginative purpose.

The Fool’s Errand, our inferred narrative of the major arcana, is a progress from immurement in a private world to deep connection (fellowship, pan-identification) with the universe — paradoxically a movement from the mistaken sense of the self as being at the ‘beginning of a story’ to a new self-sense which resists the narrativizing urge. I think of this as Yet Another Version of Every Devotional or Wisdom Tradition’s Central Story, of maturation (‘of the spirit’ is usually the term here) and movement into responsibility, i.e. sane adulthood, i.e. freedom. Of course, glossing ‘freedom’ as responsibility, as autonomy, vs leisure or idleness or indeed the sick American-capitalist redefinition of freedom as irresponsibility, is a political move as well as a ‘spiritual’ one.

We’ve alluded several times during this series to Foucault’s notion of freedom as a quality of action, as something which can only be enacted, never conferred (‘the guarantee of freedom is freedom’) — linked to his inchoate notion of ‘political spirituality,’ which I’m willing to broad-brush as the outstripping of category (‘regimes of truth’) in the exercise of radical political freedom, i.e. revolutionary transcendence: truth no longer beholden to (Earthly) power. Hakim Bey’s vision of the Temporary Autonomous Zone is an anarchist neighbour-concept to Foucauldian political spirituality: a space for spontaneous self-organization free of (what Bey/Wilson would consider) the distorting desire to appeal to, or ever refer to, State authority — its intensity derived not from pregnancy of revolutionary purpose but from its transience, which some would equate with powerlessness or meaninglessness…though in keeping with Bey’s own spiritual (and less savory personal) commitments, let’s split the difference and call it submission and move on…

…back to advertising and politics, which there’s no need to further villainize here; everyone knows they’re gross.

When I worked for a year-ish in academic publishing, I circulated a poorly received(!!) departmental memo pointing out that that textbooks are selected and evaluated by teachers but paid for and ultimately used by students, which meant we had no reliable way of telling whether they worked. Everyone in the circuit was alienated from the consequences of their work by that economic structure, and fucking knew it, but was forced to go on as if this lunacy were normal and healthy because those getting paid were making just enough for it not to be worthwhile to stop the wheel. The deceptions inherent in advertising and politics, and in certain aspects of religious belief and practice, are of the same order, as are the various self-deceptions that go into, say, unhealthy sexual relationships.

That’s the Devil: offering to buy out your contract with Desire, your psychic debt, in order then to own it…

‘I didn’t last long at Pendulous Publishers, whose stock price has lost 95% of its value since its mid-2015 high,’ he said without inordinate pleasure.


THE DEVIL.–Ravage, violence, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality; that which is predestined but is not for this reason evil. Reversed: Evil fatality, weakness, pettiness, blindness. (Waite, Pictorial Key)

Rachel Pollack’s gloss (in her classic 78 Degrees of Wisdom, to which I owe a great and obvious debt and which I refuse to buy or read cover-to-cover until I finish these abominable essays) is closer to what a modern/secular reader would expect:

illusion, oppression…materialism, misery, sexual obsession…[but then so OK also] the life energy locked up in the dark hidden areas of the self

Ravage, vehemence, force — alienation from the nature of the work (‘fruits of one’s labour’ in the out-of-fashion term). Materialism, sexual obsession, illusion — same thing in a sense, false consciousness. Possible synthesis: the exercise of force under illusion, which incidentally if you’re as irritated by the phrase ‘love under will’ as I am then the parallel is wholly intentional.

To be whipped up into action under false pretenses, in service to another’s will-to-power, (therefore definitionally) under illusion.

The Fool danced atop a cliff in a state of what’s called innocence, and a return to Foolishness will be the ‘reward’ at the completion of this cycle (‘What profiteth a man who…?’), but the Devil might be understood in the context of the Errand as a false ending. An immersive inward-turning is complete, a balancing act performed; it’s natural to long for a return to ego, to familiar pattern, to the stability of the grave (or the rut). Who could blame you? Now lemme sweeten the deal with this shiny apple…

Just one bite and fall asleep, dreaming Good and Evil.

Trubba not, I’ll let you know which is which.

If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet
You’ve got to pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath and
Go ahead and sign the scroll

The boss is on a roll

The saddest thing about that scene, I suddenly think, is that Ursula subjects Ariel to a final humiliation: upon signing away her freedom, Ariel is forced to sing for the witch one last time, a corruption and violation of the joyful autonomy which singing had brought her. The usual story: convinced that her desire is need, and that the universe has contrived (through Mother) to cater to that desire, the princess submits to an exercise of power against the interest that she can no longer see. Alienated from her authentic self. Fucked

— and left to rot.

‘It’s apple pies that makes the menfolks’ mouths water. Pies made from apples like these.’

‘Oh, they do look delicious.’

‘Yes. But wait’ll you taste one, dearie…’

Power is an intoxicant, i.e. it makes normal people stupid. Of course, who thinks of himself as normal? And then along comes a harmless old lady with an apple to show you what you are.


We’re tempted toward unearned ease, tempted by the idea that we deserve to escape from difficulty into — well, what? Unlife. Trading away the World, all-connection, for a Power which is necessarily also a remove. ‘I can’t catch a break.’ Well, then something must be wrong, since you’re the whole point of this universe. It’s a storyworld, isn’t it? And you’re a story.

Prayer, meditation, fasting, the vision quest, the long dark night: submission and humility, but crucially also authentic self-reliance. The tempter is present (Jesus in the desert) but should be understood as a corruption of the experience, a longed-for relief of psychic tension. I think of James Merrill’s ‘God Biology,’ lonely radio transmitter in the furthest reaches of space, whom we’ll return to when we reencounter him (it/us) at the climax of our Errand:


The temptation: false light, false comfort, false promise; the illusion of power. The reality: constant struggle, compromise, survival. I AND MINE HOLD IT BACK BROTHERS I AND MINE SURVIVE BROTHERS HEAR ME — this is the nature of authentic existence, ALONE IN MY NIGHT BROTHERS — words which had another dark meaning for Merrill and his love David Jackson, watching friends succumb to a mysterious plague which those days’ Devils gleefully declared a divine judgment on some men’s immorality…

What does the Devil offer the Fool? Congratulation, self-satisfaction, my boy aren’t you brave, recognition of your extraordinary talent and don’t you deserve a treat, an end to suffering. But I thought the journey was precisely to let go of suffering, of unease? Why yes my boy, so mustn’t the end feel easy—?

Ease isn’t ‘easy.’

Hush now, have an apple. Sing for me. The check is in the mail. You’re a wizard, Harry.

‘…it does have a certain charm to it. They manufactured an issue to get paid, we manufactured an issue to get you elected governor. Everybody’s getting what they need behind some make-believe.


After all this work, wouldn’t it be nice to just skip to the end? And wasn’t the point of the exercise that it’s your right to decide for yourself? But you might say the point of the exercise is to understand the givenness of the world, its ultimate materiality; to experience yourself as a part of it (given, material); to see your choices simultaneously as subject to your thinking, your will, and as bound up in a causal network so complex that any simulation of it would be world-sized — hence the call to emptiness, to overwrite Self with World (or experience them as the same) and feel the deep joy of being just the right size for your space in the universe. At which point you don’t need the apple and don’t mind taking the long way.

In the T.A.Z., all is all; there’s no outside-the-Zone, and (dancing around and within other bodies) there’s nothing outside the Zone. Things only mean what they are. The Devil calls you to submit to his law. He wants to see an outline. He wants to enforce copyright claims. He wants you (in) uniform. He wants you to talk right. He wants you not to disappoint him. He wants you to relax and try eating one of these as his hand slides into your pocket or under your dress. He wants you to be satisfied at the cost of never being fulfilled. He wants the Zone never to have existed because you never forget what freedom feels like; he wants you to believe — to ‘know’ in a place you can’t interrogate, in a way resistant to thinking — that you were wrong to want it.

He has a head start.

Born on third base, thinking you hit a triple. He won’t tell you otherwise.

We can’t be tempted by freedom because temptation is the pull away from authentic seeing, knowing, being. A manufactured desire from without: an anxiety. But desiring freedom — recognizing it for what it is, choosing to place it at the center of our self-sense — leaves us vulnerable even as it opens the way to fulfillment. The price of authenticity is neverending hard work, which is why Death isn’t the end of the Errand and there’s a buyer’s market for souls.


Wicked pack of cards: Temperance.

N+1st in a series of shortish essays ‘about’ the Major Arcana. The variation in tone between entries is what it is. It wanders, it’s unpolished. For this subject, why not? –-wa.


Everything in excess! … Moderation is for monks. (Robert Heinlein)

The narrativizing impulse pushes us toward an intense singularity of event and meaning: toward climax, which is victory or defeat, transcendence or annihilation, good or bad, 1 or 0, a simple up or down vote. Climax isn’t just the only thing left to happen, it’s the reason for everything, and Act 3 is often a letdown (especially afterward in retrospect) precisely because it makes everything clear. Conventional narrativity subordinates diffuse story-stuff (storyworld) to unitary purpose, and once that purpose is achieved, the storyworld has in a sense run out: it doesn’t matter how Fortinbras or Glinda the Good Witch handles business after the protagonist departs, or whether Angel slays the dragon in the alleyway. Stories end; that’s one thing makes them stories and not life.

Because contemporary movies are made for children and emotionally stunted adults (or more banally for ‘foreign markets’), all contemporary popular American films feature life-or-death stakes, which not-at-all-paradoxically frees their heroes and storytellers from meaningful responsibility: dying means escaping consequence, as there’s no Hell from which to contemplate all that Might Have Been.

If Hell exists, maybe it’s that infinitely protracted moment of recognition, of acknowledgment, before a choice becomes final, before our world floods with consequence.

Of course, in our schematic parade of Arcana, that function is served narratively and psychologically — I won’t say ‘cosmologically’ but if you’re high then go ahead — by Death.


We tell my son that it’s important to be scared because only then can you be brave. We want him to have that. ‘Adult responsibility’ is, I suspect, choices on the far side of Death, of Hell, of true awareness. It is a choice made by survivors. ‘The dead are the lucky ones’ is a fucked up sentiment, I think, but they’re certainly better rested than the rest of us. The hard work is to remain.

Beyond symbolic (i.e. ego-)Death is…hanging around. Remaining connected to the universe, by as many points of contact and curtailment and enablement — but with clearer sight. No longer deluded as to the inevitability and absoluteness of our end. In mortality, which is to say in change, which is to say: in the world. Situated, embodied, present.

Near-death experiences are said to have a way of sharpening the senses. We’re modern idiots, here’s a simile for us: like video games, whose effect on our sensoria is intensified by their simplicity, their/our focus. Picture the obstacles to attaining flow — picture them made tiny, moved from view. Clearly to see and correctly to determine relevance, significance.

He had a plan. And it started to make sense in Tyler sort of way. No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter…truly…slide.


The nice thing about tempered glass is that when it breaks — it can’t never break, nothing can — it does so safely. Not quite ordered, but short of the entropic one-way bad trip of ordinary glass shattering.

It’s strong and clear and now seems to have a healthier relationship to its inevitable end.

‘Temperance,’ meanwhile, means (among other things) abstinence from booze, Christ almighty, which the monastics encourage partly because they’re already abstaining from booze. People with healthy relationships don’t normally counsel you to cancel your relationships, do they? (Am I just missing out on a trend?)

It makes sense — to me, looking kindly now at this bottle of Żubrówka on the desk — to think of abstinence less as a solution to the problem of how to live with a demon than as a refusal of its terms. Moving to another town to avoid seeing the person you broke up with; never visiting the graveyard; not writing back. ‘I’m afraid I don’t share the grammar of your question’ is a measured adult response; ‘I just don’t want to think about it’ isn’t, though it’s understandable and almost certainly a true statement. But truth value isn’t value.

And abstaining from Death is, as they say, ‘not an option.’


One cool thing about my favourite TV show is that it ended twice: the title character died heroically (stakes) saving the world at the end of Season 5, then was resurrected by her friends to kick off Season 6 (on a new TV network), on their mistaken assumption that she was suffering in Hell. Seasons 6 and 7 are pretty bleak, because they concern themselves with the question: Why are we still here? Without that ‘still,’ it’s easy to treat (dismiss) the question as abstract or academic: ‘Well, we can’t know, can we?’ In the grand sense, the answer is probably a mathematical expression, a probability curve. ‘The purpose of life is to hydrogenate carbon dioxide.’ But to remain here afterward, the last person awake at the party, this is something else. Phrased this way, the question encodes an assumption about our status as moral agents, as decision-makers. As seekers, if you like.

‘What are you looking for?’

‘I saw you looking.’

Another cool thing about my favourite TV show is that in its finale it undoes its entire premise, rejects it wholesale: ‘One girl in all the world. She alone will stand against the…’ At the final act, the title character — the hero — gives away power and responsibility to anyone willing to claim it.

The show continued as a comic book after that, but after the first few issues it wasn’t much good. There was an obvious tell, which I’m embarrassed to have missed: for banal marketing reasons, they kept the original title. It was still called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even though the story, by its creator’s choice, had ceased to be about the problem of being Buffy the vampire slayer. It was its own sequel.

The last person left awake at the party is no longer at a party. What remains, I think, is just the night or morning: its slow returning, and ours. A dream of time.


Smith and Waite’s angel-androgyne doesn’t speak to me — I can’t unsee the Citgo sign on its chest — but the Deviant Moon Temperance strikes a resonant note: that one wide-open eye has the right sort of sass, and the textural difference between the coy curvature of its (her) body and its impossibly heavy wing-slabs creates a weird disconnect that somehow works the wrong way round. Hard to avoid the sense of being asked a question: What are you prepared to do?

Armed with such knowledge. The sixth of five seasons.

(‘The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers Trilogy…’)

How, now, will you live?


‘As we lived before’ is no answer at all: we-as-we-were have passed away — leaving room for what might be or have been. In this space of of infinite possibility the one impossible thing is to return to (collapse back into) fixity, rigidity. To die, meaning to become the past. To be consigned.

That was the world before Death, which is to say, before seeing. This is another world. Crucially, it’s one in which the pressure of delusion, denial, deferral, (self-)deception has been lifted.

‘…they’re certainly better rested than the rest of us.’

This is no consolation!

Then again, the truth doesn’t have to console you, because it is itself the ground against which ‘truth-value’ is measured. It’s not a fiction built to psychological purpose — the opposite, rather, which is why it’s generally unsatisfying (‘…dramatic inadequacy of reality…’) but can be uniquely fulfilling. It’s vegetables, not refined narrative sugar: you start out too weak to choose it, and have to feel your way to the right choice, after understanding the way you feel after sugar. Hungover.

The truth is fucking vegetables! This is why you read my bullshit.


Moderation isn’t for monks — Heinlein had it self-interestedly backwards, bless him. That asshole. Monasticism is precisely immoderation, a specific sort of sanctioned excess of refusal. C’mon, the rules for (say) meditation retreats in the presence of monastics are goofy as hell. Arguably this is as it should be: can’t call it ‘devotional’ practice if nobody’s giving anything up, and regardless of what you call it, focused preparation intensifies the effect(s). On the other hand, there are lots of ways to ‘live in balance,’ live a balanced life as they say, and any monastic path calls for a specific sort of bespoke miniworld in which a specific sort of balance is possible. Rigorous treatment for a serious problem…but it certainly implies a narrowing of experience, and therefore/thereby of inner movement.

Celibacy seems particularly misguided.

Moderation means taking things as they come — and by ‘things’ we naturally mean not only events, rolls of the dice, but choices. Moderation means accommodating (‘living into’) your own choices and those of your fellow humans, never mind the butterfly flapping its wings in Beijing to make snow in Central Park, or the plague, or the actual dice. Or actual Death, come to think of it: your own, and those of your fellow humans…

Living with your own choices, with their contingency and imperfection and simultaneous provisionality and finality, is one of the Hard Things; I’m not a mental-health professional so I can’t say whether it’s the Hardest but here on the arcane Path of Trumps we’ve made a hard turn which wasn’t itself the challenge — all you do is turn the wheel (and look to windward, if you like). Now the point has passed, the plot point, and all there is to see is more of the same, the sea, the path, only ahead not behind and so different in meaning. You can go back, but not to before. And now the test is to live again with not knowing what the next crisis will be, indeed without even symbolic Death to look forward to: you know what can be lost or tossed away and what can’t. Death isn’t the final trump.

There wasn’t a cliffhanger; there aren’t any.

After Death, continuation.

There seems to be more to say, but I’d like to stop here, just past the turning, and think.

A devil awaits.