wax banks

second-best since Cantor

Month: July, 2020

Wicked pack of cards: Judgment.

No not the ‘Last,’ though it does tend to look that way, doesn’t it, and so to feel that way. What if it were? Be glad it’s not.


A couple of years back my father and I worked together on his memoir — we did a good job, please buy a copy. I can’t recommend that kind of familial collaboration strongly enough, both as a form of reciprocal service and to complicate and deepen your relationship to the imaginative elements of your own past. My dad now makes some sense to me as an ordinary man, rather than a fixed star or firmament or feature of landscape. That sense is of course provisional, personal — secondhand — but Dad and I got to some surprising places in our conversations, and aspects of his personality that never made sense to me when I was a boy (or young man) came into focus as we wrote. It was the most important writing I’ve ever done, both in terms of craft — being totally unable to rely on my own written voice — and for obvious emotional reasons…

The most surprising thing about the writing, for me, was and is Dad’s deep gratitude — over and over throughout our work, even when he was frustrated and rushed and annoyed by my various fuckeries, Dad would express a feeling of contentment and clear-eyed recognition. Telling his stories helped make sense of them for him as well, I think, but more than that, it threw a little light on the way they’ve made him. And Dad likes being Dad; his relationship to his past is as complex as yours — perhaps moreso, as he has more of it than you do — but he’s managed a degree of integration and settlement, partly because he had simple consistent goals in his life and he’s actually attained them.

As you come to the end of a project, it makes sense to want to understand what it’s meant and can mean.

My father has had a life and knows it. Telling his stories has been an opportunity to encounter it as a life, a whole (not always coherent), and to share that encounter and understanding with me and my brother and with whoever else might read the book. I believe he understands this story-process the way he understood fatherhood: giving of his life; giving life.

Dad constantly expresses his gratitude to the whole universe — I’m reminded here of Oscar Ichazo — and seems genuinely to believe it has discharged its responsibility to give him things. He was never an acquisitive man, but now he seems to see himself as a store of feelings to be shared.

One way of living passes, a life passes; you make what you can of it, and do something useful with what you make when the next life — the next world — begins.


Spoiler: ‘Heaven’ in our schema will prove to have been the World all along; we’ll be invited to remain, but not required, and the way will be made difficult.


Who the hell wants to get old? Slower, settled, yes of course — but who looks forward to diminishment? I mean these questions sincerely; it’s always been unimaginable to me, and remains so.

I don’t think Dad thinks of it as any great shakes — and I know he abhors the company of old people who’ve resigned themselves to lifeless dependency — but he’s learned to live with being in his 80s. His world is different because he’s different, and so it’s made sense for him to settle into a different way of being-in-his-world. What he knows that I can’t yet is that you get to that age, if you do, and by then you’ve stopped wondering if you could be other than as you are. (Spoiler: no.)

Actually I could know that now, if I wanted; it’s true at any age after all. If I wanted more than I wanted not to… That is to say, I could correctly understand my place in the world if I didn’t cling so tightly to a more palatably painful incorrect understanding instead. But then, that opportunity to know is one of the things that this life offers you; and addiction to falsehood is one of the things that you can’t take with you to the next world, the next life. Which starts tomorrow maybe.

The Waite-Smith Judgment card has a baby with its back turned and a small host of people in the background — the future is unknowable, this is a collective transformation, etc. — but I’ve never been able to care. The dead are rising! So what. Waite sez it

registers the accomplishment of the great work of transformation in answer to the summons of the Supernal–which summons is heard and answered from within

which does sound lovely but it’s good to avoid the edge of self-satisfaction that’s bared: the Errand isn’t final and the accomplishment, the great work, is authentic immersion not attainment or acquisition. Actually living while you can — not how it feels or what it means. It has to be its own reward.

The good news, which Dad has found ways to testify to, is this (his words):

Lately I feel like I live in two worlds: the reality of getting older, little by little — and then, everywhere I look, such beauty.

At times our writing process was tortuous; I let Dad down and avoided the work for a long time, and when I finally applied myself in earnest we would argue, misunderstand each other… My delays and excuses put an unnecessary strain on him, and I regret not taking up the work in all seriousness without the dumb hand-wringing. But while the work concentrated and intensified the difficulties in our relationship, it also brought us past (some of) them. Really seeing him was such a relief. As he became for me the autonomous human being he always has been, as he took on the characteristics of an ordinary man instead of a mountain, I was able to put down some burdens I had been carrying in the name of my own ideas (of him, of us). Understanding the opportunity the work presented was itself an act of — wait for it — adult judgment; reflecting on it now, seeing some of the process for some of the things it was, is a similar sort of act.

After the end of a project, it makes sense to want to understand what it’s meant and can mean. But the past is past, that’s why they call it that. What matters now (I think) is what Dad and I are for one another. Father and son, grandfather and father. And two guys. That wasn’t simply a happy realization, getting there; relief gives pleasure but it isn’t pleasure per se.1 An opportunity, rather. Seeing things at their utmost, all ugliness and beauty. Feeling death’s nearness and listening to a bird. Singing back while there’s time.


One of the project managers at our company sent around something called a ‘five whys’ postmortem: asking five levels of ‘why’ about a given project outcome until you discover a faulty process. It’s jarble, sure, but underneath the usual obfuscatory management-speak (managers must pretend that the ultimate cause of all they do is something other than Money; hence obfuscation) is a useful insight. It’s often that way.

The reason things are fucked, the reason you’re reborn into samsara, the reason you went back to her or missed the appointment or lost the game (even the Great Game), is that you are doing something that you need to stop. ‘But I’m not doing anything.’ Yes, that’s certainly an addictive bad fiction. Not doing is doing, have we learned nothing from Neil Peart in all these years? ‘Not doing’ is a trick of perspective; the alternative to setting out on the Fool’s Errand isn’t inactivity, it’s activity in Error. Complicity and avoidance and hidden cost.

And all increasingly frantic, if my own experience is any guide.

The Fool’s Errand is a cycle; Judgment isn’t final. It’s a ‘why’ but there are more, deeper, out past the past.

This week Dad needed help getting ESPN+ set up on his iPad so he could watch the Premier League. You’re happy ‘unbundling’ your sports programming from your cable TV, a strike ‘against’ (by which I mean for) capitalism, and Dad’s 86 years old and having a hard time getting his head around the multiple devices now required for this favourite daily pastime. Old age means taking fewer things for granted. Again: not solely a benefit. Your mind can only do so much, can only submit so often to the universe’s judgment. Death is near and so forth but it’s also nice to chill out a bit. A break from why.


Heaven will prove to’ve been The World all along: a sane relationship to Things As They Are, which we’ll fall in and out of as things get cyclically unfucked/fucked. The ascent to Heaven, meanwhile, which not at all coincidentally feels a whole lot like the descent/ascent/transformation to Hell, is a Call for Judgment. Painful reckoning. Reconciling knowledge gained in deep nighttime transit (transformation; transubstantiation?) with things seen clearly in boring good-guy daylight.

I’ve been having a hard time writing about the ‘cosmic’ trumps, have you noticed? I certainly have. I initially conceive of these essays as being complicated but coherent, and they end up simple and incoherent and — as in today’s installment — a specific sort of personal that feels misjudged but unavoidable. I’m trying not to think consciously about writing these essays as a kind of Errand, or as a record of such, but it’s difficult to avoid that frame; after all, I wrote the first several installments in 2011, when my son was just a year old (I was a stay-at-home dad in those days) and I’d written two books but not yet one worth sharing.

You remain involved in the process of becoming-yourself. Or ‘selves’ plural, if we take our own implications seriously.

Heaven will prove to be free of — excuse me, freedom from — false distinctions.

Achieving the appropriate simplicity and openness proves challenging, elusive; the Errand will prove to’ve been a helix, maybe, X- and Y-values cycling repeating repeating sinusoidally while we make slow transit of the Z-axis, not spiraling, not simply in a circle, not without Error, but up through whatever’s up there into whatever’s in there.

I’m grateful today and want to share that with you, Reader(s). We keep doing this.


  1. I think for some reason of nitrogen narcosis, ‘the bends.’ Saying ‘relief’ meaning ‘release’ meaning suddenly letting go, losing/loosing the tight grip. Or how ‘decompress’ and ‘decompensate’ have always in my idiot mind seemed, wrongly, to be one terrifying word. 

Contrast effects and calling his bluff.

Epistemic status: diary entry, nothing more.

Trump constantly says things like ‘I’m going to be nice’ for whatever tangle of private reasons, but the effect is to imply at all times that he could be nastier (about the targets of his endless verbal abuse) if he wanted to. Which is a threat, duh, but most of the time crucially it’s an empty one: there’s a certain amount of truth-to-power he’d be able to speak (if he wants) because he doesn’t care about political capital as such, which served him well four years go on the campaign trail, but beyond that he’s got nothing, because he’s a deeply stupid coward who bluffed his way into his job and at some level knows it.

Which is why calling Trump’s bluff always works.

Which is why it’s sickening that the press, Trump’s true love, never does that.

So for instance:

Trump replied that Chicago is “a disaster” because its mayor says “don’t come in,” which he believes is for “negative political reasons.”

“She’s a Democrat, I’m going to be nice, she’s a Democrat,” Trump said. “She’s making a big mistake. People are dying in Chicago and other cities and we can solve the problem — they have to ask us but we can solve the problem.”

‘I’m going to be nice’? And then he points out that she’s a Democrat? What he means here — all he means — is that Mayor Lori Lightfoot is an old unattractive black lady. Trump is ‘going to be nice’…by not saying so explicitly. That’s it. He knows literally nothing else about her. Go ahead, fucking ask him! He’s ‘being nice’ by not resorting to imbecilic schoolyard taunts and racist slurs, because he has no idea what he’s talking about. You think Trump is up on Chicago politics? He’s not even up on NYC politics and he’s been a parasite on that city his whole life!

(Fun fact for the day: Lightfoot never held elected office before running for mayor — and won every ward in the city on election day. One thing Trump hates is other people’s success.)

Trump’s constant suggestion of hidden knowledge was compelling when he was an ‘outsider’ mostly known for/through his carefully managed media reputation (i.e. only a political outsider, but very much a part of the media industry, which he still is). In 2016 it was possible for desperate foolish people to believe that Trump would ‘drain the swamp’ — tens of millions of us didn’t fall for that obvious lie, but I hope you can understand why some did, why their need (which Trump instantly perceived) made them susceptible. But Trump’s promise of occult/hidden knowledge has come true only in the breach of faith, of course: his administration might be the most corrupt and secretive of modern times, and as ‘leaky’ as his White House is, we still keep finding out about its worst failures only after the fact.

Trump has never had to be strong or courageous but he knows he’s supposed to look that way, so he’s always out to create contrast effects. Politics is perfect for him — everyone around him is a shabbily dressed bet-hedging backroom dealer, but Trump lives for the cameras. (He hates Obama partly because Obama has natural charisma and intelligence — and he’s unforgivably dark-skinned.)

The American news media, profiting from their abjection and cooptation, now have no idea how to be strong or courageous either — so they pull the same trick. ‘I’m going to be nice.’ ‘Up next: the real truth about _____, brought to you by Exxon-Mobil.’

Trump is good business for the ‘news’ media, which is why they don’t call his bluff.

Fantastika, longing.

Per John Clute, fantastika (speculative fiction, the post-17C literary-imaginative: sf+fantasy+horror) is a response to humankind’s recognition that rather than inhabiting a ‘world,’ we live on a planet. Per Clute/Grant’s Encyclopedia of Fantasy, the difference between sf and fantasy that the former is a genre built on extrapolation, the latter a structure in which Story defends (the reader?) against impossibility:

Science fiction can be distinguished from fantasy on several grounds; but in our terms the most significant difference is that sf tales are written and read on the presumption that they are possible – if perhaps not yet.

Science fiction, meanwhile, begins with extrapolation: sf stories are arguable, where fantasy is only imaginable — and I’ll semiseriously suggest here that horror is, at some level, unimaginable. (‘Horror’ or per Clute’s preference terror is the aesthetic aim of a certain strain of fantastika, rather than a form or genre unto itself.) I’d go off the ranch and say fantasy sees the world as impregnated with generative possibility, sf requires plausibility to do so (accepts planet-ness as a constraint), and horror is what happens when we live on a planet but something else lives in a world.

But wait, lemme propose to account for these three strains of fantastika in terms not of form/structure/milieu but of longing: sf longs for a planet or system — a solution — fantasy longs for a world, a Story of what might be, and horror sees it doesn’t matter (because it’s a false distinction; in this sense is ‘horror’ just realism?).

I have no idea whether this schema is useful — indeed I suspect it’s not — except in this narrow sense: it makes clear to me that in these terms I’m a fantasist, even in my ‘nonfiction,’ and maybe the reason my writing about politics/culture is so angry and so often unsatisfying is that it feels and evokes no longing at all, only disappointment and need. It’s self-satisfied: only answers.

I know I know, this shouldn’t be news — I wrote an entire book whose whole schtick was ‘a catalogue of worlds which are stories’ — but one nice thing about creeping middle-aged cognitive decline is that while it’s getting harder to impress myself, every day it’s easier to surprise myself. Plus it’s getting easier to surprise myself!

Wicked pack of cards: The Sun.


Don’t stare at it, no matter how beautiful the flowers seem to think it is.

I’ve been failing to write this one for weeks.

The Sun is sufficient unto itself. As are you, maybe? But the sun is a mass of incandescent gas and it doesn’t (can’t) care (the idea makes no sense) whether the sight of it blinds you. Maybe you shouldn’t be like that. Or should, whatever.

We spoke of madness inside out and maybe now the other way.


The conventional approach, as I understand it, is to speak of The Moon (XVIII) as having a strange distorting or deranging light, as against the plainspoken clarity of The Sun. There’s that lobster, after all, deep cold places taken form, emerging presumably to bite off fingers and provoke weird thoughts — shadow and dream. But the Sun rises and you’re in your right mind again, obviously desirable and better: I mean it’s right there in the name. (‘Left mind’ has a sinister sound.)

But I lived in Texas until I was 10 and I am astonishingly pale-skinned.

The Sun, for me, means burning.

Also commuter traffic, the presence of other people, work obligations, business noise, money noise — Things To Do. Sweat, whether honest or not.

Whereas the Moon means (meant), to me, relief.

The sun is that [form or aspect] of consciousness in the spirit — the direct as the antithesis of the reflected light. The characteristic type of humanity has become a little child therein — a child in the sense of simplicity and innocence in the sense of wisdom. In that simplicity, he bears the seal of Nature and of Art; in that innocence, he signifies the restored world. (Waite, Pictorial Key)

Lately I’m not all that excited about adults displaying childlike innocence; as the father of a boy about to turn 10, I experience the ‘childlike’ as an obligation, a responsibility: I’m called to be an example, a teacher, a World for this fast-changing person to claim and surpass. The ‘Buddha smile’ — a child’s smile — seems nice, but the prerogatives of adulthood are those of full investiture and responsibility, no? Lightly carrying a heavy load, knowing that mass is a fact but weight is how gravity feels and ‘heaviness’ is an opinion, our editorial stance toward the mereness of things. But carrying it.

The light of the sun is blinding, barbaric — hideous. It burns, scars, strips away. Sunlight is age, arriving with bad news about spacetime and our collective no-future. It’s all downhill, thermodynamically speaking, from here.

Aww but the pwetty fwowers!

‘To hell with “childlike.”‘

This is the voice of fallenness, immurement. This is dukkha.

(On the other hand, most everything is dukkha so don’t get your mind-panties in a twist or anything.)


Walking out of The Matrix: Revolutions 17ish years ago, my then-girlfriend turned to one of our companions, audibly rolled her eyes, and said, ‘Great, another fucking messiah story.’

I took offense, which was a tactical mistake revealing a deficiency of character, as any actual messiah (or socialist or deconstructionist-fashionista) could tell you: heighten the contradictions, baby, which is to say, listen for the tensions within any falsehood; let suffering speak for itself and say its own name.

(Blinding, barbaric. Strips away.)

I used to tell people, with odious self-satisfaction, that I’d rather see a bad movie than a good one. The ‘reasoning’ went this way: if the movie’s good, then my enjoyment depends on how good it is; if it’s bad, then my enjoyment can go on as long as I can keep criticizing — the locus of pleasure is located within me. Idiotic. This too was dukkha, you get it? Adam and Eve in the Garden falling into category and presuming the right to cut the world to coloured ribbons, red for sin, blue for sorrow, yellow means wait even if you’re late… I tried (‘ironically’) to make a virtue of my failure to be where I was, and now here I am complaining about the same ‘childlike’ behaviour I’ve spent countless thousands of words defending and praising, using my own son to justify my fallenness…

This is immurement. And the Sun looks, from here, it — well, just look at it. Not too long.


The sunstruck person sees everything, each person, each animal, all the plants and rocks, even the very air, alive and holy, united through the light that fills all existence. And yet, the Sun is not the World. With trump 19 we perceive the universe as unified and alive. 21 embodies those feelings. (my emphasis –wa.)

Pride and confidence are linked in popular speech (‘take pride in your achievements, show/have some confidence’) but I would like to maintain the conceptual distance between them. No one says ‘confidence goeth before the fall’ because it’s not about ego but rather clarity: of purpose, of seeing, of being. The Sun is what it is, which to jealous people is hateful, because in our minds we mustn’t be what we are. That’s pride: ‘If they really knew me…’ and ‘There’s more to me than this fucking job…’ and ‘He meant nothing to me…’ and me, me, me, falling always backward into fixed identity and treating achievements however fleeting as verification of our ideas of ourselves — the Sun shows us for what we are.

Get too close to it and die — vibrate so fast that you never ever were. The Sun has no memory. It doesn’t want people around, the way the Moon does.

I still look for her as soon as the first sliver appears in the sky, and the more it waxes, the more clearly I imagine I can see her, her or something of her, but only her, in a hundred, a thousand different vistas, she who makes the Moon the Moon and, whenever she is full, sets the dogs to howling all night long, and me with them. (Calvino)

Pain can be addictive, and maybe you misname suffering as — what, romance? Or worse, ‘dignity’ or nobility or…

Anything to block the light.

Time is change, life is time. Transitive property. Better get used to it.

The Fool’s Errand allegorizes choice: acknowledgement, resolution, pursuance, psalm. (Coltrane specifically invokes the context of spiritual seeking — ‘THANK YOU GOD’ — but any choice authentically undertaken will do.) You only get to make the final choice once, kinda sorta by definition, so all save one of these Errand-tales lands you in front of the next one, free (freer!!) to move or not to/through what opens up before you. In that moment your place and emplacement are radically different from what came before, how and who(m) you were. Is that clear? The choice defines you, in a sense; you are always becoming you-at-this-juncture, the moment wholly itself, its terms its own… This language is ridiculous, certainly as (over)heard from outside, yet it’s meant to frame not a metaphysics but an ethics, an approach to choice, starting with authentic (not to say unmediated) grasp of the Real. The light of day, indifferent — which certainly feels harsh, but what the hell do you want instead? Darkness? There’s plenty of that to come as the end draws near, never mind the nothing, all that ever isn’t, out beyond the zero…

Day’s unfeeling light intrudes on the shadowy hiding-places where most human activity takes place, where the work of imaginatively constituting an innerworld goes on unbothered by mere fact. (No wonder buddhas don’t write novels. What with all the child-smiling, there’s hardly any time to sit down and assemble the unpleasant novelistic equipment of withholding and deferral.) And it’s work, of course; ordinariness is a hell of a lot of work, nearly 100% of it wasted — from the Sun’s perspective, anyway. (Metaphysical equivalent of the banal ‘It takes more muscles to frown than to smile’ motivational poster, tl;dr: SMILE, BITCH.)


If this essay is even more than usually confused and unfocused, perhaps it’s because I’m moving around rather than through the door I pointed to previously:

…the state of being that I take [The Sun] to evoke or align with, I can’t imagine right this instant. Testifying to the joyful connectedness of things, a blinding clarity of vision? Fuck off with that.

Clarity gets exhausting, and in my (vast tiny) mind right now the concept is absolutely sodden with resentment anyway, so I’ve been dreading trying to write through this one; that dread manifests as lots of parentheses, swearing, ambiguity, repetition, belaboring, vagueness, indirection. Misdirection maybe. And I couldn’t even bothered to make the ‘list “repetition” twice’ joke! Which, to be clear, I’ve repeated multiple times in print, in case you were wondering about my commitment to Sparkle Motion.

So much nicer to have a place to hide from ramification, never mind sunburn. I mean ‘sun.’


The flip side of all this is that ‘childlike wonder’ is absolutely one of the core states of the ‘eliptonic’ enterprise, and rejecting it because you fear something associated with it — ‘sunburn,’ embarrassment, timewaste, loss of status or dignity or control — has its consequences: ‘So: life gets faster and worse. And the other world, which was only ever within you, a metaphor of unspeakable power, gets smaller and emptier and harder to find.’ The big problem with kids is their irresponsibility, right? That’s what I’m always idiotically yelling about, anyway. But as my 9-year-old son says when I ask him what chores he’s been working on, ‘I’ve been staying alive.’ That’s hard work too — and managing a bit of happiness meanwhile is notoriously even harder. But worth it.

The Fool’s promise: regardless of outcome, a life of courageous effortful nowness is better, more beautiful, more joyful, than the alternative.1 Emphasis on effortful. That agnosticism, a decent Foolish epistemological humility, is the hard intellectual cognate of the goofy buddha smile, I suspect: the side of ‘mindfulness’ or ‘spirituality’ — or indeed ‘joy’ — that’s a harder sell in fallen times (e.g. these, fucking obviously).

You have to undertake the work of self-refashioning in faith. Faith is enormously difficult work, because it is a state and practice which constantly subjects you to challenge in the form of the world itself — as you experience it, i.e. as you misperceive it.

(Maybe that’s why ‘Karen’ seems so oblivious but is, I wonder if maybe, not: she’s now horribly screaming at the innocent manager of the TGIFriday’s because her stupid artery-clogging dinner is the first time all week she’s let her guard down, unclenched every single fucking muscle on 167-hour weekly guard against a pitiless Sun that hates everything about her, that burns everything away — I mean just look at this life — and now she has to deal with this (whatever benign nothing ‘this’ always is)? This bullshit, seriously? On my goddamn night off from being, unforgivably, what I am?!)

Most people are one bad day away from being Karen, is why we hate her so much.

This Aeon has for its purpose the complete emancipation of the human race. (Crowley, Thoth)

Purpose ≠ outcome. The freedom you experience in seeking is the prize, if anything is — the joy of realness — and so here you are, beaming at those you love and wondering why they turn their eyes away. You only leapt from the Tower, kept a Star, slept and wept beneath the musical Moon, now you’re burning. ‘No, I’m just warm.’

The poor Sun, working so hard to accept that being the source of all earthly life means causing such pain.


Cheat coda

I’m going to share my notes for this piece, which are in a different colour from the thing itself:

restoration to daylight world
surviving the weird night
confidence but not pride — childlike innocent joy

‘i’m sufficient unto myself’

a thought that begins to generate new patterns — living in a new way — moving from inside out, thoughts making manifest

a person recognizing the way they’ve been transformed by the experience of the Errand — ‘buddha smile’ — they make it more possible for people around them to relax into a joyful/childlike state themselves

General Theory of Love

limbic resonance / regulation / revision

though don’t get sucked into ‘triune brain’ shit, that’s only used as a metaphor now but is not a sound evolutionary account

not yet fully embodied though — they are in a perpetual state of recognition. they are in a new world — but they are not yet themselves a new world

the path to ‘enlightenment’ (‘becoming light’? LOL) is longer than we want to think — but ‘thinking’ is (part of) the problem — or rather, part of the precondition, the condition-before. you’re trying to get to a point where you’re thinking/feeling/acting/being in the new context, when you become that new context — when the New World is within you, it’s what you generate, what you participate in

devotional acts: devotion recreates you

that’s what it’s for. it doesn’t ‘purify’ you and leave a better version of you, it turns you into a new world within which new action is not only possible but inevitable

(Neo becomes the Matrix, at the end, or vice versa)

campbell’s Hero brings back some power from the magical world and — is this the difference between mythic and fairytale/child-story heroes? — gives it away

(reread that section in Hero w/1K Faces)



  1. As a moody bald man I’m hypersensitive w/r/t ethical claims that it’s better to get sunburned than to stay dark. 

Hiati. (Hiatae? Curse my lack of classical education.)

Blogs that went on hiatus almost never came back, and never with quite the same feeling; the medium was generally too personal to survive that kind of compartmentalization or obligation. It’s extraordinarily common even now, even with decade-old blogs, to find long silences followed by ‘I’m back and I’m really gonna stick with it this time’ posts, then a dispiriting trickle of reruns and final admission (or evasion) of defeat.

That happened here, actually — this page all but died in 2017-18 — but I’ve managed to make it back to semiregular posting. The tarot series is the thing, which is partly to say that coronavirus has driven me back to writing here: writing with a specific outlet in mind has served as an important escape.

I’m nowhere near the torrid pace I kept up at the end of the Bush years, but I was an angry attention-hungry young man in my mid-20s then.

I’m also on Twitter a lot, and regret it — The Discourse is catastrophically sick, and my tendency to follow people who chat directly with me, combined with my temperamental inability to unfollow people who say stupid things about politics, means that my feed is a lake of bullshit. This is the wrong way to read Twitter, so I’m trying to put the accounts I follow into lists, with the intention of ignoring each of them most of the time, as I do with everything else.

I created my first blog in 2002.

This one’s better than that one.

Wicked pack of cards: The Errand.

In what follows I say several things that I want to believe, or understand primarily ‘in the abstract,’ but have not yet taken into myself. If you know me and know what a mess I am, this post — like the rest of the ‘Wicked pack of cards’ series — may seem disingenuous or hypocritical; on the other hand, maybe not.

I bet we’re both smart enough to figure out how literally/seriously all this should be taken. And I hope you’re willing to make the same bet.


We’re not yet finished with our series; indeed I’m writing this in lieu of proceeding with XIX The Sun, which I’m not anywhere near the right headspace for. I’d like to step back from the individual cards, the coming-to-climax narrative of the Fool’s Errand, to note — paradoxically, given that we’ve been sailing through the cosmic — just how small a matter it is.

The Errand is, in our goofy narrativization, the story of an experience: obstacle(s) overcome, questions asked, answers confronted, understanding deepened and integrated, and some measure of peace achieved — or at least perceived, hoped for. Ask, task, bask. (Probably ‘mask’ should be in there somewhere…)

It’s important to understand that this story I’m working through can and should be understand at any or indeed every scale. The cards don’t depict a life-altering meditative experience or the ingestion of DMT or growing up in a church or working out how you feel in the midst of a spousal conflict. The ‘Errand’ allegorizes nothing more specific than Really Going Through Something.


As it keeps seeming important to point out, ‘divination’ isn’t about telling the future, it’s about understanding the present: characterizing a moment of trouble and clearly seeing its limitations and affordances. In those terms, the major trumps can be said to depict a divination. The Fool steps off into a world of trouble, finds resources for dealing with it, and ends up someplace better — further in, anyway. Closer to full engagement. Closer, you might say, to authenticity, which is (spoiler!) one of the things the World and the second pass at the Fool will represent. The gift is knowledge, which shouldn’t be said to reside solely in the head.

Presumably this sounds a little bit like Campbell’s monomyth, which is no surprise — that schema reduces (absurdly!) to ‘EFFORT EMPOWERS,’ and all the Mom/Dad/Road of Trials business is just detail on top of the sturdy narrative/psychological chassis of ‘A hero sees a better world, then helps build it, at cost.’ The Fool runs into the ‘world pulled over [his] eyes’ (in which deception or occlusion he is of course complicit), confronts his place in the scheme of things, and is changed for the truer by the experience.

Luckily for fortune-tellers, divination isn’t a one-off; luckily for gurus, meditation is part of a lifelong process — a subscription plan in the making; luckily for therapists, identifying behaviour patterns doesn’t solve the problems they create. You ask and answer again and again. The Fool’s Errand is cyclical, and it recurs at every scale: a single conversation, a week of study, a year of exploration, a decade of devotion, a life. ‘One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.’

Readers dependent on the rise-pop-done libidinal contour of conventional narrative1 find both fringe nonsense and religious nonsense to be…well, nonsense, partly because authentic ‘seekers’ (as I understand them) seem to recognize not only that Life is pain, highness but that life is all middle, except for bits at the beginning and end that your human consciousness isn’t actually present for. And indeed, the most painful part for many people is just how middle life is — witness the childish outcry when the final episode of The Sopranos ‘failed’ to depict either Tony’s death or his arrest; witness too how upsetting it is when major characters die anywhere other than at the end of a story. We’re accustomed — entitled — to both the comfort of seeming-endlessness and the fiction of Story-Structure.

New Age types (and the occasional philosopher or mathematician) do go on about the ‘endless present,’ rather a self-fulfilling prophecy if I’m being honest. But of course they’re right, for some value of right: our experience isn’t of cleanly delineated past present and future, and we are empowered to act only in the present — on the past, for the future, but in an endlessly regenerating or reexperienced now. ‘Enlightenment’ as described across wisdom traditions seems to be, among other things, a simultaneous experience of total presence (‘be here now’) and of all-connectedness (‘now’ is all time, and all places and things are here), which if you’re more theoretician than practitioner — and who, in this fucked-fallen era, is not? — you might conceptualize as ‘all existence is change’ and so forth.

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Point being, I think it’s a mistake to see ‘wisdom traditions’ — or any other ‘outsider’ vision — as describing, indeed advertising, one-time one-way trips from darkness into light. Stop insisting on Significance! That’s linear subject-object thinking, right? Thermodynamically speaking there is no such thing. It seems to me more productive to treat Beautiful Nonsense as a million ways through the billion trials at every scale length and severity, from ‘What do I want for breakfast?’ to ‘Now that he’s dead how do I go on living?’ to ‘What is one possible “meaning” of the procession of the major arcana?’ In other words, I take this writing-errand to be a worked private example, a felt shared experience, of eliptonic sensemaking.

The real esoteric promise is: The road goes ever on and on…

…in circles, is the thing, and that plus ‘you never step in the same river twice’ might just be the sum (product?) of it.

(Though as the aforementioned psychologists happily know, you certainly do step in the same shitpile twice and more.)


All of which is not prelude to me saying I’m going to start over at the beginning of the series and rewrite the half-dozen entries I’m really unhappy with, though let’s be honest I’ve definitely thought about it.


Anyway, so that’s why I’m writing aspirationally and speculatively about stuff that I take, if only in moments of defensiveness or embarrassment, to be Not My Business.

And it’s also why I’m having a hard time writing about The Sun (though I’ve got a good handle on Judgment, believe you me): the state of being that I take the card to evoke or align with, I can’t imagine right this instant. Testifying to the joyful connectedness of things, a blinding clarity of vision? Fuck off with that.

Though then maybe after all that’s less a failure to achieve my aim in this writing than an illustration of a point large enough that I may not’ve explicitly made it before now: it’s not a story, just a road. It’s not the end of the world (or of anything) to sit on a rock and think (or mope) instead of moving on — or to veer off to walk along the edge of this cliff, whaddaya know, Fido come look, c’mere boy, haven’t we been here before? Nice view, isn’t it. I wish the sun’d come out, but it’s foolish to complain about the weather. Isn’t it boy.


  1. Maturation per se is, among other things, liberation from this dependence. There’s a reason teenagers take breakups so hard.