It starts with a comment: ‘I want you to read my cards, because you have a Zen mind.’
Comments such as these, offered through the kindness of strangers who are Zen masters, excite me.
I read the master’s cards, all 36 of them on the table, the Grand Lenormand, and don’t think further. Until I receive gifts for my reading today.
The man was right. If my mind can be described in any way that others can relate to, then Zen is quite on target. I’m honored by this recognition.
I don’t just think of mind as an empty mirror. As a matter of practice, I dig emptiness. I think of the mirror in conceptual terms, obviously, since otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it here in this form, but from a pragmatic point of view I practice awareness of my projections.
The fact that people come to me from all walks of life for a consultation with the cards is one thing, but when they come to me for a consultation with the cards from the perspective of practicing awareness of their own empty mirror, it is another thing.
There is a spark of magic that tends to break the empty mirror when this happens, and I suddenly find myself thrown at the heart of my own teachings, teachings that combine nondual perception with the reading of cards.
What do I mean by this, the breaking of the empty mirror?
Have a look at the images here, featuring the gifts I just received after my reading of the grand tableau with the Lenormand cards.
These were sent as a surprise, and in addition to our concluded business.
I sit and stare. What are the odds for this act of generosity?
What are the odds that a cartomancer is considered Zen, reads the cards for a Zen master, and then receives the gift of cards, bones, and the Buddha?
What you see is a deck of cards, Tarot Verlaine (number 72 of only 100) made by artist Francesc Grimalt, a well known movie concept designer. He worked with Ngila Dickson (who won the Academy Award for Costume Design for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) and now is working with the Art Director of Star Wars.
The deck (22 trumps) doesn’t feature any artist’s statement, and it doesn’t come with a little white book, but it’s clear that it displays steampunk aesthetics.
What do you have for me, Tarot Verlaine, I asked the deck?
It said the following:
The Sorceress, The Sun, The Hermit.
That’s us, I think: The Zen Sorceress and the Zen Hermit under the sunbeams and the Samurai’s sword.
Along with the cards, a tattooed goat’s skull sent its spiraling miracle through my living room. I’m not even sure I have words to describe it, so I won’t.
This skull was decorated by another artist, Tomás Barceló, a sculptor, working in the same field as Grimalt.
What of you, skull?
The Lovers, The Emperor, Temperance.
The last item in the package was a book by Zen master Seung Sahn.
‘I’ve sent you three things for magic,’ my client said. This needs no reflection. Magic it is.
But what did I say? That I sit and stare. All right, so I’m reflecting. I’m trying to figure out what I had done to deserve this. I just read someone’s cards. It looks like it was useful. More than useful.
This week I’ve concluded my all my teaching at Roskilde University for this semester. I have plans to leave the university, and never return. My last words to the students were these:
‘Make sure you figure out what you’re good at, for real, so that you can align your skills with serving, educating, and enchanting others. There is no higher task than the task of attending to how NOT to waste your time. Be useful beyond the cliché.’
Corporate administrators tell university professors that the universities all over the world are changing, and that ideals such as maintaining the ‘higher’ in the ‘higher learning’ have become obsolete. ‘You have to make yourselves useful,’ they say, but they define usefulness according to principles I don’t understand.
For me, the ‘higher’ is all about cultivating virtues: the virtue of patience, justice, temperance, wisdom, and compassion. How can the cultivation of decency ever become obsolete?
As I quit my job, because being a university professor is not about participating in the cultivation of decency any more, I look at other doors opening.
I see a tattooed skull making it through, Tarot cards, and the breath making traces on the surface of my empty mirror, reflecting usefulness in the form of sacred kisses.
I thank the Zen master for these gifts from the bottom of my heart.
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5 thoughts on “SKULL AND ASHES AND THE VERLAINE TAROT”
Beautiful, thank you for your work. As a current student of Cards and Magic 2.0, I never cease to learn true usefullness in your teachings. And your last words spoken to your students touched me deeply, thank you.
Thank you for these words. We must do our best.
Beautiful! And congratulations.
Thanks. Such a special gift. Once in a life time. The skull is very powerful.