A fool rushes in -- my future according to tarot
The results of an epic tarot reading with Caroline Cala Donofrio of Between A Rock and a Card Place (I wanted to call it Only Fools Russian but I didn't I am sorry / you're welcome)
good day and, for those old enough to remember, good riddance.who writes the so good which you all MUST subscribe to asap asked me if I’d be down to have my tarot cards read.
As one does with any exciting proposal, I said yes.
We recorded it with the plan to both write about it. Here’s my reflection and here’s Caroline’s half. I strongly recommend reading them both.
“What do you want to focus on?” Caroline asked me, her chill intensity giving off an inviting, sage-without-trying vibe that signals it’s okay to share my life story with a person I’d never met. Though, to be fair, I’m a huge fan of her writing and work, and what better way to know if you’re gonna trust someone than that?
“There’s definitely like a big thing I’m unsure about…which is, ya know, the future,” I say, sounding like a stoned tenth grader who just found out about the time-space continuum.
“Your future or the future?” Caroline asks.
“No no my future,” I answered, pausing for a moment afterward, reflecting with self contempt at what a selfish little brat I was, woe-is-meing all over the place as the world burns.
Don’t believe me - let’s check the tape:
But ya know what? Woe IS me, so let’s continue.
I tour Caroline through the highways and byways of my internal landscape – the historical landmarks (hi, I’m a jewish soviet anxious guy), the current state of affairs (hi i am dad and husband) and the many in-progress projects being built as we speak. For one, Lauren is pregnant which, I am being told by multiple sources, means we’ll soon have two kids.
And also, Lauren’s making a big career pivot away from film makeup and becoming a therapist. This is awesome on many levels – she’ll now get to see Wilder and our TBDobrenko more, and now our nights are spent talking about the ethics of made up scenarios for her grad school classes which are juicer than an All My Children marathon.
And so, here, I tell Caroline, is the dilemma. It’s my turn to be the stable breadwinner, which isn’t a problem. I’m happy to do it…but how? Yes, there is the whole ‘get a real job’ option, of course. Except, I’ve been applying and, besides one job offer that’d require me to move to the nation’s grundle, Tempe AZ, it’s been a whole lot of nada. (no disrespect to Tempe but you can’t so much as grow a plant there, let alone a whole family.)
Also I’m sort of lying, there have been other maybe-sort-of-might-happen things. Buuuuut what if there was another way?
Enter from stage left, my freelance work. It’s picking up. Like, fast! I’ve got about 10 clients who pay me to do copywriting and editing and substack consulting for them and ya know what, I’m making pretty good money! Combine that with the Substack $ (which, thanks to y’all, is rising faster than inflation itself (am I right?? what is WITH inflation? And gas?? $7 bucks for a fart??)
I didn’t do the $7 for a fart joke with Caroline - I was still workshopping it around town. Now, after guffaws a-plenty from men and women of all stations, it’s ready for primetime. The joke, I mean. About inflation. How long can this paragraph go on, many are wondering. Not much longer, one hopes, but how can one be sure? Also why would no one want to hire Alex when he is so obviously great at succinct, professional communication that not only moves the bottom line but also moves people emotionally after they hear the aforementioned inflation joke (ibid).
It’s a classic chicken vs. the egg situation. Do I try to go all Stable Al and put my own stuff on the backburner? Or am I one hop skip & a jump away from making enough money to have this here be my real job?
So yeah, that’s the short version, Caroline. Thoughts?
Caroline responds, “What does she (Lauren) think?”
A great question. What does Lauren think about all this?
“She’d rather I have a full time job,” I answer, explaining that she really needs stability as we enter a very unstable period of life with her having a baby and changing careers, but she’s also really worried about me resenting her for having to be the stable one.
Which, to be clear, I wouldn’t. At least I don’t think I would. My question is more – what if I didn’t need the full time job? What if I could make it work? Risk. Reward. Safety. Satisfaction. Four shall enter, only two shall leave. Which ones, Caroline. Which ones?
What do I do, Caroline? Caroline, are you still there?
“I’m gonna draw six cards,” Caroline says, and we begin.
There is…one more thing
Like most who have been taught that the truth must be statistically significant, I get skeptical whenever someone brings up either tarot or its many cousins in the extended spiritual universe – horoscopes, crystals, witchy stuff, healers, mediums, psychics, and, of course, the golden oldies like “God.”
Not just skeptical though. I become this little jackass detective who reads Less Wrong forums all day and is hell bent on proving to you and everyone else just how stupid it is to actually believe in all of this. Don’t you see, you gullible morons, that none of this is REAL? Wake up, sheeple, and smell the rosé.
And it’s not just one voice in my brain but an entire district of doubtful dolts, a cacophony that, when they’re having a good day, sync up into a hard to deny chorus. There’s the ‘everything is bullshit’ teenage self, the ‘everyone lies to you’ Soviet Jewish self, the ‘your future is based on how hard you work and nothing else’ immigrant self, the ‘religion is bullshit’ science guy self, and, of course, the ‘don’t trust new age crystal people they will steal your money and make you dumbsad’ self.
I don’t bring up these voices directly to Caroline, as she may try to outsmart them and they really do not like that. Plus, I’ve outsmarted them in the past.
Usually, I’m able to realize that they’re wrong – or that there is more to life than what is scientifically real, but even then, even when I feel like I understand the truth beyond the truth, they voices are still there, barring me from the hope that often accompanies faith.
Hope is dangerous. finicky, statistically insignificant.
The reading begins
This is a super quick summary of the reading. If you want to watch or listen to the whole thing, you can do that here (for paid subscribers only – come on what are you waiting for you lil dingus go ahead and go paid who cares).
First comes the Six of Swords. On it, we see a guy rowing a boat away with two little blanketed people aboard, one an adult and the other a child. Well, whaddya fuckin know?
There we were, my little family, on a voyage. Leaving, physically, to another place. Leaving where though? Los Angeles?
Strange, I thought, how much this made me think of what’s easily the hardest dilemma of the last year – whether or not we stay in LA. Even stranger still, that not even once during my fifteen minutes of rambling about the future did I mention the LA question.
Was that itself a sign? Or did I not mention it because it isn’t actually important? How do you know? How CAN you know?
Next came the Four of Pentacles. To me, he looked like a dude who’s either selling something super sleek at a hipster outdoor market or in the middle of a breakdancing move. Caroline said he, the “Frugal Miser,” was holding onto his money tight, even though he definitely has some. Enough to put one of the coins on his little head. And what’s that city behind him? Los Angeles, I thought. There he sat with his small but non zero earnings from the city, but it was time to leave, wasn’t it? Or was it?
Also, he’s got options. Four coins means four options. Chill, Alex.
Caroline explained how the dude is super worried about money even though he definitely has some. Like, he’s not broke. This was true. But couldn’t that apply to anyone? And why does that even matter?
I felt some relief, I noticed, around this point, like the cards were giving me permission to be okay with leaving, which some part of me definitely wanted. Leaving what, though? My career? LA? Lauren?? No way on that last front. Unless maybe the cards know something I don’t?
No that’s bullshit. They don’t know jack diddly. Unless…they do? How can I trust these cards when I can barely trust myself? Or is that WHY I should trust the cards? This could be the answer to everything. Or of course also not.
Next, The Two of Coins – a jester looking spritely fellow. A reminder to have fun. Nice.
Then the Seven of Swords – a dude holding FIVE swords which, as Caroline reminded me, is four more than one needs to fight – who looks back forlorn at the two swords he’s leaving behind. It me, I think, it me.
Then the Judgement card, which shows an angel playing the flute or something as a bunch of corpses with their lil butts celebrate? Finally, I think, the day of judgment has come, and my inherent badness will be confirmed.
Not exactly, Caroline said. The card is more trying to say that the corpses await judgement from the flute angel, and often we put ourselves in their shoes, awaiting the approval of some Other. But I am the angel, Caroline said. This hit hard, and immediately made me think of a performer and audience. A writer and his readers. And how for so long I’ve felt like I needed approval from the readers to feel like I was worthy of writing. Not good enough. But this card says that I am. It says that the audience is here. Stop doubting yourself for a little while and honor their presence. Enjoy them enjoying you.
Is this the card talking or me? Is there any difference?
And then, last but literally the opposite of least since its the first card in the deck – THE FOOL.
Caroline’s favorite card in the deck, The Fool is the hero of the tarot – the main character. Many people have told me I have main character energy and here it was, proven! Now I was ready to believe the cards. (note: when I shared this essay w Lauren, she said “haha who says this?” to which I replied – “everyone”)
The Fool is the zeroth card. He is the only card that is not a number. He is a concept, an idea. A beginning. You are on the precipice of something really cool and exciting, Caroline told me. All I can think about is how The Fool is a comedian in the most basic sense of the word. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the clown, the idiot, the one who is willing to look foolish because something else matters more than maintaining his or her composure. I’ve heard comedy defined as ‘someone treating something super insignificant as if its the most important thing in the world.’
Enter The Fool who approaches everything like it's the first time. He is the joker. Like actually, The Joker in playing cards is based on him.
Caroline brings me back to what’s actually on the card – a dude at the edge of the cliff with his dog and a flower in his hand, ready to jump off, an obviously foolish thing to do, any reasonable person would tell you. They know better. This, they believe, makes them wise. But it is also their downfall.
The Fool doesn’t know better. He doesn’t know at all, Caroline explained, what awaits him after he jumps off this particular cliff – “the place you’re going is not a place you’ve ever been before.”
All of your churning to try and see it
It all makes sense, there in the fool. To let go. To remember that this, now, is the beginning. It is the only thing. There are no answers.
Which is…itself an answer?
No. No? I dunno!
So what do I do?
We end the reading and still I am unsure of what to do. Sure, Caroline said at the beginning that the cards cannot give me any answers but still, I really thought they would!
Sure, I really love the idea of being The Fool, but is that really what I’ll base my life around? “I’m jumping into the unknown,” I’ll tell Lauren, “just like The Fool would,” as she packs her stuff up and goes to an AirBnB for a few days.
Or is the fact that I connect with that story the whole point?
I don’t know.
I DON'T KNOW.
And then I realize, again, for the thousand and first time even though it always feels like the first, that the only answer is that there isn’t one.
Great. Easy. Solved.
Except not really
Because knowing FOR SURE that there is no answer is itself a loophole way to feel like there still is an answer, that comfy snuggie safety blanket my doubtful voices so desparately need. “Ok, fine,” they’ll concede, “there’s no answer and we can be SURE about that. Phewf, let’s all go watch Mrs. Doubtfire.”
Which is good, and Mrs. D is a great film that I hope but cannot confirm has stood the test of time, but I think there’s something else. Something that rests in the not knowing, uncomfortable as it may be.
There’s that quote – “there are the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns.” Besides being a nice mind riddler used to convince our country to go to war in Iraq, the phrase is helpful in parsing this out.
There’s the known unknowns – the things we know we do not know, like how well this post is going to do or what the Wildenko family will eat for dinner tonight.
Then, there’s the unknown unknowns – the things we can’t even tell you about because we cannot yet conceive them.
But then, I think, there’s something else – a state of knowing nothing at all.
This is hard to grasp, I know (lol), and the more I try the less it makes sense which, I think is the point.
I’m fairly sure this part makes no sense but whatever. The lack of knowing is not itself a knowing. It is simply the absence of knowing. The shaky, unsure of itself acceptance that there is no way to know. And, of course, being unsure of even that.
My pitfall, and sort of our pitfall as a society raised on the scientific method and binary code, is that we cannot handle that. We need to know that there’s A or B, even if A is simply all the things that are not B. But what if there was a third thing which actually encapsulated all the things and thus had no opposite because it simply Was. Is.
Let’s call that thing FartFart because why not? That right there - the FartFart – that’s the land of the fool. The null, the zero, the black hole sun of the cosmos within which the very idea of ‘an answer’ is preposterous. You want the truth? There IS NO TRUTH.
Or as the Talking Heads’ David Byrne put much more succinctly - QUIT MAKING SENSE.
Ok so nice you figured it out Alex good for you now what? Well, nothing, besides my being damn diddly sure that I’ll soon forget and need reminding.
Which is where the tarot comes in. And God and The Fool and love and you and me and the children and their tiny little faces. They make no sense, these things, and yet we value them more than anything else. Why? Who the fuck knows? Who cares?
There is magic there, in these beliefs. But it is not in the thing that’s believed as much as our decision to believe. Or as Caroline so perfectly put in her piece, the cards are not magic. We are.
Lauren told me the other night that Baba Jolie, this youtube tarot reader, just gave the most uncanny and true reading Lauren had ever experienced. She told me what was said and I, the skeptic worm, thought to myself, all proud, “ok but what if I’d heard that reading I would have related all of it to me.”
…and? What’s wrong with that? The cards connect to the universal experiences of being human – voyages, struggles, joys and
I don’t know what the hell the next six years or months or days or even hours will look like. How could I? I am but a Fool, a scamp, a neerdowell, a lil guy, really, just bumbling along, leaping and getting up and leaping and getting up in the grand FartFart of it all.
So there ya go. Problem solved – I don’t need to know because the answers will come as they already are including, and especially, this one.
Does this mean I will suddenly do something so irrational and shitty that it will destroy the safety and wellbeing of my family?
No. Of course not. I’ve got a whole diaspora of doubtful Dobrenko voices to make sure of that.
Season one !!
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do you tarot?
do you believe in fartfart?
what else anything is okay just say something hello?