The Wandering Otaku
The fool is our guide and our guidepost through the tarot. He is the white rabbit who is inviting us down the hole we may be about to enter. He is the wise man disguised as an idiot, but it is only a disguise because we may not see rightly. When we learn the rules of the world we are about to enter and when the context of the work before us becomes clear, the Fool snaps into focus and we realize that he is fact our savior, but this fact is almost never immediately obvious because he looks like an idiot, the Fool.
What we see on the card is an innocent, absent-minded young man about to walk off of a cliff. There is nothing ambiguous about it. He is about to step into the void and plummet off the mountain to his death. For those unfamiliar with the tarot, this is an unsettling way to begin the journey; if this is the kind of advice the tarot offers I’m not sure I want any part of it, no matter how cute the drawings are.
If this is how you react to the Fool let me say that it is a flawless interpretation of the card and it shows that you are a very rational soul firmly grounded in this reality. The trouble with that interpretation is that the tarot is a highly irrational tool grounded in a completely different reality from the one we have been taught to inhabit on a daily basis, one whose rules and obligations differ completely from our own. As such successful use of the tarot requires an approach that is so radically different from the way we usually approach our lives as to appear not merely foolish but insane. But the tarot isn’t our world, or it is, but viewed in a particular way, a way that takes some getting used to, as the Fool so clearly suggests.
As you learn about the tarot, as you explore its boundaries and its possibilities you will see that what it asks of you is exactly what the Fool tells us from the first card: to trust ourselves. This is not something a rational person normally does; the rational person reasons from facts and data in order to come to logical conclusions. Reasoning is part of the tarot, but it is a small part. The larger part asks us to listen to the interior voice, our guts, our hunches and to trust those hunches without any evidence supporting them, and then to take a step forward into apparent nothingness. What we can’t see yet from our limited perspective is likely exactly what we need, but oftentimes we can’t summon what we need without action, action we wouldn’t normally take given the data at hand. Magic then, the magic that the Fool is demonstrating for us, is the ability to trust ourselves and take irrational action in order to make something happen, to do something silly, something foolish, something apparently at odds with all the data in order to shift something in our world, whether its our own path or something completely out of our control, perhaps even outside of our perception.
The Fool is a litmus test, a chance for us to recalibrate our perspective and adjust our expectations before we begin what will be, if we are willing to let it be, a wild and tumultuous journey, not just through the history of esoteric thought and Asian-influenced art, but through ourselves, or perhaps more accurately, the stories we tell about ourselves. Those stories are often at the core of our identity and choosing to question them, choosing to recontextualize where we fit in or how we interpret those stories may feel like we are about to step off of a cliff to our deaths, but as another card, XIII Death, will teach us, death may be exactly what we need.
We may not take our steps into nothingness as gladly as the Fool does, after all, he is far more practiced at it than we are. We may step heavy with trepidation, eyes closed, grimacing, inching our toes out over the cliff edge every piece of our being screaming at us to stop, but I can tell you that it does not matter how you take that first step, it only matters that you do. If you can hear that voice in your gut and even for a moment trust it to take that step into nothingness, then you are well on your way to mastering the tarot just as the Fool showed you. Eventually, perhaps, you will become the Wandering Otaku, the person who is so passionate, so committed to his bliss, that he abandons all else in pursuit of it, even rationality.Still hungry for more info on the Fool? Click here to read “Notes on the Fool.”