A Piece of My Mind

By Jeanne Fiorini

The Problem with Words

We all know the frustration of being unable to define our experience in mere words.  Words are a construct of the mind, of our culture, and of our group experience, and as such are often of little use when a uniquely personal expression is called for. It would be cool if we could make up words as we went along, spontaneous expressions perfectly articulated in the moment (“I’m really farkinculated right now!”), but then we’d have even more trouble bridging the communication gap which plagues us.

Not to imply that a singular standard of language prevents misunderstandings.  Even the simplest of words are charged with meaning, and the same word can have different connotations to different people. 

I know someone who doesn’t use the word “work” but replaces it with “play”, thereby calling events “playshops”, and using expressions such as, “I’ve been playing with that issue” or, “We played in the garden today.”  I know what she’s trying to accomplish, but I find it confusing and distracting.

Simply put, we all want to be heard and to be understood.  The other day while writing to a friend, I was wishing that I could press my fingerprint onto a pad of sorts, a gizmo which could send the totality of my being to a similar gizmo at her end, which would then decode my fingerprinted information into perfect expression and, as a matter of course, lead to complete comprehension. (This, of course, would be a technology to be feared as much as desired.)

As a primary means of creating human connections (a basic social and emotional need), language and the problem of words is a double-edged sword. (Note the Tarot pun...) Yet the pitfalls intrinsic in spoken language give us one more reason to love and appreciate the shorthand method of self-expression that we have with our 78 friends of the Tarot.  

Yes, it is true that Tarot’s symbols are complex and subject to varying interpretations.  And we also need to keep in mind that there is a difference between a “sign” and a “symbol” and that both are part of Tarot’s system of communication:  a sign points to a specific thing (like the two-dimensional form on the door letting us know which bathroom is the ladies room) and a symbol expresses something that transcends specifics and bridges multiple meanings (like the concept of “mother” or “squaring the circle”).  But despite its complexities, the pictorial system of images into which Tarot has evolved provides an efficient means of conveying very many words by means of very few pictures.  

Think of what time, effort, and breath could be saved if Tarot was a universal language. (Herman’s Hermits are singing “What a wonderful world it would be” in my mind.) Some of us would teach TSL (Tarot as a Second Language) in elementary schools.  Some of us would be interpreters for corporate meetings and international conferences. The United Nations would have a special Tarot Panel to help mediate and resolve conflicts.

The best part would be that each one of us could have a plastic badge (like the one my Dad used to have when he worked at IBM – you could have one with a pocket protector and space for your pens if you’d like).  Into this badge, we’d slide the Tarot card which best defined our mood/energy/state at any given moment.  Viola!  Instant communication.

The Tarot ID Badge would eliminate the need for trivial conversation.  Inanity Be Gone!  Once another person had viewed your card, a simple acknowledgement - a nod of the head, a sympathetic “hmmmm”, a pat on the back, or a big bright smile - would let someone know that they’d been seen and heard.

Placing a Major Arcana card in your badge lets people know right off that you’re into something Big:

Star: Big Dreams 

Empress: Big Mama Ju-Ju 

Sun:  Big Fun 

Judgment: Big Decisions

And then there are the heavy hitters:

Devil: Back off unless you’re lookin’ for trouble.

Tower:  I’ve temporarily lost my mind.

Death:  I know nothing.

The less impacting and more specific aspects of life would be covered by the images of the Minor Arcana:  

Ace of Swords:  I’m gonna give it to you straight.

Four of Wands: Would you like to come over to my house for dinner tonight?.

Two of Pentacles:  Whatever …. I’m flexible…

Seven of Cups: If you want to ask me what I dreamt last night, we can have that conversation; if you need me to put together a complete sentence, you can forget about it.

And of course the Personality Cards would very succinctly convey your current attitude:

Knight of Cups: I’m open and available.

Page of Wands: Let’s play!

Queen of Pentacles: Allow me to bake you a cake.

King of Swords: If you’re looking for the answer, you’ve come to the right place.

Ah, simple, succinct communication, multiplicity of thoughts and ideas expressed in very few words.  What a wonderful world it would be.  

© 2008 Jeanne Fiorini

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors.  

Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2008 

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