You Had Me at Hello: Phantasmagoric Theatre Tarot

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I am super excited to be working with this deck. From the moment I saw it online, I knew this was something I would enjoy immensely. The whimsical art, the specific tarot world that it portrays, the careful symbolism and philosophy–all seemed too good to be true. I purchased the deck and I am going to spend all of March working with this deck. I will be doing daily draws every day, and I intend to look into determinism (which is the central philosophy of this deck–that life is scripted and we cannot escape our fate) as well as reread Shakespeare’s Tempest, which, if I remember correctly, expresses the idea that life is like theatre. I read this in my university days and it will be interesting to revisit it again.

(On a side note, I regret not taking extensive notes and blogging about last month’s deck–Steampunk Tarot: Wisdom from the Gods of the Machine. It was my first time doing “deck of the month” for myself and I didn’t have a firm study system. I should have studied the Victorian society and the steampunk genre more!! Grrrr)

I haven’t finished reading the guidebook yet, but the concept of this deck and some of the author’s notes are already very interesting. The four key symbols depicted on the back of the card: a dice, the number 56, a puzzle piece and a question mark each represent the author’s central beliefs and are frequently referenced throughout the deck. The number 56 is apparently meant to be a political statement that states each of us is numbered by the time of birth. The dice represents the random occurrences and chaos that we are dealt and must experience until the final curtain drops. The puzzle pieces represent the connections that we make throughout our lives, and as our connections increase and grow, the world becomes smaller. The question mark represents the unanswered questions that we have in life.

The deck taps into an interesting metaphor throughout the cards–that life is theatre. Life is a play. Life is scripted, and we, as actors, can only play out our roles and make the best of what we are given. The events in our lifetime are predetermined by the plot that is in store for us, and we don’t really have the room to make drastic changes. Although, by tapping into the powers of tarot, we are able to make “minor adjustments” to avoid disasters that can cost us.

I don’t know if I agree with this view on life completely, but I do want to explore the metaphor further and see how I would personally interpret it.

So let’s start by examining the idea that life is scripted, and that we are given the script at the moment of our birth and our life is predetermined by what is already given. I looked into determinism briefly, and it is a concept that states there is no free will, and that our choices are merely a process of cause and effect–simple or complicated. To have free will means to have options, and that we are free to exercise those options. According to the rules of philosophical debate, free will is very hard to prove because it is mostly a feeling.

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So life is scripted. What is this script? I know many people believe that when a soul chooses to enter a body or a lifetime, the soul has a “contract” or a “plan” to experience certain things in life–to work through particular lessons, to connect with specific types of people, to go through “predetermined” events in order to achieve a spiritual effect etc. Perhaps, some of these lessons and objectives are carried over from our previous lifetimes, and we seek to complete our journey or fulfill what has not been fulfilled from our previous lives. For me personally, I don’t know how reality works, but this version of how a soul travels through physical lifetime kind of works for me. I don’t know if it happens like that “down to a tee”, but I believe in the concept of having a “general agenda” that is either “agreed upon” or “predetermined”–lessons or trajectories that we are meant to experience in a particular lifetime. So in this way, the idea of “life is scripted” kind of works, but I think I am deviating from the author’s intentions for this deck a bit since ultimately, we had a say in how we wanted our lives to play out, since we “decided” it and “predetermined” it ourselves before we are born.

Or, if we didn’t actively “choose” the life that we want to live, which may very well be the case–the idea that our souls carry imprints, signatures and lessons that are in need of resolving or healing or creating also works for me. So this aligns with what I currently understand about determinism–that our choices are determined by a series of causes and effects. Say that I am in a toxic relationship in this lifetime is because of the energies and lessons that I carry from another lifetime (or even just from this lifetime)–and that I need to go through the motions to “break the pattern” and to “learn the lesson”–then yes. Life is scripted. It’s scripted because what has happened to us before this present moment plays a role in determining what our experiences are going to be.

If we go with “life is scripted” metaphor–if there is a script, then there must be a writer, no? I cannot simply treat the script as a magical and absolute manifestation that will determine a person’s basic plot line–all the rising actions and the denouement and the final curtain. Like who writes the script? Who wrote the script? If the script is prewritten, is it our “souls” that determined what the script is going to be about? Is it our spirit guides? Is it god? Is it something else that’s bigger than us? Or again, is it simply “prewritten” because it is what we carry within our souls? But that is only if you believe in reincarnation or having several lifetimes, which I do, so I have to include in my discussion.

Either way, in my belief, be it spirit guides or our higher selves or whatever–it does not occur to me that the script is unchangeable. That’s like trying to rewrite my DNA. Who’s the writer? Perhaps there is no clear source of where this script came from, but I do believe that we play a role in changing the stories that we tell–or would that fall into the role and functions of an actor? We, as actors, perform according to the script, putting our own spin on it, expressing the lines we are given in our own way, making the best out of any situation. So perception plays an important role here. We can be dealt a shitty script, but we can still make it a brilliant play. So I guess this still plays into the idea of determinism, but it’s just that we choose to perceive our “play” from a place of empowerment and creativity.

Okay, so I want to go back to the script again. In my head, I do not believe that a script is something that is descriptive to the point that it knows exactly what we are going to wear on May 25, 2038. We’re not being bloody “scripted” like some mindless NPC’s in an open-world RPG game, for goodness’ sake. I think how I define a “script” for a person’s life would be exactly what I said earlier –like it contains the general trajectories, the big lessons and core concepts that we are supposed to experience and get in touch with in this lifetime, and how we experience it may take several physical forms. This aligns with the idea of script and literature…is it kind of like interpreting poetry, then? It’s more about how you perceive the symbolism and the imagery-and how you make meaning out of it?

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But I guess, the idea of a script for theatre is that the plot details and even some actions are dictated, which returns to the author’s idea of “fate”–that we are unable to alter the events that are destined to happen in our lives. We can only try to avoid the upcoming disasters through “minor adjustments”. That’s so fatalist! But I guess that’s the point *slaps forehead* That’s just so…negative. Like the entire framework posits that shit (and only shit?) happens in life, and we just have to deal with it, YOLO. Like the things that are “scripted”–the way it is written in the little white book that comes with the deck–it just feels like only “disasters” will happen and we should be lucky to have anything good in our lives at all.

That’s hogwash, sorry. That’s just so against my inner nature. I’m never one for spiritual bypassing or viewing life only through the lens of “love and light”–but like, my inner fibres are like, naturally fluffy and they’re made of sunflowers. Like I’m not trying to out-positive everything and ignore the negative aspects in life, but I like to look at the challenges or “disasters” in life from a place of strength. They’re challenges because they are a testament to how strong we can be. They are difficult because we are given an opportunity to rise to overcome those difficulties. I’m all about exercising our free will and agency–choosing what is best for ourselves to the best of our ability. Viewing life as inherently difficult and we just have to make do with what we are given and do our best to try to neutralize all the negativity–meh. It’s really not my cup of tea. Yes, shit happens, but we are stronger than all of those shit combined. We just have to choose to tap into our strengths and face our challenges head on. Am I right? Am I right?

Anyway, I digress. That’s enough about the script. I want to talk about the idea or the concept of actors. Like I mentioned earlier, actors have to follow the script, but they are also artists–they have their own voice, their own worldviews, and their own artistry and their own unique way of interpreting and performing the play. This taps into the idea of creative agency and that we are free to do whatever we like to the “material” we are given. (Hey–it’s not about what you got–it’s about what you do with what you got, right?) When it comes to acting, it is also a dedicated craft. There are skills you can learn and strategies you can internalize–so this inevitable includes the idea of practice and self-development. Now this is my cup of tea. We can choose to practice, focus and perform our roles better in the way that we want to.

This is totally not taking a deterministic turn. Sorry Cameron! Not following your script. 😛

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There is also the aspect of performance. Now this gets kind of interesting–because when actors perform, they must have an audience, right? Who are we performing for? For others? But if life is theatre, these so called “others” would be the other actors, right? The actors that are participating in the same story as us. Or these audiences could be the people that are not really within our life’s experience–people that are busy living their own lives, performing their own plays on their own stages? So, say you’re Bill Gates and you’re famous and inspiring–you may have a large (global, in fact) audience that attends your play because you are known to the world through your achievements, your work, and through media la di da.

The idea of performativity though–can this be a representation of the ego? When we’re not expressing our true selves–when we are not acting authentically or from a place of honest–we are “putting on a show” or we are simply “reacting” to our surroundings–living our lives on auto-pilot without without being aware of what’s really going on. Are we following the script at this point? Perhaps. Perhaps this is just another lesson that we need to learn. But say we cultivate awareness and spiritual autonomy, then we are making a conscious performance–would this be considered artistic? Creative? Because it is a true expression of ourselves and who we are as individuals?

Not sure where we are going with this. But anyway, I think “life is theatre” or “life is a play” is a fascinating metaphor.

Wait, who’s the director, then? WHO’S BEHIND IT ALL!? WHO’S THE PRODUCER THAT PUT ON THIS PLAY? WHO’S READYING THE PROPS AND STUFF?

I may be taking this too far. But right? Who’s directing this? Definitely not a solitary god playing SIMS–that’s not within my belief. Perhaps our…collective consciousness as human beings? Or our collective energies and desires as souls travelling through space-time, seeking to find our true selves and true experience?

Where do we go when the curtain falls, as actors? Well, death. Death is certain. Do we get shoved into another play? Do we choose to perform another play? Or do we decide to change our paths and pursue something else entirely?

Anyway. These are my thoughts and musings so far. I’ll update you on my progress once I’ve worked with this deck more–and also read the little white book. The court cards are actually characters (with names!) that the author has created. I’m sure Graham Cameron has more to say about each card he’s created–this seems like a carefully and meticulously crafted deck. I mean just based on the explanation that he gave about the symbolism on the back of the card–I anticipate more awesome details down the road.


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