78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Freedom to Fall
A while back I wrote a post over at The Tarot Channel on associating songs with Tarot images, so when I tell you this song by Alicia Keys is a perfect Fool's song you'll know I'm not disparaging the song, but instead using tarot-speak to give it props. It's called Sure Looks Good To Me and I've been listening to it to remind myself that a Fool's approach to life is actually the wisest.

Life is cheap and bittersweet
But it tastes good to me
Take my turn, crash and burn
That's how it's supposed to be

So don't rain on my parade
Life's too short to waste one day
I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Sure looks good to me

Time flies by, it leaves you behind
Take it naturally
Heaven knows, oh there's so much more
More than what we see

So don't rain on my parade
Life's too short to waste one day
I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Sure looks good to me

Deep in my mind I'm secure with getting by
Want to see the light before I die
Before I lie in an empty space and the darkness comes
And I've been telling my soul, me and myself
We turn around we're getting old
But the lightning crashes, the foolish emotions
Of the bruises and the beauty of this moment
That we're feeling and I feel like I'm seeing
The world inside of me, but I can tell you that I know
It's getting easier to breathe
There's a cold in the morning, an endless equation of who we've become
It's a complex situation

So live, love life, give love
Live, love life, give love
Live, love life, give love
'Cause who are we anyway?

So don't rain on my parade
Life's too short to waste one day
I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Sure looks good to me

Copyright EMI April Music & Lellow Productions
Lyrics for: Sure Looks Good To Me
From the album: As I Am
Songwriters: Augello-Cook, Alicia J, Perry, Linda

There are so many associations in these lyrics that bring to mind the meaning of The Fool card, but one phrase that crystallizes the Fool is "the freedom to fall." The Fool in many tarot decks is often portrayed as standing on the edge of a precipice, and we're not sure whether the next step means death or simply a change in direction. We can't see what is below so we fear for his safety and, thinking he's foolishly risking it all, want to pull him back from the edge "for his own good."

A Fool lives inside of me alongside a very stressed-out worrywart who is constantly trying to get my Fool back from the edge. But falling, even if it means crashing and burning, is necessary to learning and growth. A small child learning to walk takes many spills. A parent may want to prevent each and every fall, fearing for the child's safety, and may hover nearby to scoop her up every time she teeters and loses her balance. However, if that parent never allowed her to fall it would handicap her and prevent her from learning how to walk at all. Imagine if a parent kept a child bundled in a papoose or hamstrung her in some way that prevented the prospect of falling, her sense of balance would not be developed, her leg muscles would atrophy, and she would lose the opportunity to develop naturally. We need to give ourselves the freedom to fall, to risk it all, to crash and burn.

Obviously the problem with falling is that unpleasant crash at the bottom. So, if our toddler is naturally going to fall, we hope she falls on the carpeted floor rather than the concrete driveway. But no doubt she will fall on the concrete driveway inevitably and we hope the only repercussion is a skinned knee. As adults, we all need the freedom to fall, the freedom to explore and try out newfound skills. Fear of falling should not hold us back, only caution us to be careful. We often say, "Don't take unnecessary risks" but one person's necessary risk is another person's unnecessary one. What ultimate good does it do to sit back and judge the Fool for his choices? Does it get you any further along on your own path? Does it make you feel superior to chide someone or say "I told you so" as you sit comfortably secure in your safe world?

I've lived life on both sides. I've been the Fool and I've been one of the cautious crowd and I can tell you that the "safe" life is not safe at all. There is no known human way to avoid falling and pain and crashing and burning. Being physically safe does not equal emotional safety, although being in physical danger can be emotionally traumatic. So it's probably not a good idea to let the Fool reign all the time. The Fool truly is like an infant and does not fully comprehend the dangers and repercussions of his actions. He leads us into the unknown wilds and after a time or two of falling flat on our faces, most of us learn our lesson and grow "wise." Unfortunately, many of us grow up and become far too mature for our own good and abandon the Fool behind. Many of us wake up one day, somewhere around the middle of our lives, and we ache for the Fool we have lost.

There are 78 cards in a tarot deck, each illuminating an experience or concept of life. The integration of these experiences and concepts is the challenge, both in reading tarot and in living life itself. On Alicia Keys' same album, As I Am, there is another song called Lesson Learned and it ends with these lyrics:

Life ain't perfect if you don't know what the struggle's for
Falling down ain't falling down if you don't cry when you hit the floor
It's called the past 'cause I'm getting past
and I ain't nothing like I was before.
You ought to see me now.

Yes I was burned but I call it a lesson learned
Mistake overturned but I call it lesson learned.
My soul has returned so I call it a lesson learned.
Another lesson learned....

The Fool may not learn, but we can. Still, the Fool's usefulness is in locating the teaching moments in life. Where would we find our lessons if we don't play the fool from time to time, take the chance, step out of our safety zone and risk something?

Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes Published by US Games Copyright 1995