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

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Real Deal

For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." -- from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Ever since I read this book to my firstborn, I have been captivated by this simple dialogue in the nursery.  Becoming real is hard.  It's harder than what is commonly heard today as "being real" because "being real" has become just another excuse to be rude.  Like, "Hey, your breath stinks.  No offense, I'm just being real."  It's tacked on the end of a stinging comment meant to somehow soften the blow but which instead punctuates it.  Kind of like that guy who says, "Just kidding" at the end of every insult.  Becoming real is painful.  It involves the kinds of experiences we wish we had been spared.  It makes us understand the value of holding our tongues or speaking our minds at the right moments.  Being real isn't license to lay your issues on everyone else for them to hold.  Being real happens through love and love doesn't shit on people.   And if love has an accident, it cleans up its own mess.  Becoming real involves a good, long, objective look in the mirror and realizing who you are is who you were meant to be.  Self-acceptance isn't as easy as it sounds because sometimes it leaves us with a nagging sense of defeat.  It requires brutal honesty and assessment of one's true strengths and weaknesses.  Making peace with one's own personality and allowing yourself to simply be human can be, well, humbling.  It flies in the face of all our conditioning to overcome, push farther, be better, create a new you, to well... be someone else. 

I've been thinking a lot about authenticity and being real.  At this point in my life, being me is all I know how to do.  I don't have enough energy to work up a persona.  Trying to be inauthentic is tiring.  I tried being inauthentic a few times and I really suck at it.  My first job was as a retail sales clerk at a small, independently owned sporting goods store.  The owner had just bought a whole load of ski jackets that were, frankly, crap.  He was disappointed in their quality, but now that we were stuck with them, we had to sell them.  I was helping a customer who was perusing the rack of jackets and when he said they didn't seem so great I agreed.  I said, "Yeah, they're not the best, but they're not expensive."  My boss took me aside and said, "Aw, c'mon Ginny, you're killing me!  I've got to get rid of those jackets!"  It wasn't that I couldn't lie, I could.  But trying to sell something enthusiastically that I just didn't believe in grated in a very uncomfortable way.  My next sales gig was cosmetics.  It was an at-home business, so to drum up clients I was supposed to have "shows" and "parties."  Which was fine.  As long as my clients could try on the makeup and really want to purchase it, I was enthusiastic.  But then I was shown how to attract clients while out and about.  My coach went up to a random woman in KMart and complimented her.  Then she chatted about cosmetics in a girly way.  Then she handed the woman her business card and even booked a party right there in the pet food aisle.  I don't know about you, but I don't like random people intruding in my personal bubble when I'm shopping, so I couldn't bring myself to do that to others, even if it would score me a sale.  Needless to say, I didn't make a lot of money selling cosmetics.  If any activity or job requires that I do something completely at odds with my inner values, and they don't have to be "right" or "wrong" values like moral ethics or anything, but just something that goes against my grain, I can't pull it off.  Every job has its "Ugh!" factors that we simply get on with, but if this grating activity is essential to doing the job, it's not for me. 

I've noticed this inability to fabricate myself getting worse as I get older.  It has come with an increasing ability to laugh at myself, be lazy when I feel like it, and figure people will get over whatever imagined slight they may feel was directed at them from me.  Sometimes I wonder if I care less, but really, I care more.  I am more interested in what makes people feel genuinely alive and happy, but I don't feel it's my obligation to provide it to them.  I don't care about who said what to whom and how so-and-so made and ass of him/herself last weekend.  I like less clutter in my home and in my head.  I appreciate a few good, real friends.  If I have one good friend, I count myself blessed.  Most of all, I cherish loving someone deeply and irrationally.  That's where life gets good.

When I started reading tarot professionally, I brought all of that personal authenticity to my tarot practice.  More often than not, it's a good thing.  Most people want "the real deal," but sometimes they want smoke and mirrors.  Not my problem.  It's not what I do.  More than delivering authenticity, I want to provoke others to use tarot authentically as well.  I like to bring esoteric, airy-fairy concepts down to earth where we can actually use them rather than pontificate about them.  Some say tarot history is so dusty and irrelevant, and I can agree if all you do with it is create more stuff for your brain to forget.  Fascinating, but who cares?  So I find a use for it.  I want to bring the symbols of the past right into your life today and show you how to use them to get what you want accomplished.  That's what I mean by "authentic tarot."  But then again, who would be interested in "fake tarot?"  Well, maybe some people:

Who admits to being fake?  I mean, who does that?  Apart from this company, Genuine Fake Furs, who by the way had to add "genuine"  else they would just be false fake furs and who wants those, nobody would go out of their way to advertise their falseness.  I'm old enough to remember Kraft Imitation Mayonnaise, which was actually quite tasty, but rarely do we see anything advertising fakery.  Nobody would buy it.  I recently read that there is aa "new trend" in advertising.  It's the "made with real" thing we see everywhere.  Made with real or genuine ingredients or materials is hot now.  But when has anyone desired fake stuff in their stuff?  Dominos Pizza recently started advertising they are now using "real cheese."  Makes you wonder what they were using before.  When I see a product advertising its "real-ness" it sends up a red flag.  What else is in it that isn't real?  It's kind of like the movie that's "based on a true story."  You just know it's got a lot of made up crap in it.  Genuineness is more like that Skin Horse in the nursery.  It's unassuming and doesn't boast and swagger.  It doesn't show off its genuine parts.  It merely is.  You may not even notice the real deal at first.  It's not usually the shiniest, loudest, or prettiest thing in the room.  But when you find it, it's like unearthing buried treasure.  It's so beautiful.

So rather than avoiding the fake, it may be wiser to cut a wide berth around those that shout they are "real."  Step right up and get a genuine 100% real and authentic tarot reading!   Because why? All the others aren't real?  You're the only one dishing the straight dope?  Others use those fake tarot cards developed after the 16th century, you know.  Only the Tarot de Marseilles is genuine.  Or perhaps only the Golden Dawn decks yield a truly genuine reading, you know, with their esoteric magic Kabbalah, or however you spell that tree of life system.  Only those readers that light candles,  properly cleanse their cards and allow the querant to shuffle the deck to enhance the energy infusion into the cards are genuine and true.  There is not a single thing wrong with any of these decks or practices.  To all of them I nod my unsought approval.  If reading a deck rich in historical symbolism and systems sends your fancy into flight, I love you for it.  You should do it with everything you are.  If your way of tarot reading involves a pack of your own hand-drawn cards and you throw them up in the air and read what falls, to hell with tradition and accepted meanings, then you get on with it.  But the second you start claiming your way is more authentic, more real, than any other way, then I will flip you the bird with relish.

The advertisers are right.  We do crave real and authentic.  We need it.  But unless we ourselves become real, we won't ever be able to spot the lie in anything or anyone else.