The Existential Existence

Some people might wonder at my fondness for doing jigsaws of interesting card decks. What I like about it is that it can cement in my mind what I like. I do a jigsaw of the latest and greatest super new-fangled secrets of the universe deck and see how I like it.

Meandering around this month, I finally bought a playing card deck that I’ve had on my wish list forever, The Existential Playing Cards by Rita Orlov Rosenfeld. Looking at new decks, fiddling with puzzles of new decks, I realized that I nearly let this beauty get away. Sometimes the $20 deck gets shoved to the wish list as you reach for the latest and greatest shiny minty pizazzling gotta-have thing. You know, the thing you regret spending $97 on that is a good deck but not a pizazzling gotta-have deck after all.

I thought this was out-of-print and had a drop of the heart. Actually Etsy had cancelled the listing (I guess it timed out) without informing the seller and my note to her wondering where the deck had gone made her create a new listing. So I WAS able to buy it.

I am quite pleased.


Hell is other people who don’t appreciate a fine playing card deck: philosophy reference #642.7





Castiglione Rides the Carousel of Life

I notice I have several people following me on both my blogs who could be described as life coaches or lifestyle mentors. It seems to me that they would have no reason to follow my blog except to advertise their services. You know, “Buy my book, buy my video, only I have the magic secrets to unlock your potential.” Better than telemarketing, and cheaper, they follow blogs, get their advertisement in, waiting for you to say “This guy has the answer!!!” and get out your credit card.

I find it amusingly predatory, manipulative, and uninteresting.

In one of my DVD art lectures he was discussing a painting by Raphael that I was not familiar with, a portrait of Baldassare Castiglione. Castiglione wrote a book, a courtly ideal of dinner conversation at the court of Urbino that went through over 100 contemporary editions and was eventually translated into six other European languages plus Latin.

Here is a link to a digital version of the English translation of 1903 in several formats.

Even in our more recent time, Baldassare Castiglione is fascinating; we love our philosophers. Castiglione’s book is in-print and also available in a paperback edition of this 1903 English translation, and in a Kindle edition from Penguin Classics, both available at Amazon. Now this is a man who is interesting. Of course I had to do him as a digital jigsaw, and it was a tough one, given that black, grey, taupe and beige are the predominant colours. I nearly gave up, but kept chipping away at it. (Click to enlarge)


Is there a lesson there that a life coach can’t teach you? Someone said to me that they wouldn’t have the patience to do a jigsaw. I like the ones that are difficult, it’s a mental challenge, an exercise in patience, an exercise in minute recognition of pattern and colour. You teach yourself patience and reason in many actions, you cannot buy it from life coaches.

While I had the file opened to take a screen shot, I placed a dozen more pieces. There you go, you chip away at these things, fitting pieces into place, changing in increments, like life. To make your life better you sometimes have to wait and think and feel, no one can make your life but you. Buying advice does not work, you need to perform the actions of change yourself.

If you get down one day, so what? The predators might see that you’re down and think you a likely customer for their feel-good wares, but eat properly, get some sleep and keep finding those pieces.

Yourself. You cannot purchase a different life.

Oh jolly, let’s have a card…today we are…



Mary Poppins has been to visit you and while riding the carousel with her, your horse has taken off and is flying over a lush maze that has taken years to grow. Blossoms and bubbles and ribbons in the air, your heart expands and nearly bursts with the feeling of freedom and the blue of the sky surrounding you.

“You have the power to see things from a higher perspective.” Soar above life’s challenges AND opportunities and a new perspective appears. Like a maze, you can’t see the pattern while you are walking it, you have to look at it differently. No one can sell you a different view, you have to create it yourself. Exactly so.

Hey, I’ve got a video on how to say the same thing 30 different ways, only $49.95 plus shipping. You will be amazed at the awareness you will receive.

Or you can use your time to work it out yourself.

Maybe while doing a jigsaw.


The Empress Gateway to Conundrum

Daily Draw August 4th, 2009

From the Rumi Tarot:

3 – THE EMPRESS – Woman is a ray of the divine light.

I think this calls for leadership today. From the command throne, the Empress directs but never loses her cool. The essence of the beautiful never loses her temper. Don’t waste creative talents on overbearing female power. The Empress is a beneficent influence, so she is generous and wishes people well.

The book has some interesting things to say about Sufism and gazing at outer beauty to connect to the inner beauty of god. The heart of light is the true beauty of the sacred soul and not merely the reflection, as is outward beauty. Still, the outer reflection can help you connect to the inner sacred in a ritual of gazing. In our Western context, this immediately becomes sexual, but it was not held so in Persian history. This is really something hard to understand, but it seems to me that many Sufi rituals are hard to understand in their physical movement and ritual.

Ecstatic union with god is a concept. Our modern society finds such ritual of emotion fraught with sexual undertones. I can’t read about the Catholic Sacred Heart of Jesus history and ritual without thinking it sexual, and a manifestation of sexual frustration. So it is with some Sufi ritual, I read a misunderstanding of concept and the long history of ritual in today’s writing and analysis of Sufism which tacks on homoeroticism and sexual ritual to practices developed to reach the divine.

If you don’t understand culture, it’s best to be beneficent rather than overbearing. A subtle message today about assumption and association and truth. We simply cannot understand how people thought a thousand years ago, we have no “frame of reference” as one of my history teachers used to say.

In recent years, I became interested in the history of photography. My first teacher was Charles Dodgson, whose pseudonym was Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame. I then followed through with Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz, and more recently Man Ray, and their photographs. It became apparent to me that while I could read about photographic history, today with our highly technical processes and the inundation of photography in culture, it is impossible for the mind to grasp an earlier world and attitude of photography. We don’t know what it was really like to be the first to take photographs of clouds and how that seemed to the public. We can imagine and envision but the actual culture is lost to us, we have no frame of reference. Imagining something is not the same as experiencing something. Our arrogance is that we think we understand it or that we can analyze it and find the truth.

So, knowing this, I know I will never understand the culture of the early Church or the medieval rituals of Sufism, but I nonetheless like to read about them. The mind of humans in history is alluring, even if untenable. You cannot hold and defend what you will never be able to understand.

I used to say to a fellow online, who was convinced of his rightness, his scientific ability to analyze and understand, that all humans hold finite knowledge and can therefore not truly understand things. If you understand a mathematical equation, that doesn’t give you omniscience, since our understanding of math is always finite. A math equation holds true today, that’s what we know. We are a species of finite sensibility.

Sufism has an underpinning of philosophy that drives it, which I think wise, since there are no absolutes in philosophy, we understand what we understand today. Philosophy says that you need to experience to understand, and it also says that you can imagine and therefore understand. No absolutes, it’s quite a puzzle of logic. Since we have finite knowledge of logic, you might guess what I think of this. I love the phrase “suspension of disbelief” since it allows the mind to roam, but not without problems in theory. It’s kind of like those clouds that Nigel paints throughout the Rumi Tarot.

In the book, Nigel Jackson quotes Rumi:

“Know, O my son, that each thing in the universe is a vessel full to the brim with wisdom and beauty. It is also a drop from the river of his beauty.”

‘Tis a conundrum which the Empress Essence of the Beautiful gazes at.