institutional knowledge, categorization, the Book of Laws, harmony, perfection
Ideals are the guidelines that orient people’s lives. They provide a standard to put things into perspective, to get a grip on the disagreements that rule our everyday lives. They form the basis for coming to a just decision on how to proceed. Ideal is the card that represents our need for harmony and perfection. For getting a grip on our intuitive principles to translate them into an objective standard to look at the world through the perspectives of Justice, Beauty and Freedom. This is the card of the knowledge that is gathered through time: Minerva’s owl flying out at night, transcribing lived experience into the Book of Law(s) for all. Ideal is the card that strives for the creation of a balanced and harmonious society, and does so by creating normative rule systems. Often institutionalized, Ideal is the card of the Law, the Arts institutions, the Academy and the Government.
In this card the landscape seems to have been reduced to nothingness. What could have been a lively street in the middle of the skyscrapers has become a grey sludge, vaguely mirroring the world around. In the buildings the people are separated, each individual framed in a box, looking out of the window. People witnessing rather than participating in the city life. Looking up we can see the housing blocks are held up by a massive set of scales, which in turn are suspended from building cranes. The source of all these constructions seems to have become invisible in the scene. We cannot keep but wonder at what might be at the end of the chain of cranes and balances; where the Ideals we refer to actually come from and what they tell us about our world views and convictions.
In our daily lives, we yearn for some kind of perfection, for lofty ideals to guide our ethics. Only in this picture, the endless translation of these ideals into sequences within sequences of rule-making texts – laws and regulations pertaining to every domain of our lives – has estranged them from the concrete experience of the world. Instead of building a stronger cohesion in society, all these texts have ended up separating people into ever more categories: of gender, culture, age, race, talent, taste, intelligence etcetera. The rhetorics of the Book speak solipsistically only about themselves, they have lost transparency and relevance to the outside world. When seen through the harmonious logics of the Book, Life looks grey and somber. People have been scaled down to the weight of a letter. And the initial movement that was initiated by the contemplation of Ideal has come to a standstill.
This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with carrying ideals. Only, it is important to realize how easily they seem to become recuperated by the interests of particular parties. How the promise of harmony and equality often tends to construe exclusion: between the ones for whom this equality can be maintained and the ones that fall through the maze of regulations and from that moment on become exempt of the Ideal. The regulative character of Ideal has created a visible and an invisible world, where some people seem to have more rights than others, although the letter of the law promises differently. Where beauty is the privilege of the educated artist, institution and buyer. And Freedom has become the preferred rhetorics of suppression and neo-liberal inequality. So what we need is a change of direction: from the vertical authority of the law, to the horizontal creation of ideals. Not by an act of sheer will power and abstraction, but through the act of listening to the situation, to what is already there: the ideal appearing in the world itself, practiced in constant dialogue with its concrete circumstances. These are ideals that always have to adapt to changing relations, they are flexible problems that every time again ask for a profound dialogue. Between the people, the locality, the material consequences, the cultural context, the societal situation, etc…
In the Law this could mean a system that functions less according to the letter, but adapts to every given situation, through the sustained care of the keepers of the letter. In the Arts this attitude is one of non-fashionable attention to what really is waiting to be expressed in the creative act. Because of its concrete grounding this ideal is often imperfect, flawed by unresolved differences of opinion, or by the material resistance of the concrete. It is an ideal that is created through an ‘exemplary’ practice of life, and trusting in its natural authority without feeling the need to make it universal. It is the act of fine balancing knowledge gained over the ages with the self-evident wisdom of practicing this knowledge in the world as it is. This is the basis for our institutions-to-become. A situated knowledge practice that feeds into our institutions through the insistent demand for participation based on example rather than principle.
In a reading this card points out a possible inclination to perfection and control that might stifle your life energy. It is an invitation to rethink your ideals and what they are based on, and possibly adapt them to your life circumstances as they are.
It also might indicate that you have to trust in the importance of your life practice, as an exemplary practice for other people to pick up on. And to pay attention to the perfection that is already there, hidden under layers and layers of convention, stress, automatism and indifference.