11. play


balance, irreverence, being in the moment, imagination, sexuality and intellect

11. play

In this card we see a woman falling out of the sky. She is caught up in a storm, a whirlwind of needs and emotions. The clouds are dark and temperamental, but underneath is a clear blue sea, and the figure sitting on the rocks looking out to the horizon seems to be in a state of perfect harmony. ‘Play’ is the card that unlocks the simple capacity of being in the moment. The clouds speak of the needs, desires and wants that cause life to whirl around itself without ever accomplishing anything. In this card Hope gets rid of its selfish drives, of its jealousy and adolescent rage, and starts using its force within for a better cause.

Play talks about overcoming the power our ego-desires have over us: the desire to want things to accentuate our presence, to become bigger and stronger for everyone to see. The desire to possess the other, and call it love, to make us feel more powerful and secure. The sexual need that drives us to treat our partners as accessories or pacifiers. This card speaks of the ‘capitalization’ of life: the constant need for more, for accumulation, for material improvement. A mind-set that reduces everything to its profile value, to the visibility upgrade it provides. The ego here is the ruling force in our relations to others, that at this point has become as big as the world itself, which makes it blind to see further than its own needs. When this happens every pleasure becomes serious and loses its playful character. Every problem that has to be solved immediately produces other problems. The realization of the dreamed for ‘house of your own’ puts you in a situation of life-long debt. The satisfaction of ‘the good life’ turns into a constant struggle to make sure it won’t be destroyed, that it will grow and become even ‘better’.

In Play the sitting woman has fallen out of this whirling struggle. She has overcome the constant fight the ego puts up, and has started looking beyond her own fulfillment. She has become strong, not in the sense of having the power to buy herself a new identity every other week, or own the people around her, but in the sense of having found the strength to free herself from the opinions of others. Now she sits on the stable rocks, looking at the horizon in all its self-evident tranquility. Her mind has escaped the rat-race of to-do lists, or the 100 most adventurous cities to visit or skydives to do before you’re 30. She is in the moment and enjoying it.

But however balanced Play might seem, this card also has a mischievous side to it. If society has turned all that is private and public, all that is sacred and beautiful, into money, it is high time to change the currency! Play is the card that starts pushing things around. That doesn’t take things too seriously. It is the card of the man that mistook his wife for a hat. Of the Amazon Wayapi indian that calls a frog a jaguar, in respect of the ‘fact’ that this IS what he is in his own mind’s eye and so as not to upset him. Play is the card of the ‘métis’ that develops knowledge in dialogue with animals and plants, combining flair, wisdom, mental acrobacy, guile and experience to come to an other understanding of life. A more absurd, attentive, and playful way of living in the now. A life free from the attachment to other people’s opinions, and of the speculation of the net worth of our symbolic capital in the world. Play is an irreverent card, in its disrespect of norms, limits and restrictions. It doesn’t answer to the ‘common sense’ of society. It doesn’t make a difference between ‘valuable’ and ‘invaluable’ knowledge or experiences. Nor does it see the difference between nurturing the self with the expertise of the body or the mind. In Play sexuality and intellect are closely intertwined. The dialogue between bodies produces as much food for change as the reading of a philosophical essay. Play encourages us to think through our bodies and feel through our minds. Or leave our head on the hat stand, and spend the day in bed. In spirited communion with the world around us.When this card comes up in a reading it asks you to rethink the balance between your sexuality and your intellect, and take both one step further. To reconsider what you think you want, and the reasons you want it. To rearrange your life from being a constant fight to get what you want, into the playful acceptance of what comes your way. This is the card of balancing your powers, juggling them around, and producing ever new perspectives on the world around you. Of turning yourself inside-out, recycling the energy you used to spend on ambitious planning into the playful tranquility of rearranging the world through imagination and a generous openness in engaging with all that catches your attention.
In a negative reading Play can become the card of hysteric blindness, of a mental incapacity still to relate to a commonly shared reality. In that case we run the risk of getting sucked into the ‘Peter Pan syndrome’: the unwillingness to accept one’s own responsibility in the world. Turning every situation into a personal game of rearrangements and modifications of value and meaning, that fails to recognize the people and things in it in their own right. In that case Play stops to be a generous gesture, opening itself to the world, and becomes again an ego-centric play of control and violent submission.

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