9. time



9. time

Time is the second card of crisis in the Tarot of Hope. After the birth of Hope in the midst of chaos and fear – the first card of crisis – this one announces a deepened questioning of our place in the world. In the image we see a figure walking down a dimly lit tunnel. He is alone, and the tunnel seems to stretch out indefinitely. In his hands he carries a plastic carrier bag, from which a feeble light is trying to penetrate the dark around. This bag is Hope in its most fragile state.

On the journey, Hope has begun to come to an understanding. The bag no longer moves lightly, but has become filled with a personal history, with knowledge and also disappointment. Realizing its ideas failed to produce real change in the world – in Ideal – Hope now seems to be stuck in a position of doubt. We cannot really make out if the figure is moving forward or backwards. Despite its benevolence and eager disposition, Hope seems to have become undone, hanging on in a state of suspension, of questioning, of doubting its existence. Hence it seems time to seclude itself from the world and the boisterous movements of daily life to reflect and rethink its journey. It is not possible to see if there is light at the end of the tunnel, or if this is just the reflection of the bag.

In Time, the individual comes to understand his own nothingness. That doesn’t mean he starts to think of himself as insignificant. But rather that he comes to the realization that he can no longer consider himself to be the center of the unfolding of Time. In Time he realizes that his separateness from the rest of the world is only an optical illusion established by the Eye, a delusion that keeps him enclosed in small-minded desires for gratification. Prisoner to a love that is limited to the playing out of dependencies, a love that can never fulfill his true longing. He comes to see that the objects of his desire are no more than the outcome of the relations of longing that created them. That things, including himself, are to a degree, essentially empty of intrinsic meaning. Only their relations, only the in-between energy that puts these things in relation to each other, produces meaning. A meaning that is always subjective, always situational, and therefore never permanent. Understanding this has destabilized his world view, and has made him realize that this state of constant transformation cannot be grasped and pinned down by the rational mind, that it resists being formatted into universal truths he could hold on to. And that what goes for the emptiness of the objects also goes for him: in Time the traveller comes to see himself as an empty husk of (self-)projections. And what appears is the vast emptiness of the world and everything in it.

Before Time the traveller considered himself the measurement of all reality, and his life-span the measurement of all time: everything that happened only happened for him. Now, after walking the studious Path, after all the lessons learned through experience, the mind joins the spirit(s) in its awakening. And in this process the I/Eye is finally able to look down and see the world for what it is, not what it has projected upon it. Namely, if everything only exists through relations, meaning becomes relative: dependent on the perspective of the person, the bird, the plant or the star that is creating sense out of the situation. Which for the plant means that it makes sense to become attractive to bees or rodents, as it is for water to flow to the sea. Having lost his sense of privilege, of being the center of the world, the traveller therefore truly enters a period of severe doubt about his own purpose and existence, about his attachments and desires. In spiritual traditions this moment is often referred to as ‘the dark night of the soul’, but in daily life it is also known by terms like ‘depression’ or ‘estrangement’. As things no longer seem to make sense in the way the ‘I’ has been taught they did, the traveller enters into a deep and intensely felt crisis. Time is a card that announces or points out a period of severe isolation, the winter of life in which the individual has to cling to scarce resources to survive.

Time is the card of adulthood, of understanding. Hope has freed itself from its attachments, but has not yet found its own purpose. The self is no longer subjected to words and ideas, but has become emptied out, hollowed out like a tree. It is incapable of overcoming its sense of being thrown in a world that no longer seems responsive to its needs, and from some angles even seems hostile to its existence. Time is the moment to practice this understanding and contemplate the sudden coldness that issues from it; a crisis that expresses itself in doubt, isolation, and a strong sense of detachment. What occurs is the ecstasy of indifference, practiced in ascetic insistence. Through experiencing the poverty, like the Greek cynic Diogenes. Or by putting your attachments to the test in hunger practices or bouts of anorexic distribution. Or by simply taking leave of the everyday world, and retiring into periods of silence, taking quiet walks, or birdwatching.

Often this is a time in which you take distance from your loved ones, and from the other attachments you have formed in life: friends, your job, your usual likes and dislikes, in order to put every single one of them to the test of a greater understanding. In the perspective of Time eternal and its constant becoming, which is the very time of ‘Life itself‘, the practitioner might be overcome by despair. The outcome might be wisdom but possibly also a break-down that puts a stop to the journey, ejecting the petitioner back into normal life, grasping even more single-mindedly to its everyday pleasures. In a reading Time can therefore point both to an escape from the mind-numbing cycle of banalities, or lay bare the somber embrace of the means of escape, possibly in substance-abuse or other forms of intoxication. In that sense Time might be the end of hope in this cycle, or the first step into the revolving doors of Breath, opening up to a second burst of growth and experience.

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