Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Los Dos Oros

There’s a little convenience shop a couple of blocks from here called Los Dos Oros. I look at it and call it The Two of Pentacles. The Two will often have the freshest Serrano peppers and vine-grown tomatoes, essential ingredients in my home-made salsa. If I can’t get the short season heirloom tomatoes I love, large, party-colored and dead ripe, then The Two usually has tomatoes as good as any in town. And I want to keep the little place going. I miss neighborhood groceries and I want to keep this one in business. Tarot reader doth not live by salsa alone, of course, so I do have to shop other places for things not usually found in the bodega. Still, I get a kind of snuggly feeling that a place that helps me juggle my dietary needs—addictions?—is named like a Tarot card with a similar meaning.

I think there may be a point in the “total immersion” process where every Tarot student starts to see Tarot cards everywhere. Suddenly the 7 of Swords is dancing to “Hernando’s Hideaway.” The Thanksgiving Day parade starts to look like the 6 of Wands. Flashbacks of my homeless hero Alma appear to be the 9 of Wands, taking a break from the hardships of life while sitting on a bus stop bench. Children under the Christmas tree playing with the boxes as much as the toys that came in them show a happy 9 of Cups.

One of my friends, Donnaleigh de LaRose, posts images on Facebook and asks, “TarotPic Teaser: If this picture were a tarot card, which one would it be? What do you see?”

Participants look at the image and relate it to their understanding of Tarot and post their answers. I play along sometimes if the picture grabs me and I usually post why I think so. It isn’t to influence what the “right” answer “should” be. It’s just for fun. In the same way, though, that play is the work of children, these fun exercises are reinforcement for those eager to learn tarot.

A couple of other friends will occasionally post, “People. People people people. Not everything is a Tarot card!”

Silly experts, I think of them, gently, fondly, lovingly. They are just past the learning phase where everything suddenly becomes a world of pattern recognition. The students trip over their robes rushing to see the Yin and Yang and declare, “A-ha! The Lovers! Where one ends, the other begins! One completes the other but never becomes the other.” Yes, Grasshoppers. Soon they will understand that the pattern is within human intelligence, within the mind and connect, if they are fortunate, that the spirit of the pattern is what they have breathed on or at least the museum-quality glass that stands between them and the idea and ideal, between them and the essence of the archetype.

If my very advanced friends had not progressed beyond the thrill of discovery of pattern recognition, they would likely have been bombarded forever in the madness of meaning in everything. Some people get lost there. The people I am thinking of did not get lost, at least not for very long. They emerged with filters and understanding.

But I love the Tarot learners at the “collector” phase. Even if they are not collectors of decks, they are collectors of the sight of a concept portrayed another way, collectors of the enrichment of meaning, collectors of the correlation between symbol and definition.

In preparation for a road trip I want to take this year, I dragged out my books on Puebloan rock art. I have some favorite places to go, places where I could spend hours looking at the carvings made in the oxidation-varnished sandstone cliffs in the Four Corners area. I want to go to some other places with rock art, too. So much of the fun of travel is anticipation so one of the tasks will be mapping the route. But for now, I’m noodling into the details of the topic.

Since I’m a used bookstore hound, some of my texts on the topic are older, like F. A. Barnes’ Canyon Country Prehistoric Rock Art. My first impression is gratitude that I am not considered an expert in this topic and as such I will be at worst vilified for being unlearned. I’m grateful because, while this book has some wonderful photography of rock art in the Four Corners area and some good information about materials, I think Barnes himself is one rude dude. Intermixed with the really valuable information about what was known in 1982 about the people who lived in the area before the historic period (that’s, uh, the invasion of the people who were sure that their technology, intelligence and religion were much better than the people who were living there at the time) is something I feel liberated by my lack of standing and expertise to label as at the very least bad manners.

Barnes is democratic in his insults in the text. He insults amateur archaeologists, even those with extensive knowledge, along with the ancient peoples he studies. Distilling his thoughts, Barnes thinks we’re all stupid.

Per Barnes, the amateur archaeologists are stupid for trampling sites, pot-digging and collecting trophies, destroying the pristine areas so that real archaeologists have trouble making heads or tails of them. My own two gold coins come out at this point. I agree that stumbling into an archaeological site and messing it up is very disappointing. In fact, every archaeologist, amateur or otherwise, has likely destroyed wildly important evidence, microscopic and otherwise. So, F. A., pointing fingers at the enthusiast does seem to point those other fingers right back at you. Methods have changed since 1982 and I’ll bet you messed plenty of stuff up.

Worse than that, because we “advanced” people should be more responsible and can stand to be picked on by scientists our own size, roughly, Barnes then goes on to berate the people who seek to find meaning in the images carved on the rock walls. Not only is our New Age interpretation of the most innocent kind such as, “Oh, look! A frog!” and “Wow, I think they’re saying that up the river and close to the mountain range there are a lot of deer,” wrong-headed. It gets worse.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park
(c) Copyright 2007 Marcia McCord
 Barnes says that since the designs are not lifelike representations of people, animals or anything else they carved into the walls, they were not the charming stylistic choices of a people who saw things a certain way. They are, according to Barnes, “bad artistry.” While it seems certain that the rock art, done over hundreds of years of occupation of the area, was done by adults, Barnes has concluded that they had a primitive, child-like intelligence. In short, they were stupid, too.

To which I say: Barnes, you meathead, you! How can you possibly say all these people are stupid? After all, you yourself call them “Anasazi,” a version of the Dine (Navajo) word for “ancient enemy.” Who on earth would call themselves Ancient Enemy? Your ancient enemy, maybe? (No insult to the Dine intended. Lovely people.)

Oh. I forgot. There are those computer games. I wonder what the archeologists will make of those?

While I’m not fighting with Barnes, his bad manners, misanthropy and obviously poor upbringing, I am getting a lot of information. Like the Two of Pentacles, you have to juggle the good with the bad and figure it out yourself.

Oooo, look! A Super Nova!

Best wishes!

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