But after a few intriguing sessions, where friends thanked me for the
incredible insights into their personalities and personal issues, I had to
re-evaluate what I was doing with Tarot cards. I concluded that the tarot
cards are a great random stimulant to creativity and problem-solving: the
tarot cards drew out of me my own insight into the person/issue. Also, the
tarot reading created a good environment for talking with friends about
issues that they wouldn't normally ask for advice about. They were more
comfortable playing this "game" than asking me straight out for advice.
For those of you who have never seen a tarot reading, there are 72 cards,
which can occupy several meaningful positions in the layout, either upright
or upside-down, each with several possible meanings. For example, if your
layout has a position for "things that might help you in this situation",
and the priestess card gets laid upright in that position, it's very easy to
combine the most basic meaning of the priestess (a wise woman) with the
meaning of the location, to say "a wise woman will give you advice or
assistance". The combination of cards and positions means millions of
possible combinations -- at least one of which will likely "feel right" in
any given situation. Cards like "Death" can be very negative, but also have
some positive meanings -- such as the end of one phase (in a life, a
relationship, whatever) and time to move on to another phase. The art can
be very stimulating on a good deck, full of symbolism.
IChing, tea leaves, palm readings and many other fortune-telling systems
seem work on the same premise: symbolism is assigned to certain patterns,
and the fortune-teller uses their insight to combine several symbols into a
reading. I imagine that fortune-telling was analogous to therapy or
counselling, back when fortune-tellers knew enough about the community and
probably the individual, to be able to use the random stimuli and their own
insight to make recommendations to the customer.
Tarot cards are ultimately too mystical for me, an engineer with strong
rational leanings, to be truly comfortable with. The last thing they
inspired, however, was some research into creativity and problem solving
(intended as a section in an introductory course in Systems Design -- I
proposed that my department update the course, which was getting staler and
more content-free by the year).
Natalie Goldberg wrote some excellent books on creative writing.
Writing Down the Bones:
Also, I have an okay book by Julia Cameron on the subject:
The Artist's Way:
The best researcher I can recommend is Edward De Bono:
Also, Roger Von Oech has done a lot of work in this area.
A Whack on the Side of the Head:
I have Roger's "Whack Pack", which is more-or-less a non-mystical Tarot
deck. Its cards suggest approaches you may not have thought of to problems
that could be encountered at work.
Whack Pack card deck:
Sample card from Whack Pack: Dig Deeper
"Emile Chartier: 'Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only
one you have.' Don't stop with the first right answer you find. Dig deeper
and look for others... Remember: the best way to get a good idea is to get
lots of ideas. What good ideas are below the surface? What's the second
The main messages I got out of this research on creativity were:
- Anybody can be creative. Like many other skills, it takes practice. I didn't click with my art classes in school, so was left with the impression that I was not creative. Maybe that's part of why I went into engineering. Only part way through engineering did I start to feel this huge hole in my life -- not enough creative activity. I decided I could be creative if I wanted to be. I started knitting and formed a writer's group.
- Practice takes time. Goldberg and Cameron recommend writing in a journal every day.
- Creativity can require a certain amount of calm, a meditative additude. If you're trying to write a novel, figure out some way to forget your other problems while writing the novel. The journal can help serve this purpose, as an outlet for frustrations.
- The mind does not work in a vacuum. Very few people can sit in front of a blank sheet of paper and just write. Stimuli are important. Look at how random email on fork stimuated this diatribe. The human mind evolved to solve problems that were presented to it forcefully, especially problems which caused some lack or hardship.
- Stimuli can be artificially created. I've done writing exercises such as picking three pseudo-random words (from a dictionary, or from a friend) and writing a short story based on those words. Some suggestions for writing exercises can be found on my woefully out-of-date home page http://www.ofb.net/~lisa. Tarot decks, the "whack pack", are other examples of stimuli. My writing group once did a great collection of short stories or story ideas, in 10 minutes, just because I laid down the "tower" card from a tarot deck and said "Start writing".
- It can take a lot of bad stuff to get to the good stuff. If you're a writer, you might start a dozen novels before starting the one that eventually turns good. We only see the successes -- we are not used to realizing that writers, artists make mistakes and throw away some drafts or paint over misguided ideas. We come to expect perfection, we expect a novel to emerge whole from a writer's mind, perfect (aside from typos) the first time. It rarely does work that way.
Lately I haven't been doing any writing -- my life is spiritually fulfilling just hanging around with my friends and my most excellent husband. I have been making quilts & sweaters galore, my outlet for artistic creativity. (I love making something for another person, because I use their personality and their interests as my stimuli, to create a gift uniquely suited to them.) And of course my job is a continual exercise in creative problem solving. I guess part of this diatribe is a timely reminder to myself to renew usage of these techniques, which I somehow left by the wayside over the past couple years.
-----Original Message----- From: Roy T. Fielding [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Tuesday, July 07, 1998 2:27 PM To: I Find Karma Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Envelopment.
>for a paper. All my life whenever my choices forked in multiple >directions, I have looked "for a sign" in nature whenever I felt lost or >confused. Perhaps this is a silly, superstitious attempt to connote an >underlying order to the universe when there actually is none. Or >perhaps there are no coincidences and everything happens for a reason, >and looking "for a sign" is our best way to receive divine guidance.
Or maybe focusing on something other than the immediate problem allows your mind to escape your angst and come to a conclusion that was already winning on the rational side of the brain.
OTOH, my animist ancestry would agree with the superstition. The problem with signs is not the finding of them; it's the interpretation of what you have found. A person who wasn't ready to be wed would probably interpret the bird's newfound freedom as a sign of breaking the relationship, rather than making it stronger. In that way, a person's superstitions can reveal their underlying thought process and feelings, which is probably more important as the basis of a relationship than any individual action.
Congrats on the wedding,