Whatever the answer
it’s yes that’s the question.
I am a fool dancing over the edge.
– from “Take Me for Longing” by Mark Simos
I was talking with a friend about first love, and she told me about hers, a relationship she had in college that ended miserably. She was heartbroken for a long time, though eventually, of course, she moved on, and at the time of the conversation, was a few months married to someone else whom she loved very much. She said, “You only get your heart seriously broken like that once. After that, you’re always more cautious.”
That’s what I was thinking about when I met with my alchemy group to explore the archetype of the Fool. I remembered that energy of first love, where the world opens up and all things seem possible, and we don’t yet know the real pain of feeling loss or betrayal in a relationship that once seemed so beautiful and permanent.
The Fool in the tarot deck is usually about to step over a cliff, though he’s looking up and doesn’t notice. A small dog nips at his heels, or in some decks, bites him on the leg, trying to call his attention, perhaps get him to look down and avoid catastrophe. But the Fool isn’t about avoiding catastrophe. He’s out to meet it head on. He’s often seen carrying a bag on a stick, hobo-style, a small bag with just a few belongings.
During the image-making process, some of us chose to craft a bag of the type the Fool might carry. We were invited to imagine what might be inside, and what such a bag might be made of. There were a number of brightly colored, glittery fabrics to choose from. I couldn’t decide, so I wound up using scraps of a number of different types of fabric, some on the outside, and some on the inside of the bag. The main fabric wasn’t brightly colored at all. It was dull and full of holes, net-like. It appeared very old and worn. The result was a patched-together bag that looked like it had been repaired, badly, time and time again. Some of the material on the inside showed through; it looked like it could easily spill its contents at the first sign of trouble.
The Fool in the tarot deck is the very first card, numbered zero. But the deck itself is cyclical in nature. It’s not meant to depict a beginning and an end, but a journey that happens over and over again. The bag I crafted belonged to a Fool who had seen many such journeys already. I thought of what my friend said about love and thought that this was true about so many things. We can lose big in all different areas of our lives and get our hearts broken, then we sometimes spend the rest of our lives getting up the courage to set out again, to even approach the edge of a cliff like the one we stumbled off to begin with.
If we’re wise like the Fool is wise, we set out anyway, knowing there is more trouble out there than we can possibly contend with, knowing the bag is full of holes, knowing we’ll avoid the familiar cliffs, perhaps, but that there will be others. Perhaps we look down a bit more. Perhaps we learn to listen better to the faithful dog companion. But hopefully we also look up, and risk trouble, and even dance a little bit on the edge of a precipice or two.