Etymology: Latin portentum, from neuter of portentus, past participle of portendere
Date: circa 1587
1 : something that foreshadows a coming event : omen, sign
2 : prophetic indication or significance
3 : marvel, prodigy
"Omens are the individual language in which God talks to you. My omens are not your omens." ~ Paul Coelho
I came across that Tarot card on a forgotten sidewalk about a week or so ago. It was in a random alley somewhere South of Market, and now I can't remember exactly where.
Even without picking up the card, I knew it was from a Tarot deck, even though the image is not from a traditional deck. Upon examining the card, I saw it had no recognizable suit or arcana that I could relate to.
I smiled at the thought of a message I could not understand, and put the card back on the sidewalk, hoping the next passersby would glean a little more from the portent than I could.
In times past, I would have taken a random occurrence like that to have some vast cosmic significance. I searched for omens and signs and indications everywhere. It made me feel like I wasn't so alone. That the universe had plans for me, as insignificant and terribly mortal as I might be in the great scheme of things.
It was a charming and colorful phase of my life, sometimes devotional, sometimes dark. And sometimes I was just going through the motions, to believe that a message was intended only for me, if I could interpret it, even though deep down I knew it was like playing make-believe. I had my guides: my corners, my directions, my crystals and sage and oils and incense and chants and ragas.
And then somehow, it became easier to just live instead of trying to make sense of it all. Trying to figure out what will happen next in your life is stressful, and looking for portents is not a very good way to go about it.
Now, even though I slip up from time to time and utter "well, all things happen for a reason," with a wink, I'll catch myself and try to enjoy the magic of a random happening that has no import at all, only if I give it such.
The magic has gone out of my life in a way. Or perhaps by magic I mean whimsy, with a generous touch of delusion. But it has been replaced by a sense of the groundedness I thought I was giving myself all along.
When I got home from my walk, I googled different kinds of Tarot decks, because I still wanted to find out what that card meant. It's from the Zen Oshu deck, and the card I stumbled upon is The Creator.
There are two types of creators in the world: one type of creator works with objects - a poet, a painter, they work with objects, they create things; the other type of creator, the mystic, creates himself. He doesn't work with objects, he works with the subject; he works on himself, his own being. And he is the real creator, the real poet because he makes himself into a masterpiece.
You are carrying a masterpiece hidden within you, but you are standing in the way. Just move aside, then the masterpiece will be revealed. Everyone is a masterpiece, because God never gives birth to anything less that that. Everyone carries that masterpiece hidden for many lives, not knowing who they are, and just trying on the surface to become someone.
Drop the idea of becoming someone, because you already are a masterpiece. You cannot be improved. You have only to come to it, to know it, to realize it. God has himself created you, you cannot be improved.
Old habits die hard.
That message made me smile.
"He will put money in your hand," the old woman said to me.
At the bus stop yesterday, 6th Avenue at Clement
Yesterday I was waiting in the bus shelter for the 44 O'Shaughnessy and eating a little piece of crispy Chinese pork, which I had bought across the street, along with a few pieces of dim sum. Crispy pork is my new favorite pork discovery, although I'm sure the Chinese have been enjoying it for thousands of years.
An old Chinese woman walked into the bus shelter, looked up at the NextMuni sign and saw that we had 9 more minutes until the next bus. I didn't notice her pulling out the cardboard with cheap jewelry stuck to it, but before I knew it, I was getting a not-so-subtle sales pitch.
$2 earrings. No thanks. A jade cross pendant on a suede string. No, really, thanks.
Then she shows me the jade Buddha.
"Four dollars," she says. The woman looked chagrined, as if this piece was a bit too expensive. "But he will put money in your hand."
"Really? He'll put money in my hand?"
Because I could sure use some money in my hand these days. Living la Vie Boheme wears a bit thin at times.
Then I notice her old plastic shoes with holes in them, and her dirty bag. How many pairs of $2 earrings must she sell a day just to buy a plate of crispy pork and dim sum? How many people say No Thanks until that happens?
I don't believe the Buddha will put money in my hand, really, although it's a lovely thought. But I do think the Buddha (if he ever existed and somehow was watching this transaction) would be pleased if I gave this lady four dollars, which I have (I have six dollars).
So I buy the Buddha.
And that is a story. Without magic, but a nice true story nonetheless.