Monday, July 02, 2007

Sitting this one out


I suppose that when you don’t particularly hold strong religious views, or even fairly mind ones, there are things that you would not give a second thought about that someone else might agonize over. The lady who was leading the creative writing course thought she had just found another source of stimuli for creating story scenarios and characters but the pack of tarot cards really didn’t go down so well at the creative writing course I attended at the weekend.

For the most part, most of the attendees were able to look at the cards objectively and use them as a starting point for a story, much as they had been using postcards and photographs earlier on in the day. The tarot cards proved to be a serious problem for one of the ladies. She had been a missionary out in Kenya fro thirty years and although she appreciated that no one was going to put the tarot cards to any occult-ish use, she didn’t feel comfortable handling one of them, studying it in any literary manner and excused herself from the activity. Her sister showing solidarity went with her and they sat out side on the patio while the rest of us struggled to write anything half decent from the pictures on the cards.

I have to confess that I struggled. I had no problem with the tarot cards as such. It was a piece of card with a picture on it. If anyone had set up an ouija board and told me to use the words it spelt out in an opening sentence to a story, it might have been a different matter. Perhaps if I had some knowledge of how to use the cards to tell someone’s fortune, that might have been a problem too. They were just cards with pictures on them and without the power to scare me.

The struggle was in how the two sisters might have perceived my actions as an act of compromise. I hadn’t gone out of my way to share my faith or anything, but in introducing myself I had mentioned that I was a Christian and had written inspirational poetry that had been published in Christian anthologies. They did not look at me with any kind of expectation that I would join them on the patio and “sit this one out”. I toyed with it. Part of the reasoning behind staying was that I had paid money to come on the course. I didn’t want to spend an hour sitting on the patio. I also didn’t want to give the tarot cards any power over me. I wanted to prove them to be just pieces of cards with pictures on them and nothing more. Sometimes a person’s perception of Christianity is based on what Christians don’t do or what they disapprove of. It becomes very negative and very narrow. There was a kind of wave of not-quite-tutting from the rest of the attendees, although one lady, not me, tried to defend their stand. I am really not sure whether I had made the call. (I had had very little sleep the previous night because of other things on my mind!)

I admired the two for sticking to their guns and I wondered about whether that passage in Romans about not eating food sacrificed to idols might apply to using tarot cards as literary aids. The task was not a good one and provoked not good opening paragraphs for a short story – so I might well have preferred the patio.

The leader the following day must have been aware of the feelings of the two ladies, but that did not stop her trying something similar with horoscopes this time. I caught the eye of the ex-missionary, expecting her to yet again absent herself from that activity, but she just contented herself with shaking her head in despair!

I had more trouble with the horoscope than with the tarot card surprisingly enough, but managed to come up with a wonderful opening paragraph for a story from it!

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