A Tale of Two Decks

Once upon a time there was a brand new package of blank, unruled 3x5 cards sitting quietly on a shelf. One day, while it was idly contemplating the true nature of the rectangle, a customer came along and snatched the deck of cards off the shelf. Needless to say, the 3x5 card deck was taken back a bit -- suddenly finding itself tossed about with assorted pens, pencils, and other paraphernalia in a big, plastic shopping cart. The customer proceeded to toss them all onto a conveyor belt thing and then handed over some money to another person. The card deck and its new companions were then bundled quickly into a plastic shopping bag. The customer tossed the shopping bag over their shoulder and headed out the door whistling a happy tune, pausing outside the door to retrieve a dog on a leash that was waiting patiently for the customer's return. As the customer stepped off the curb into the parking lot the little deck of 3x5 cards wondered foolishly would would happen next...

Sorry, but that's the end of our little story, or is it? Some of you may have noticed the references to the Tarot "Fool" card in the preceding tale. Yes, I am talking about the so-called "fortune telling" cards of various styles, sizes, and themes that are part of western mysticism, popular culture, and media. Tarot and the Hipster PDA are actually very similar. How can that be? Many of you may have scientific or religious opinions against Tarot but give me a chance and I'll point out some of the similarities between Tarot and paper-based Planners.

Rider Waite Tarot Fool card
[ Image One: The Rider Waite Tarot Fool card. Meanings: the start of a new venture, happy-go-lucky innocence. ]

A post here on D*I*Y by fellow member Jon Rutherford brought some ideas together for me some time ago. To quote Jon, "I believe there's also a benefit from the physical, tangible presence of these "idea containers" as contrasted to the virtual nature of computerized outlining." This had to do with student planner templates and having one card per project that can be laid out or tacked on a bulletin board. It got me thinking -- this is very much part of what Tarot cards are all about, "idea containers".

Just what are the similarities between Tarot Cards and Paper-based Planners?

I'll start with the first, and most obvious. Both the Hipster PDA and a Tarot Deck are at their very nature, a set of cardboard cards with images, writing, and defined areas on the face combined together into a deck. The Hipster PDA concept is that there is a limited set of important things that each have a card, or a page in a traditional organizer, and the deck, or a planner book, represents the totality of that. The details in your planner may change over time but the same basic system remains, which forms or planner templates you use, how many cards/pages, etc. Likewise a Tarot deck has come to represent a fairly standard set of paradigms or archetypes which are symbolized by each card in the deck. Both systems are meant to cover all of the bases in terms of what is important to a particular project, person or a particular subject of discussion.

Secondly, cards in both systems are meant to be related in combination to one another, usually as a subset of the full deck/planner. You may have a Project page or card in your planner that relates to people working on that project that are also in your Address section or on Address cards. If you have talking points for a speech written on 3x5 cards they all go in an order and set the overall nature of your talk. If you are planning the plot of a book you may have events that go in order and character detail cards which you spread out on a table and that you move around for creative ideas. With Tarot cards such an arrangement is called a "spread" or "layout" and there are many types for different situations and questions that can be represented by the layout. There are even layouts meant to help plan the plot of a book. There is at least one book on Tarot that has many ideas on how to use Tarot to brainstorm and plan projects in the context of a corporate/business environment. (Putting the Tarot To Work by Mark McElroy) A Tarot deck can be an effective tool in brainstorming for the creative process. There are also non-Tarot decks on the market designed specifically for idea generation. (The Whack Pack). The basic need is the same, to lay out information in front of you to enable thinking, reorganizing, and discussion.

Thirdly, both a Hipster PDA and a tarot deck can represent a snapshot in time. In most cases the snapshot shown is the current time frame but the further assumption is that this set of things point to and/or determine something in the future, the very nature of planning. With an Hipster PDA you go through a process of removing cards that represent completed tasks or projects or other things and adding new blank ones. You may have a project you are working on and the combination of those cards help you look at and track the progress of the project. Each person also has their own way of rearranging and ordering the cards of the full deck in their preferred order, usually based on the current situation or point in time. Tarot cards laid out in a spread are also a snapshot. It is the combination of cards that determine a meaning at that point in time based on the spread/layout and how cards relate to each other and the question being asked. The same cards thus have different meanings in the context determined by the current combination of the spread. Yet in both cases a current situation implies a future, if nothing is changed and no outside influences effect that situation (which is impossible in a real world situation).

Rider Waite Tarot 8 of Pentacles card
[ Image Two: Rider Waite Tarot 8 of Pentacles card. Meanings: Training, Study, Apprenticeship, Craftsmanship, Hard Work. ]

Fourth, there is a constant creative impulse in quest of the new and improved by the people involved. Personalization is very much a part of using both Planners and Tarot decks. Not just the process of using a Planner or Tarot deck itself in order to improve your quality of life but the way that people interested in both areas are always on the look out for new planner templates, new formats, or new Tarot decks or spreads. There is a thriving community of Tarot Deck collectors who buy Tarot Decks simply for the artwork or because they are Limited Editions. These people may never use them for Tarot reading. Once you start with a Hipster PDA you inevitably arrive at the "I wish there was..." situation where a new card template occurs to you. Once you've used a particular Tarot deck for awhile, if you didn't shop around to begin with, you also find your own preferences in terms of card size, image artwork, and overall style of the deck that may lead you to continue to look for that "perfect" deck. Chances are you will never find the perfect deck but of course you continue to look. Different Tarot decks are also appropriate for different types of readings. Terms like "dark deck", "Traditional", and "light and whimsical" come up when talking about various Tarot decks.

Finally, everyone has their own way of doing things. You can create new planner templates any time you want, you just need the tools and some paper or a printer. That is the spirit of the D*I*Y Planner website -- do it yourself. The subjects you need to track in a planner are as unique as you are. Likewise, Tarot spreads can be created on the spur of the moment for any question that may come up and there is an ever growing informal library of Tarot spreads that exists both online and in various books on the subject. If you're an artist, or not, then creating your own Tarot deck is one of the best ways of learning the subject or cementing the ideas for yourself. And the quickest way to produce a Tarot deck of your own design? Use a stack of blank, unruled 3x5 cards. The process then becomes part of the planning.

Marseilles Tarot Fool card
[ Image Three: The "Marseilles" Tarot Fool card. Meanings: the start of a new venture, happy-go-lucky innocence. ]

What about the differences between Organizer systems and Tarot? There are many of course.

The most basic difference is that Tarot cards for a particular deck are fixed in visual form whereas an organizer is constantly changing in terms of the content of the cards, same cards/pages, different content. A planner/organizer has a basic context for the information defined by the system itself. A Tarot deck itself does not change except in using various types of decks from different Artists or sources. The meanings of Tarot cards change in the context of a spread but the cards themselves remain static. Sometimes particular tarot card meanings remain static even when you change which deck you're using or which spread or question.

Once one becomes knowledgeable in either area, Tarot or Planning/Organizing, one finds many uncharted territories just waiting to be explored. So if you are new to Tarot it is well worth approaching the subject with an open mind. Buy a book on the subject. Check out your favorite online or brick-and-mortar Bookstore for a book on Tarot that appeals to you. Look over the Tarot decks at your bookstore or the local New Age Shoppe and find a deck that appeals to you. Better yet, help support D*I*Y Planner by purchasing the Rider-Waite Tarot deck (The most common and widely known Tarot deck) that sometimes comes up in the store links on the site. One place to start, for those interested in planning and creative projects, is to do a search on the author Mark McElroy who has a number of books based on using tarot for more practical purposes like idea generation.

Symbols, archetypes, and images are a great way to get the creativity going on any question, project, or endeavor. Especially when you have a handy deck of them sitting around that you can pick up and use any time. With your Hipster PDA you have your mind maps, project goals, and next actions. A Tarot deck can help fill in the blanks for those times when an empty card is just a 3x5 card. Paper, Productivity, Passion. Sound familiar?

Rider Waite Tarot 10 of Pentacles card
[ Image Four: Rider Waite Tarot 10 of Pentacles card. Meanings: Establishing Traditions, Family, Commitment to a common purpose. ]

...The little deck of 3x5 cards was very happy in its new home. At first it was pretty scary when the 3x5 deck's Handler removed the deck's protective cover and sent all of its cards through this loud whirring machine. They all came out with strange black lines all over them but they were soon reunited safely. The newly marked deck now shared a shelf with a rather strangely garbed deck of cards covered in bright colors. Occasionally the two decks would sit and discuss the age old riddle of the rectangle, that is when they weren't busy laying out on a table for their Handler. The little deck of 3x5 cards now felt confident that it would live happily ever after.

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