Friday, 2 July 2010

How Foolish?

Dans le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, London

A little while ago my partner and I went to dinner at a restaurant called “Dans le noir?”  The idea behind this restaurant is that you eat in a completely blacked out room, unable to see the plates never mind what’s on them.  The wait staff are all blind, and so the normal roles of blind and sighted are in many ways turned on their heads.  The guests are disoriented while the blind people are at ease in a space they know better than the backs of their hands.

While interesting, you would be justified in asking what on earth this has to do with tarot.  Well, it got me thinking.  I wondered, what tarot card would best represent this experience?

Mid-May to mid-June in the Gaian Tarot Circle we’ve been focusing on the Seeker card, equivalent to the Fool in traditional decks.  Someone said they had always associated the Fool with “beginner mind” as it’s called in meditation and zen.  There was definitely a strong element of this while eating in the dark.  Thinking about all that we normally take for granted – how do you eat when you can’t tell what’s on your plate?  How do you find your food?  Does it need cutting up or not?  Is it all edible?  And so I came to the dining experience as if I had never eaten before (hence “beginner mind”).

Image of Dans le Noir? located in Paris, France 
Not only that, but it also requires a certain leap of faith to allow yourself to be guided into a space where you can’t see anything, you don’t know how big the space is, who else is in there, where the furniture is.  If anything goes wrong, you have to call for your waiter, introduced to you before you go in, because you would be unable to find your way out on your own. 

And so, for me, the situation did bring to mind questions about what it is like to be blind when the majority are sighted, to be always at that kind of disadvantage.  Until you know somewhere, there could well be fear that you will bump into something or get lost.  Going somewhere new would be a leap into the abyss, free-falling and hoping that it will be alright, that you’ll find your way or that others will help you if you need it.  I’m sure there are some blind people who block off these thoughts and just charge into everything, and others who allow it to stop them moving anywhere outside their comfort zone. 

In some ways, those who choose to do things regardless are throwing themselves on the mercy of the universe, much like the Fool does, walking unawares, willing to take the plunge into constantly new adventures.  And for me this restaurant brought this into sharp relief.  Even talking with people about our intention to go there elicited very different responses.  One person said they found the idea terrifying, another congratulated me on my adventurous spirit in wanting to try it out.  Some couldn’t fathom that you could agree to eat a meal without knowing what it was, while others were intrigued by the idea. 

Thinking about how you would feel about dining “dans le noir” might give you some food for thought on your relationship to the Fool card, and your willingness to experiment and put yourself in the hands of others, trusting.  Would it feel foolish or exciting to you?  And if the idea horrifies you, how do you react when the Fool appears in a reading?  What might it feel like to be more open to novelty?  Or are you too keen to jump into the unknown, without researching whether or not it’s a good idea?

Personally, I tend to see the Fool as being about trust and excitement, new beginnings and possibilities.  However, Rachel Pollack highlights that there is an element of craziness to the Fool, too.  And as someone who last year chose to go bungee-jumping, perhaps she’s not wrong.  But I love the Fool, and will carry on experimenting, because I also think it important not to lose that sense of the world still holding potential, both for fear and delight.

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