on knowledge & friction
reflections for march 2022
hello, friends. let’s all take a deep breath.
there are a lot of truly scary and difficult things happening right now. the news is full of violence, horrifying laws, white supremacy, transphobia, and warfare, and the pandemic still isn’t actually over (please keep wearing your masks), and trans kids continue to be targeted with a precision that is absolutely terrifying, and and and…
you’re probably feeling as angry and helpless and terrified as i am.
it all feels so bad, so hard, so impossible right now. i get it. i don’t have magical words of wisdom, i don’t have easy answers, and i don’t have a clue about what will happen. but i do know that we are not alone, that compassion and kindness combined with fortitude and courage is the only way forward, that the people who are making so many of these vicious and harmful decisions are working off of an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with truth or goodwill and everything to do with supremacy, control, and hate.
the only way that i know how to get through this shit is by showing myself grace, by holding fast to the people that i love, and by reading beautiful and encouraging things. i hope that you can give yourself permission to grieve, or to cry, or to scream, or to stare into the abyss. allow yourself to survive. and i beg you: don’t restrict your own joy, when you can find it. let yourself still sink into beauty, art, poetry, wonder, connection, care, as much as possible. and when in doubt, do something to help other people.
for more on ways that you can stay well-informed and also support the marginalized folks that these laws and actions most deeply harm, i highly recommend following chase strangio, jen richards, chrissy stroop, nicole cardoza, and imani gandy. check out this thread from heron greenesmith on lesser-known queer and trans donation opportunities, and this article in the cut for ways to help the people of ukraine. for some deeply kind and compassionate advice on dealing with the never-ending onslaught of bad news, don’t miss this beautiful piece from himani on mental health. and lastly, a reminder that author preorders are wildly important and that my partner’s brilliant memoir is now available to preorder!
my essays each month have been focusing on the major arcana, one card at a time, and will continue to gradually move through all 78 cards of the tarot. (catch up with fool/bravery, magician/anticipation, high priestess/space, empress/growth, and emperor/limits.) this has become a joyful part of my regular writing practice, and echos the study work i’m doing over on patreon. if reading about the hierophant right now doesn’t feel good for you, i absolutely understand. but if thinking about wisdom, insight, mystery, the known, and the unknown sounds like a beautiful break from the stresses of our world, then read on.
no matter what, i hope that you find a bit of magic, a bit of joy, a bit of comfort today. stay hydrated, regularly stretch out and release tension from your jaw and shoulders, and don’t be afraid to light the good candles or use the fancy bath salts or open the expensive wine. you deserve whatever happiness you can find today.
let’s dig in.
(trying something new, inspired by the brilliant jessica dore: click here to listen to me read this month’s essay, and please let me know if this is something you’d like to see as a regular feature.)
on knowledge & friction
what does it mean to know something? where does knowledge come from, and how do we accept it, expand it, explore it? in gaining knowledge, what else do we acquire?
knowledge is not one single thing. it isn’t just facts and information, isn’t just intuitive awareness, isn’t just experience. knowledge is not the same as enlightenment, or comprehension, or intelligence, because knowledge is not just in the knowing. it’s not only an end result. it’s also the curiosity that empowers, the desire to understand and process that motivates, the willingness to learn that enables. it’s the sifting through mystery, the holding space for unknown, the ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy. it’s being ready to open our minds and hearts, to listen, to perceive.
i believe that knowledge is a state of being, an ongoing exercise. we don’t reach a finish line with knowledge, because we don’t ever know it all. and even the things that we believe we know can sometimes, perhaps even often, get turned on their heads.
we are always in some process of discovery.
in the major arcana, the card of collective knowledge, spiritual belief, deep wisdom, and ongoing education is the hierophant. this archetype serves as a mentor, a teacher, a guide in intellectual exploration and ethereal revelation. they don’t know it all, but they do have tools for learning, methods for research, connections to schools of thought. they encourage us to question, to interrogate, to examine.
unlike the high priestess, who gently holds space for us to breathe and reflect, or the hermit, who pushes us to step out of the world and into our own vast interiors, the hierophant invites us to connect. this is the act of considering the people and places and happenings around us, analyzing the physical and spiritual layers that we move through every day. with the hierophant, we start to recognize how our own beliefs are echoed or countered by the collective, begin to find community that supports or challenges what we know to be true.
and in allowing ourselves to build new relationships, to look at the world beyond ourselves, to try and see the truth of something instead of just recognizing our own feelings and insights, we may struggle. in fact, if we’re doing it right, we will struggle.
the hierophant is the fifth archetype that the fool meets on their journey, and in numerology, five is a tricky number. it’s connected to freedom and change, to tension and friction, to the ways that exploration and shifts can fuck us up sometimes. in asking questions, we may not always get the answers we expect. in digging deeper, we may find things that we weren’t prepared to examine. in embracing some boundaries while pushing up against others, we may learn truths about ourselves that challenge our understanding of identity, purpose, and desire.
and when it comes to the hierophant, we intentionally engage with collective knowledge in complex new ways. sometimes we find traditions and pieces of history that resonate deeply, helping us feel seen and heard and appreciated and loved. but other times, we stumble onto a path that we know isn’t right for us, are offered perspectives that don’t line up with our beliefs, and we have to make decisions about how to move around or live within this tension.
so much of what we receive and internalize has already been filtered and adjusted through the lenses of other people: the histories and facts and lessons and details and information that exist are constantly being transmuted and repackaged, tweaked and altered. especially in today’s world, finding pure truth is so much harder than finding opinions — which can be incredibly frustrating for those of us that long for clarity and depth, that crave real answers.
yet experience almost always brings wisdom, even when it’s painful. we learn from observing, from questioning, from testing. we grow from challenges, from movement, from expansion. and the process of sifting through the bullshit, of finding those strange jewels that live within us, is more than essential. it’s part of what being a human being is about.
but struggle is messy, uncomfortable, and it can be tempting to do everything that we can to avoid conflict at any cost. even if we’re someone that speaks their mind, that isn’t afraid to stand up for what they want, most of us don’t spend our time actively seeking out discord or take pleasure from hostility.
yet when clashes occur, they force us to consider what is activating us, what is disturbing us. whether internal or external, opposition teaches us about what feels right, and what doesn’t. and in spite of any fear or discomfort, it’s in the stretching and flexing of muscles, the tension and friction of movement, that we make progress, change our circumstances, transform our futures. it’s in the asking of questions, the willingness to look beyond the obvious, that we start to find answers. it’s in the pursuit of understanding, of separating collective knowledge from personal belief, that we discover truth.
and in grappling with daily frustrations and broader systemic issues, we identify what truly matters to us, and what we are willing to relinquish control over. we learn which battles are worth fighting, and which are a waste of time. we hold space for emotion, for reflection, and we allow ourselves to become better, stronger, more compassionate towards ourselves and the world.
in short, we live. and in living authentically, in being open to honest exchanges of information and opinion, we grow.
what do you believe in, to your very core, and what do you question? what do you fight for, strive for, struggle for, and when do you feel apathetic? what do you learn about yourself from the ways that you understand and navigate conflict? what do you find when you peel back your own assumptions, when you stop being afraid to really see? what lives beyond the veil, that you’ve been content to leave unexamined? what does it feel like to acknowledge the things you may never fully understand?
to that end: what do you believe about your purpose, your magic, your control? and how might friction teach you more about who you are becoming?
as we move into this new month, stay connected with me via twitter, instagram, and tiktok. wishing you a magical, curious, joy-seeking march, friends. stay safe.
images from this post feature cards from the true north tarot. all photographs by meg jones wall.