I recently came across a new wrinkle in the lexicon of political correctness: adaptive sports. What used to be called disabled and before that handicapped has now been scrubbed of any negative connotation. While I applaud the objective, I sense a whiff of sanctimony in the execution. But that’s not what I came to write about.
Back in 1954, bluesman Lightnin’ Slim wrote a song called “Bad Luck Blues,” which included the line (later appropriated by Albert King and Ray Charles):
“If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”
Recasting that sentiment in divinatory terms, we might say “If it wasn’t for bad news, I wouldn’t have no news at all.” I participate in an online forum in which the subject of “bad cards” in a tarot reading came up, accompanied by unanimous disdain for understating (aka “sugar-coating”) their unfortunate message when presenting them to the sitter. The more hard-nosed among the thread contributors said, in essence, “Don’t hold back, just give it to ’em with both barrels.” The more thoughtful, however, pointed out that it comes down to discreet delivery, something I heartily agree with. In almost any reading scenario, it’s possible to “finesse” the testimony, couching even the worst outlook in language that encourages a coping response rather than simply portraying an insurmountable brick wall.
I’m not talking about “empathy,” which can too easily push us into positive spin where none is warranted. The upshot can be a dishonest reading that gives false hope when what is needed is sober examination of options. While the goal of empowerment (but emphatically not “enabling”) is still uppermost in my mind, there is a tipping point beyond which it can spill over into disingenuous cheer-leading (something I called the
“Pangloss Syndrome” in a previous post; I won’t repeat myself, go look up Voltaire’s Candide and maybe even read it). While there is no help for sitters who only come to have their fondest wishes affirmed by the cards, most clients are self-aware enough to recognize that we usually have to accept the “pits” along with the “cherries.” The reader’s challenge is to adapt to this reality with sensitivity and restraint when making a somber diagnosis. The purpose of such artful side-stepping isn’t to ensure that we don’t offend our clients to the point that they will never come back, but rather to send them off with information they can work with in a constructive way. Feeling “beaten about the head and shoulders” is no way for them to depart a reading session.