Garbage In, Garbage Out

This is likely to be a controversial subject. There is an old tenet from computer science that goes:

“Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) is the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or ‘garbage.’ The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed. GIGO is commonly used to describe failures in human decision-making due to faulty, incomplete, or imprecise data. This sort of issue predates the computer age, but the term can still be applied. ”

This neatly defines questions sometimes put to the tarot that can only be described as frivolous, the kind for which the phrase “for entertainment only” is a good catch-all classification. This scenario is likely to be encountered at a psychic fair, street event or party where people “sit” for a reading on a whim or lark and don’t have anything truly pressing to ask. Often there is little more than nosy intent behind their interest, while skeptics among them may only desire to challenge or “test” the reader. For those practitioners who believe that the art of divination confers a “sacred” obligation to answer all questions truthfully and fully to the limit of their ability, the only recourse when confronted with flippant or trivial requests is to “grin and bear it” (and take the money); if that is unconscionable, the best option – and my personal preference – is to simply avoid venues where it can become an issue. Some may feel that it’s presumptuous to place our own lofty values on a paying client’s needs, but I don’t have time to waste on idle-curiosity questions of the “What does person ‘A’ think or feel about person ‘B’?” variety.

A similar caveat applies when a serious seeker is so upset or distracted that focusing on the session and coming up with a clearly-phrased question to hold in the mind is impossible. The conventional wisdom is usually to defer the reading until a state of emotional equilibrium can be achieved, but this presupposes that the reader is aware of the seeker’s dilemma. If the sitter is unwilling to confide this distress to the diviner, what “goes into the pot” can only be viewed as “psychic static” or the “garbage in” of the title, and “garbage out” may very well be the result. This risk is more evident when the substance of the inquiry is unspoken, but it can also arise when querents fail to coherently verbalize the problem that most concerns them (assuming they even recognize its full import). We can say that the tarot always gives the “right” information regarding what is really bothering the individual at a subconscious level, but it may necessarily take a circuitous path to get there and severely test the reader’s skill and sensitivity in the process.

One remedy for the case where a sitter is mentally or emotionally unprepared to frame the question effectively is to attempt a more general or topical angle in which he or she fills in the details during our ensuing dialogue, essentially building the answer as we go based on hints in the spread. In such circumstances I may start the reading with only a broad topic area like decision-making; problem-solving; relationship matters; work, business or finances; overall health and happiness; or any other overarching subject of the querent’s choosing. My experience has been that this conversational technique produces meaningful results in nearly 100% of the cases, although it may take a little longer to get down to the nitty-gritty. I actually prefer it to addressing a single-pointed question since the narrative can take unexpected turns that are highly relevant to the sitter’s situation.

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