Divinations

I once interviewed a veteran of the second World War for a newspaper whose editors could not have cared less about veterans. In the end much of the story never ran.

The man I interviewed was a medic, but after being shot by the Germans he began carrying a rifle. He told me that he counted the first six people he killed and then stopped counting for fear of driving himself crazy. He was a devout Christian.

We covered everything from the man’s personal experience in fox holes to his views on War as a whole. We covered his opinion on Truman’s decision to use the bomb as a flex of muscle against future provocations by the Soviet Union. We discussed the wholesale rape by the Red Army of nearly every surviving woman in Berlin. As we ended, the confidant and calm man who had begun talking to me was gone.

“There was no way to stop what those soldiers were doing,” he said, and I assumed he was still talking about the Red Army. But he went on: “They got me at nineteen years old, and I don’t even know how many people I’ve killed.”

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We are on the brink of war. I’m not saying it as an appeal; I don’t believe it can be stopped by the citizenry, if it can be stopped at all. I’m just admitting it, because no one else seems to want to. The man we elected as President, using a one-paragraph authorization passed by an unconcerned legislature nearly two decades ago and abused ever since, ordered an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state whose chief ally has been the subject of nearly all of our peace-keeping diplomacy of the last 70 years.

But even that isn’t the truth: We are not on the brink of war, but on the brink of the globalization of already-existent local conflicts our past administrations dabbled in as if they were hobbies. What we are experiencing is not a new war, but a waxing of the War without end.

It’s not surprising or novel. In fact, the most astounding thing about it is that it has taken this long. We’ve been living on borrowed time since Vasili Arkhipov saved the world in October of 1962. Given the casus belli of the first two world wars, it’s almost unbelievable that a third would be stopped by a single man. It’s an aberration in history.

Why? On what merit did we receive the gift of the last fifty-five years? If merit is not a factor, then for what reason? And if there is no reason, then by what chance? What are the odds?

And what are the odds that it would happen twice?

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It is in our nature to grasp for order that isn’t there. We crawled out of the swamp by adapting to what little order there is; can we be blamed now for trying to apply the same methods far past their usefulness? The cruel prank of the existence of life is that it would intellectualize just enough to learn how to destroy itself, and, while doing so, wonder why.

Unless there is a reason why. But what a burden to bear.

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In my dream my friend removes a thorn that is pinning my eye lid closed over my eyeball. What is it I’m meant to see? Or is this just the sleeping meds I take for insomnia?

Under that same friend’s influence, I’ve bought a deck of Tarot cards, though I find the whole thing laughably silly. But the art is nice and speaks to my sense of the woods. She tells me that even if you don’t believe in Tarot, and I don’t, it can still be useful as a meditation. And what white Western first-world millennial doesn’t believe in meditation?

Upon revealing this purchase to my wife, she reveals to me that she used to own a deck of Tarot cards, many years ago, but gave it away. I don’t remember that, but, not coincidentally, I do remember that I used to mercilessly ridicule such things in her presence. Following the guidebook in the fancy package sold by HarperElixir, I undertake the “mysterious inner journey” with the stoicism of a man who’s decided he won’t scream on the rollercoaster: I draw a single card every morning to learn its divinations about the day ahead.

The first three days went like this:

The Nine of Swords: Nightmares, insomnia, agonizing internal conflict

The Five of Swords: Self destruction, Pyrrhic victory

The Hanged Man: Surrender

As much as I hate to admit it, all of those were uncannily accurate. And on the third day I was strongly tempted to send the deck back to Amazon.

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I asked the veteran if prayer helped. The contradictions we allow ourselves are endless: As you killed people, did your deep faith in a God who instructed you not to kill people make you feel less likely to be killed by people? His answer was that, though he did pray during battle, he did not find prayer an effective means of securing an outcome. As an example he cited the man next to him whose head was blown off by a German sniper. That man prayed too.

“The only prayer that ever helped,” said the medic, “was ‘Thy Will Be Done.’”

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When it comes, it will come fast. I’m a bit confused by the lack of war drums concerning Russia itself, but otherwise I think the course is fairly clear. We will continue aggression against the proxies of our enemies until our enemies react. We’re seeing this already regarding Syria and North Korea, nations which the average voter understands to be only third world shitholes ruled by tyrants who deserve to be deposed.

What the average voter doesn’t understand is that shithole-ruling tyrants are incredibly useful to global powers, and the price of their use is protection. If the average voter doesn’t have the intellect to grasp this, Donald Trump surely isn’t up to the task. But what’s more important is that Donald Trump doesn’t care. The narcissist can be counted on to act only for the aggrandizement of self, at any cost and all costs.

So it is possible that Trump isn’t beating the war drum to Putin’s rhythm simply because Trump doesn’t get it. Trump supporters seem to believe Putin is bluffing, but I don’t think that of Trump. Narcissists don’t bluff, because they don’t believe they have to, and their empathy is so lacking that they can’t understand why anyone would act differently from themselves. My guess is that Trump truly believes a Russo-American conflict can be won, or that Putin is somehow secretly on his side, given the help Putin gave his campaign last year. The last thing a narcissist will accept is that he has been played.

In any event, analyzing the motivations is a waste of time. Faced with scandal at home, Trump will act abroad, and overnight we’ll be at war. Even as his administration is investigated for its ties to the Kremlin, Trump will mobilize his domestic support against the new menace. We will know the end is close when we hear Donald Trump publicly and personally criticize Vladimir Putin.

I’m interested to see what happens when Trump’s voting base is asked to put up with rationing. But really that’s just an exercise. The Germans accepted it willingly enough when their leader attacked Russia.

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This is difficult to admit, even on an anonymous blog.

In the woods my wife told me that she was taught to wrap her Tarot deck in a special cloth and place it on the windowsill under a full moon. To “charge” it. Using the guidebook we dealt a reading for ourselves on the forest floor. It made no sense at all.

That was yesterday, the same day I drew The Hanged Man. It’s a funny thing to ask for prophesy when my intuition about the future is as clear as I’ve outlined above. I believe we are destined for a full-scale global war, and I can’t see how the parties in such a conflict could avoid escalating to a nuclear exchange.

But last night the moon was full. And in spite of everything I believe, and in spite of myself, I arranged the cards in order and put them on the windowsill.

Today that seems so naive and fantastic that I’ve lost my faith in the cards altogether. Which is sad. I had cultivated a tiny eddy of innocence about something. So I ask my thorn-pulling friend: Do I really have to “charge” my deck of cards in the moonlight? Who in hell thought that shit up? And why did I entertain any of this even for a second?

The Thorn-puller says that it makes sense that my wife would have been taught to set her cards in the moonlight, because the moon is feminine and my wife of course is a woman. But I am a man who drinks and smokes and catches fish and likes to talk about war. The Tarot, she says, should be charged in a way that makes sense for the owner of the deck.

So tonight I’m leaving the cards in the tiny room at the top of our back stairs where I smoke my pipe when it’s cold out. They’re sitting in the dust and dead bugs on the windowsill with a bird’s nest I found in the woods and a tobacco tin full of fishing tackle. Tomorrow we’ll see if the omens shift to my favor.

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Update, 0600 this morning: Six of Wands. (Fucking wands, for goodness sake, as if I lived in a closet under the stairs.)

But given the cards of the last few days, I’ll take any improvement I can get. Everyone, whether they will admit it or not, believes in some form of divination and prophecy. My normal method of predicting the future is extrapolating from the past, but that’s how I arrive at nuclear war.

Concerning the card, the guidebook is full of vague hints begging for confirmation bias. Among them I find one I want to believe. The Six of Wands, says the book, hints of “rising up against the odds.”