Treat The Tarot Like Robert Redford

If this guy had something he wanted to tell me, I'd sure listen.
If this guy were trying to tell me something, you bet I’d listen.

I watched Robert Redford one time suffer an interview so frustrating, I couldn’t believe he got through it without blowing his stack.  We were at a screening of a film he’d just directed, and the auditorium was packed with independent filmmakers. Robert Redford knows how to give a good interview and, let’s face it, he’s Robert Redford. As you’d imagine, everyone was pretty eager to hear what he had to say for himself.

Well, there was trouble right out of the gate. The interviewer opened with the worst kind of interview question: longwinded, rambling, really not so much a question as a complex statement crafted to show off – to Redford? To the audience? To herself? – how cleverly she had analyzed her guest’s filmmaking. And she had it all wrong.

Bob listened patiently, responded with a polite, “Well, no, not really,” and corrected her with his own explanation of the facts. He might as well have been speaking Martian. She paused for a moment, but instead of taking her cue and pursuing his very clear lead in the direction of accuracy, she stuck to her theory and lobbed another, equally longwinded and way off the mark. Once more Bob answered, “Well, no. I wasn’t thinking that,” and told her what he had been thinking. Back and forth they went for a very long time, she pressing her ill-conceived theories about Bob upon Bob, and he trying each time to show her the light in his clear, measured way. But she was relentless! Despite its being painfully clear that she should toss the index cards and just give him the floor, she dug in her heels, apparently hell bent on second guessing her guest to the bitter end, wanting desperately to be right.

Well, heck, even Robert Redford’s only human. The interview turned excrutiating, the audience turned restless, and Bob got totally turned off. The woman was so unwilling to hear anything that didn’t support her theories, Bob practically stopped talking altogether. He leaned back in his chair, looked up at the ceiling, reduced every answer to a terse “Well, no” (she was wrong about everything!) and sat there. Still not taking the hint – which hardly seems possible, I know – she ploughed on with her guessing game. They went on like this for so long, after each new question I caught myself muttering “Well, no” a split second before Bob. He scratched his chin, inhaled deeply, widened his eyes. He did everything short of yawning and checking his watch (or worse, standing to leave) to signal that he was desperate for the interview to be over. He was polite – he’s Bob! – but after one longwinded statement too many, that master of smooth self-composure reached the breaking point. “No!” he blurted, exasperated. “No. That’s not it at all. That’s not what I’ve been saying. You haven’t understood anything I’ve said, you don’t understand my work at all, you have no idea how I think,” etc. etc., making it pointedly clear that her ideas about the way things were couldn’t have been further off the mark. Interview over.

What a wasted opportunity. The interviewer – who had everything to gain by really listening to what Robert Redford personally wanted to tell her – ended having learned nothing.

When I’m sitting face to face with an expert, I want to know what they’ve got to say. I may not like what I hear – it may force me to rethink things – but I’d be foolish not to consider their expertise. I  listen from a point of neutrality, knowing I’m sure to hear something I haven’t already thought of, that I can really learn from.

The tarot is like an interview with an expert. If you listen with an open mind and let yourself go where the cards lead you, you’ll get so much more from the reading than if you only look for confirmation of your own ideas. That’s not to say you might not be right; of course the cards can confirm what you do already know (the better to then help you delve deeper). But if you try to guide a reading with overly complex questions (or with what you “know” you’ve already figured out), you narrow your chances of receiving, or of being able to hear , valuable insight and information. Clear, simple, neutral questions and an open mind leave the most room for you to be surprised with something you don’t already know, or thought you did. And that’s what you’re after.