Tarot and Talking Heads

This will be a controversial topic and I may offend a few of the more experienced purveyors of wisdom in the online divination community, but they aren’t my target here. My goal is to encourage improvements for everyone in the overall effectiveness of  knowledge transfer and not just to criticize its shortcomings. For the less established would-be pundit, please take my comments in the spirit in which they’re given and try to shrug off the occasionally biting tone; I’m not much good at conciliatory soft-selling.

I’ve already taken a few swipes at what I consider to be the fallacies of remote reading where there is no hands-on, face-to-face (or even mouth-to-ear) contact between the reader and the seeker, but thanks to the Anthony Louis book Tarot Beyond the Basics, I eventually came to terms with how it might be done without violating my sense of “due process.” Maybe the same thing will happen in this case as time goes on, but I will need to see more convincing evidence before I concede the argument. The subject of my current skepticism is the proliferation of tarot-related YouTube videos, and my objections are aimed mainly at those tyros who are either ignorant of or intentionally ignore accepted standards of elocutionary style and pace than at any deficiencies in substance (although their content is often uneven as well). Quite honestly, it can get painful for the viewer (or perhaps I’m simply not as enamored of the wonders of social media or as forgiving of its weaknesses as most younger people.)

I’ve seen more than my share of televised “talking heads” in my life, and I don’t have the patience to sit through tedious amateur productions that are either glacially slow and erratic (as in some of the deck walk-throughs I’ve tried to watch), or clumsy in presentation,  punctuated by “umms” and “ahhs” and awkward pauses (and even once a sotto voce “Oh, shit!” at a random fumble) that leave me cringing and squirming uncomfortably  in my chair. I just want to shout irritably “Get on with it, already!” (and I sometimes do). It makes me wonder how many of these people actually rehearse their offerings by recording themselves and screening the results critically before putting them out for public consumption (one of the recommended practices for gaining proficiency). If you’re embarrassed by watching yourself, chances are good that your viewers will be put off as well. I would submit that it takes more than an irresistible urge to express oneself, an abundance of personality and chutzpah, a video-capable camera or phone and an internet connection to make for worthwhile discourse, and the budding YouTube entrepreneur must be wary of the pitfalls attending “diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain.” Those who are accomplished at traditional public speaking seem to fare better at YouTube since their delivery is more likely to be precise, polished and persuasive.

To be fair, I should add that I’m not one of those, although I’ve done a modest number of public lectures and teaching gigs over the years where I’ve had to “think on my feet,” and I also appreciate the stimulation of having a “live” sitter at the table when I read. But as a consumer of knowledge I tend to prefer the thoughtful written passage over the unscripted spoken one. The key difference seems to lie in the amount of mental effort that goes into the drafting, editing and finalizing of the product. Just as anyone can self-publish a book these days, anyone can pass themselves off as an online expert on virtually any subject, whether or not there is merit in their self-estimation. (“Hey, it’s so easy a caveman could do it!”) Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be, and “caveat emptor” looms large in any consideration of whether to pay for the experience, even if only with one’s time and attention.

I suppose if I spent extended periods in my vehicle, podcasts would hold more appeal for me as an alternative to listening to music or “talk radio” (an even more annoying “opinion-mill”). But I don’t, and I would rather spend my available at-home hours reading, thinking and writing about divination than watching someone with marginal oratory skills try to explain their own take on the subject. I do often turn to YouTube when I have something complex to assemble or repair because the presenters typically (but again, not always) go straight to the point with little superfluous flair or fluff. But I only expect to be informed, not entertained or charmed, and I have the same expectations for divination-related videos. Don’t try to beguile me with your showmanship, just give me the ideas you want to convey in as simple and economical (oh, and professional) a manner as possible and I will walk away satisfied. More importantly, I will stay until the end to hear you out and not just “flip channels.”

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