“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau
I had already made up my mind: I did not like Athens. I had never been to Athens, but I was pretty sure that this was correct. My opinion was based on news reports, of course. Tales of corruption and despair, and overwhelming poverty were placed side by side with news reports about rising fascism, political murders, the growing popularity of nationalist organizations, and violence against immigrants and women. But I had to spend a week there. I braced myself.
I had some time to kill, and so I walked into a boutique on an Athens side street, after spying a cute dress in the window. I was greeted warmly by what I assumed was just some shop girl. But after trying on half a dozen outfits and chatting like old friends, she revealed herself to be the owner. The shop was brand new.
“Wow. Even with…” I didn’t want to say, you know, all those news reports they show back in Germany about 50% of Greece being on fire from fascist riots and the other half being old men and women starving to death.
“I couldn’t find a job,” she said, matter of factly. “Not even a bad one. So why not open my own store?” Her designer friends, mostly sewing and working out of their parents’ living rooms, were finding it hard to find distribution, and having her own store would help them out, as well. I bought a bag. And a dress. And a top. When I told her I was a writer and that I also owned my own business, she threw in a white and gold blouse for free.
The next day, her story was echoed by the two 25 year old women who had also just opened their own boutique, but they designed and handmade everything in the store. We talked about how scary it was to be responsible for your own income, but also how thrilling. About how the men in their family were drinking themselves to death, but they decided to try to make better lives for themselves. How this was the time, when everything was scary and wobbly and totally liquid, that’s the time to take the big risks.
I pretty much gave all three of these women all of my money. Because I wanted them to succeed, but I also wanted to express my support and admiration and cash seemed like a good denomination for that. A good portion of my wardrobe is now Greek.
The Six of Coins is about a lopsided balance. The man on the card has two beggars before him. He is only giving money to one of the beggars, and yet the scale he holds in his other hand is balanced.
Coins cards often have to do with money, but also simply value. Money is just one of the most obvious ways we express what we value. When I pull this card in someone else’s reading, I ask how they are expressing what they value. Do they value Chase Bank? If not, why are they putting their money there instead of in a local bank? Do they value the Christian fundamentalists who run Forever 21? If not, why do they have their clothing in their closets? Do they value the New Yorker worldview? If not, why are they subscribers?
The complaint comes, that it’s exhausting to think about where their money is going, the worthiness of the corporations they support, weeding through all of the other options that are out there. And yet, isn’t that why we are here? To live consciously? Not to zombie our ways through our entire existences? A Six of Coins card can draw our attention to our wallets, that place we shudder to contemplate, that place we want to be the most mindless because money pulls on our anxiety like nothing else. But it asks us — are our scales balanced?
The first thing the Golden Dawn, the nationalist psychofascist Greek organization, did to win over the masses was to start taking care of people. The government who was more interested in pleasing the IMF than caring for its own. The government apparently learned nothing from the 20th century, the most important lesson probably being: Do not let the crazy fuckers feed the people. Nothing good comes from that.
It seems to me that if we are going to survive capitalism, it’s up to us to take care of each other. For the people who are on their feet to tend to those who are getting there. For setting up parallel systems of care since our governments seem to have absolutely no interest in making sure we are fed, housed, healthy, in possession of some dignity.
The laziest way to do that is to interrupt the flow of our cash to the people who brought down our global economy and redirect it towards people who are doing good. Nothing in the structure of your world has to change. Small banks and credit unions, writers and artists and musicians selling their own wares, young women opening their own businesses and supporting their families. Rather than, you know, buying a t-shirt at the Gap that will give $1 of your purchase to some unnamed charity “for Africa,” whatever that means, and actually, it’s only really ten cents, as the other 90 is needed for administration costs.
We cannot shop our way to a better world, but if you dedicate yourself to this one task, you start to see how support works and what truly valuing another person’s work can do for them. After that we can focus on radicalized housing, community health care outside of the hospital complex and insurance paradigm, universal access to the internet, community food gardens, restabilizing honeybee populations, that kind of thing. It’s a lot that we have to do, but, baby steps.
The most likely place I will see the Six of Coins card when reading for myself is in the Head position. That spot, the Celtic Cross’s “the goal,” which always just seemed like a softer echo of “outcome,” I realized was always more about the thought process, the stuff coming in and out of your head. And when I started reading it as corresponding to the equivalent of the crown chakra, suddenly my readings made more sense. Particularly because the Six of Coins would so frequently settle itself there.
We like to think of ourselves as ourself. Our unified, understandable self. Which is why we prattle on about our self, self-esteem, self-interest, the needs of our selves, as if that could ever be defined. We are obviously all crowds, it’s just that one voice gets to control the microphone at a time. Some of those voices are saboteurs, others entitled princesses. All the people who have hurt us and traumatized us, we create new voices that parrot them, endlessly. Others still are the lover we are always trying to get at in the real world.
Not all of those voices need to be listened to. Not all of those voices need to be fed and given a home. When the Six of Coins shows up, it means I need to pay attention to which voices I have been giving time and attention to, who I have let hog the mike. When that card shows up, I know I’ve been letting the dangerous ones hold my attention, the ones who say I need to give up, that it’ll never work, that you’re better off alone because at least then no one can hurt you.
Also that screechy voice that says that my self is the important self, that no one helped me, why should I help others? The voice that says Athens is a dirty, racist place filled with people complicit in their own degradation. Fuck those voices, let them starve.
If you are the beggar (and we are all, all of the time, the beggar in front of someone), who are you holding your hand out to for help? And what behavior are those people going to reward?
The stories you read, the movies and television you watch, do they value you for who you are? Or only for your sexual availability? The people who pay you money, do they pay you for work you think is important? Or are you simply doing what needs to be done to receive your paycheck? What are you being valued for? Will your friends be happy for you if you suddenly decide your value system deviates from them? If you decide to start fucking with your gender or your definition of success or your idea of what a relationship looks like, will they still invite you over for dinner? Or will you suddenly start making them uncomfortable?
Money is the most abstract thing we work with on a daily basis, and yet it feels the most real. We must remember that the things we think are important, we gave them that importance. With our thoughts, our anxieties, our culture. And what we build can be dismantled.
Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of Bookslut.com and Spoliamag.com. She reads tarot cards specifically for writers and artists, meant to unearth creativity and remove blocks. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional info is here.
Jen May is a Scorpio and artist living in Brooklyn, NY with 3 cats. She keeps a tumblr updated regularly with horoscope images and everything else.