The Universe is Basically a Benevolent Place (Tarot of Michelle)

I want to believe the universe is a friendly place, and I want to come from a place of love, not fear.

The origin story of The Universe is Basically a Benevolent Place is shrouded in the mists of time. But I want to say it began with a former partner, who tried to soothe my fears and help me become a more intrepid adventurer. I learned that more people are generally more accepting and more tolerant, generous and kind than I had been giving them credit for. We were choosing the people around us as wisely as we could, and the odds were in our favor. 

Illustration by the author

Over the years, from the 1990s to the 2000s, the cultural environment changed, and I saw my partner’s openness give way to cynicism, which made me sad. I don’t know if my own fears influenced that, but they likely did. Benevolent Place is a reminder to give people a chance, and to try to maintain some of that open-heartedness and hope that can be so richly rewarded.

It has been said that we approach life from two perspectives: love or fear. Two cards in this deck represent the love vs. fear contrast: Benevolent Place is the flip side, or the more optimistic side, of the Security vs. Risk card. Security vs. Risk acknowledges real risks and the value of fear; Benevolent Place reminds me these risks are not as frequent as I think, and there’s probably less cause for fear than I think. I know that tragic occurrences and unspeakably evil crimes are over-represented in the media, for the entertainment value. Watching true crime shows and reading true crime books doesn’t help me, although it’s theorized that the reason why true crime is so popular is because the bad guy is almost always (satisfyingly) brought to justice.

Benevolent Place is modeled after the Ace of Cups in the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The Ace of Cups has various interpretations of course, but to me it symbolises new emotional beginnings, hinting at abundance, love, intimacy, opportunity and success.

All my life I was taught that life is dangerous and others are the enemy. I absorbed my dad’s paranoid and overly safety-conscious habits. Some of them served me in a positive way, like locking all the doors at night, while reinforcing these paranoid beliefs. Other habits annoyed and inconvenienced me, like driving around the block to make sure I’d closed the garage door, but they were basically harmless, which also reinforced them. I became risk-averse, defensive and over-cautious. It served me, but I didn’t really want to be that way.

Did bad things happen in my life? Sure. But they didn’t happen as often as I’d been led to believe, and they weren’t as bad as I’d been led to believe. I even left the garage door open overnight once, and my bicycle wasn’t stolen, which completely floored me.

Albert Einstein said: “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.”

Benevolent Place is a reminder that I want to be able to answer that question with “yes.” A friendly universe should be the default setting, and a hostile environment the exception, not the other way around.


A story behind one of the cards in The Tarot of Michelle. Follow the developmental art as a Patron on Patreon.

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