Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
March 1, 2024

The Fool: Embracing the ambiguity of our situation

By RYAN AGHAMOHAMMADI | March 27, 2020


CC BY-ND 2.0

For Aghamohammadi, The Fool encapsulates these ever-changing and uneasy times.


For those who don’t know me, I am well versed in divination, especially tarot cards. While I do use them to predict the future, they also allow me to reflect on the universal themes each card speaks to. How I relate to those themes in a specific moment helps me process and understand events in my own life. They serve as a focusing lens in the way I perceive my reality.

In tarot, the first and last card, as its number is zero, is The Fool. Its most general meaning is a fresh start or stumbling ignorantly into the future.

So, before I could fully understand the news of the pandemic, I found myself standing in the library amidst a crowd of students. Brody was clearing out in pandemonium: half exuberance, half apprehension. I wandered aimlessly. Suddenly, I was on the Beach with some familiar faces.

It was as if time stopped for a moment and I was lurched into an uncertain future. It started to rain. We all talked about nothing. I tried not to cry. After an hour, I left to go to another friend’s get-together. I put on folk music, danced — because that’s what you do when you feel like the world is ending and laughed at nothing. Eventually, I walked back to my dorm alone.

I remember only one thing from that walk: a tree blooming in flowers with white petals, illuminated under the fluorescent light of a street lamp. I leaned in and deeply inhaled. I stood there a while, staring at the blossoms, letting my thoughts percolate. Is this what living is?

We all know what happens next. Or, at least, the story so far. At first, I was overwhelmed. I scrolled through the news for hours and couldn’t shake all the information from my head. My entire body ached from the stress. My chest tightened so much it was hard for me to breathe. 

It’s been hard on my mental health. I’ll admit it.

I’ve since reduced the amount of news I consume, but that only left room for questions: Who am I now? What am I supposed to do? Where am I going? Am I going anywhere at all? I’ve been home for a week, living in the quiet of the Connecticut woods. I spend my days reading, rereading (I’ve already received a paper cut from a well-loved copy of my favorite book) and writing. At night, I chart constellations from stars I miss when I’m in Baltimore.

Now, I miss my friends, my daily coffee at Bird in Hand, the dark shadows of my Homewood apartment. The words “new normal” can’t quite capture the way reality shifts in mere moments.

More and more, I feel like The Fool. I have all these questions and no idea where to start. The more I spend time thinking, the less I understand. So, I do what I do best, and take it as what it is.

I’ve made the radical, conscious decision to be The Fool and to live in ambiguity. If I let myself simply exist in the moment, I don’t have to answer any questions about the future.

And, honestly, it’s been liberating. For now, at least, who I am, what I am and what I do does not have to be defined.

Perhaps I will write a novel. Perhaps I will take up a hobby. Perhaps I will reinvent myself and the next time you see me, I’ll be unrecognizable. Or, perhaps, I will do none of these things. And that’s okay, too. I am entitled, and so are you, to do what I need to do.

So, I’m letting this be a fresh start for me. I’m taking this time to heal. I meditate every morning to ground myself. I walk in the afternoon to let the sun cast away negative thoughts. Everything happens in discrete moments now. The answers, and the future, will come on their own time.

For now, I’m giving myself permission to just exist. Let me be nothing.

Who I was yesterday, who I am tomorrow, doesn’t matter. At this moment, my bare feet in the grass, my hands twisting through my hair, I just am. As Virginia Woolf wrote, and I have inscribed on my ankle, “I am rooted, but I flow.” Who I am is who I am, not something to be answered.

All I’ll do now is stumble into the future, head-first, with the faith that there will be someone or something to catch me on the other side. And there will be. I know it.

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