The Mystics May Be Here, But Are Crypto's Cards in Reverse?

Crypto may be seeing an influx of mystics, but that might not be a sign the industry is on the right course, CoinDesk editor Bailey Reutzel writes.

AccessTimeIconMay 6, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:54 a.m. UTC
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There's a man and a woman dancing beneath a lush wreath held up by four wands, crystals protruding from their tops.

"It's a good card to pull."

The Four of Wands.

In front of me – my life – there's good times, happiness, good fortune.

Reading from an online tarot card symbology site, my friend and tonight my forecaster says, "If you have been working on a project, this card indicates you will reach an important milestone and will have cause to celebrate. You have completed a significant phase of the project and can feel very proud of what you have accomplished so far."

She continues:

"A vision beginning to be realized."

Who knew my time living around a bunch of "witches" in Colorado would parlay so well into my time in cryptocurrency today?

When asked about the hand:shake pre-ICO launch party – where delights included face painting, a palm reader and some mysterious "restoration" practice called Jaguar Awakening – someone at the event said, "It was offensively lavish and not very smart."

Harsh. Not unbelievable.

There were nerds and anarchists and conspiracy theorists in cryptocurrency not but a year ago. They're still here, of course. But they've been drowned out recently by the hippies and spirituals and soothsayers.

And they're quite like the psychics I saw in Colorado, living in small cluttered apartments with hundreds of little vials of oils – pine needles and rose buds and seeds soaking in the mixture – filling the cabinets, whose doors are kept open.

Everything is for sale, but not because they want to sell it, but because if you're suffering from anxiety, depression, a broken heart even, the oils can soothe whatever ails you.

There's no harm in a $40 bottle of olive oil mixed with cinnamon and eucalyptus, just like there's no harm in the 10 cent private key these new age prophets are slinging.

Slinging by the millions.

So what? What a deal. The industry says they'll be worth more than that bottle of oil at some point, and not only worth more by price but have a utility you'll want in your future digital life.

Maybe I will. Maybe you will. Maybe A16z will.

There is a problem, though.

Another friend of mine, a tarot reader told her she would get married by 23. Six months before that birthday, she had no boyfriend, no prospects even and was freaking out. Those words ate at her.

"What if I missed it?"

She had to see another reader.

Drunkenly the next night, we stumbled into a basement shop, a small neon light in the window, blinking the words.

It wasn't tarot, but palmistry.

But her palms, they had no such ideas of marriage at such a ripe young age. Instead, they spelled out adventure and travel and big changes.

All was well.

She didn't miss it. It was never there.

It's not hard to get wrapped up in the cards, or the lines, or the aura. It's actually surprisingly easy. Because we're all looking for answers to questions we cannot answer when we want the answers.

You can be OK with not knowing. That's the only way I've found even a tiny bit of solace in my life.

But it's a struggle.

It's the same struggle the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry deals with every day.

"What is this all for?"

And without the answers laid neatly before them in the real world, they've turned to all varieties of pseudoscience and a whole assortment of charlatans.

For god's sake, Deepak Chopra, the popular Jesus figure of the New Age and alternative medicine movements, whose ideas have negatively affected people's understanding of science, is leading a meditation at ConsenSys' Ethereal Summit this year.

And it's not offensive to me that some human would lead meditation, it's offensive that some company would pay this human (who has turned a fun, soothing activity into a fear-based cash cow) tens of thousands of dollars that they've made because people believe in the company's idea to lead a meditation at a conference that's theoretically supposed to be about understanding what the fuck all this crypto shit is for.

But we've said it for some time now, "Blockchain is a product looking for a solution."

It's looking for an answer.

The industry is looking for an answer … to why people have quit their kush jobs in banking to join the ranks of startups, to why people have invested billions of dollars – even dollars they can't actually afford to lose – in projects that are only an idea in some nerdy millennial's mind, to why people like me seem to care so much about seeing the technology prosper … and today, they'll use any mechanism, no matter how fraudulent, to prove it.

"Oh shit."

My friend, all the sudden realizes (we've had a few glasses of wine), facing towards me The Four of Wands is in reverse – upside down.

"This changes things."

See in tarot, a card in reverse speaks a different truth, the opposite truth.

"The Four of Wands reversed suggests uncertainty about what you can and cannot depend on. You may be placed in a situation which appeases your immediate concerns but does not solve the longer-term issues."

Millions made. But scaling. Governance. Generally cryptocurrency and blockchain's existential crisis.

"Is there a situation, a relationship even, that you feel insecure about," my friend asks rhetorically.

She knows what's going on – (at the time) I'm about to move to New York for a job I know will be a slog, especially given my current life spending my mornings hiking around Pike's Peak and my evenings, drinking wine and waxing philosophical with good friends and a boyfriend.

I give her a knowing look.

The same look I give now to the token issuers who tell me how great it's going to be to put diamonds or marriage licenses or music on "the blockchain."

But they don't seem to acknowledge it. Not like she does.

She knows she can speak to my very essence.

They are still trying to speak to my fingers moving across a keyboard because they want those fingers to speak to someone's wallet, because they just want a little more time to figure out why they've come to put all their effort into something so ephemeral.

You can poke fun at it. It's easy enough to.

But if you roll your eyes too hard, you might miss the point.

Or you might also save yourself a lot of stress, heartache and turmoil.

Who knows?

For now crypto community, "The cards are in your favor."

Tarot cards image via Shutterstock


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