Ask Zardulu: Why Can’t I Stop Shoplifting?

Plus learning new languages and dealing with mortality.

(All illustrations by Matt Lubchansky.)

Welcome to the third installment of Atlas Obscura’s new advice column, Ask Zardulu—read the first two here and here. Zardulu is an expert in all things mythic and has been known to do a media hoax every now and then. If you have a life, love, money, family, spiritual, moral or myth-based dilemma, please email your question to [email protected], and specify if you want your name to be used. (For more information on Zardulu’s mysterious work,look here.) Questions are edited for length and clarity.  Enjoy!


ZARDULU: I’d like to know where my Nintendo 2DS and my clip pak have gone, since it’s been years since i’ve seen them; my clip pak was a small pouch filled with my 2DS game cartridges, and it was attached to a carabiner & it said “Funco Land” on the front; (since i bought it before Funco Land was bought out by Gamestop) the last time i saw it was in Berlin, Ohio, in 2011, and i’m still looking for it (with no luck) is there any way you could help me out with this? 

DEAR KEVIN: In his work, Sophist, Plato suggests that consciousness is not limited to animate objects, that your Nintendo 2DS has aspects of mind, life, and soul. His theories form the basis for what is commonly referred to as panpsychism. In Philebus, he goes on to suggest that everything, animate and inanimate, is part of a universal soul called the anima mundi, meaning that, though you’ve lost your Nintendo 2DS, there is still a psychic connection between the two of you. By accessing the anima mundi it is certainly possible to reunite with your device but this may require a lifetime of dedicated religious practice. Instead, I recommend buying a used one since they only cost about $60. 

Blessed Be


ZARDULU: I started going on some dates with this nice, wonderful young lady a couple weeks ago and it seemed to be going pretty well. I liked her a lot and knew she was different from me, but that’s usually a good thing.

Recently, though, I noticed and confronted her about her sort of disconnecting emotionally and physically. I don’t mind her wanting to rethink or change our physical or emotional direction, but I wanted to understand what was going on. She had been in an emotionally confused and perhaps abusive relationship for 3 years up until a couple months ago, so I get that she’s going through some stuff. But she seemed unable to actually voice what was going on for her and how I fit (if at all) into that process.

I asked her if her family talked about their emotions and she said that they absolutely did not. This was not super unusual, but what set off a flag for me was that she herself did not see a problem with this (besides the fact that she gets that other people think it’s a problem). She said that you could keep emotions inside and “make them disappear” eventually. I heartily disagree with this—I think you can certainly let go of emotions and move on but that you need to bite the head off the monster before you can eat and digest it.

I’m not sure where the relationship goes from here, but it got me thinking: is it ever is possible to actually disappear trauma or emotions? And, if you could, would this ever be a good thing to do?

Emotional Rollercoaster

EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER:  As I pondered your question, I brewed some tea in my favorite cup. I allowed the leaves to settle around its interior and, using the ancient art of tasseography, I’ve interpreted the images to gain insight into your future.

Starting at the handle we see two figures next to each other, they represent you and your girlfriend. Being the beginning and end of the reading, positioning at the handle is an indication that this is not a passing fling and you will be together for some time. 

Moving clockwise around the cup we come to the image of an eagle in perched position. As with you, hasty action would reduce his chances for success. I agree that it’s important to be able to share feelings with a partner, for the health of you as individuals and your relationship. However, getting to a place where your girlfriend is comfortable opening up to you will require patience. 

Next, we see a hand with its palm up meeting a second closed hand. This represents you in the future, beginning a dialogue with your girlfriend in a calm and centered manner. When there’s something you’d like her to open up about, bring up the topic without placing any blame. Encourage her to share, show your appreciation when she does and resist the temptation to explain your position. It can be difficult, but this more passive approach will lead to a willingness to engage in increasingly emotional conversations.

Lastly, toward the center we see a crumbling building with a bat flying above and a toad at the doorstep. There will come a time that moving in together seems like a good option but these images are a warning that you should resist this. Give yourselves time to build a more solid foundation because, like the building, a faulty one will surely lead to collapse. 

Blessed Be


DEAREST ZARDULU: I crave your wisdom in facing the inevitability of my own mortality. I am in my mid-60s and am increasingly anxious and depressed over the possibility of debilitating illness and certain death.  Thirty years (at best) seems such a terribly, terribly short time. Unfortunately, I find the prospect of individual consciousness perpetuated into some kind of afterlife unlikely at best. I am in despair and seek your guidance. Is there some spiritual or philosophical practice that you in your cosmic wisdom might recommend to alleviate this distress.

Thank you for your kind consideration,

Jack 

DEAR JACK: You are not alone. When our instinct to survive is met with the inevitability of death, an intense psychological conflict emerges. This is something that humans have always struggled to reconcile and, as you’ve suggested, we’ve done so with the belief that eternal life is achievable through religion.  Fortunately, for those that do not share this belief, there are other ways to achieve reconciliation. 

There’s surely something that you’re proud of doing in your life. I suggest volunteering your time as a mentor to those embarking on a similar journey. Your experience will live on in those you’ve shared it with and, as you see the positive effect your work is having, you’ll gain a sense that you’re part of something greater than yourself, which is the essence of eternal life. 

Blessed Be


DEAREST ZARDULU: I am currently studying Arabic and finding it exceedingly difficult to rewire my brain into this foreign language. My grades are suffering, and there is a choice young lady who sits behind me that I desperately want to impress. I am guessing you have studied various ancient languages in your quest to become a mystic. How did you do it? Is there a spell or some occult wisdom I could use to assist me in my efforts? 

Starving American College Student 

DEAR STARVING AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENT: On one of my travels to South America I became acquainted with a group of young adults who spoke English as a second language more fluently than anyone I’d ever encountered. I was so impressed I had to ask how they achieved this level of mastery and one of them replied, “friends.” Seemed like a simple enough answer until I realized that they weren’t talking about other English speaking friends, they meant Rachel, Ross and the rest of the cast of the American ‘90s sitcom. By watching American television, the learning became a passive experience and by using a culturally relevant source, they learned many subtleties not available from a book.

So, my suggestion is to find a few television shows that are produced in an Arabic-speaking country that you might enjoy. Start with the subtitles on and slowly start to remove them as you become more comfortable. 

Blessed Be


DEAR MADAME Z: My question concerns my dreams. For years, when I sleep, I often visit an alternate world. In this world I have a different home, clothes and life adventures. This dream life of mine has occurred for decades. I like visiting this secondary world but sometimes get events that occur there, confused with events in my present life. Do you have any explanation for this dream world of mine? 

Dream Traveler

DREAM TRAVELER:  In the Bible, Ezekiel had a dream of flaming angels, each with the head of a man, bull, lion and eagle, standing next to wheels covered with eyeballs. He was receiving a message, but the messages in dreams are not always easy to understand because they appear as symbols. I recommend keeping a journal next to your bed, recording your dreams and spending some time thinking about what they might mean.

Though your dreams may not be as dramatic as the cherubim of Ezekiel, there is still a great deal of knowledge you can gain from them. If you’ve never thought about dreams in this way, it can be difficult to known where to start so if you or anyone else would like me to interpret a specific dream, please send a detailed description along with some related personal background and I will do my best to interpret them here.

Blessed Be


DEAR ZARDULU: I am basically a nice person, however sometimes when I am in a bad mood I take stuff from department stores without asking. What should I do?

Basically Nice Person

BASICALLY NICE PERSON: To represent your journey through the past, present and future I have drawn from the tarot the Tower, the Hanged Man, and the Sun. In the Tower, its namesake is being struck by lighting and the inhabitants tumbling to the Earth. This tells me that there was an abrupt change in your life that had a profound effect on you. Like a bolt of lightning, it was beyond your control, leaving you with a feeling of vulnerability. 

As we move toward the present we have the Hanged Man. His foot is bound and he hangs upside, carrying on the theme of vulnerability. Your desire to steal is a common psychological mechanism that is used to cope with this as it can help establish a sense of control over one’s life. The only problem is, even though you’re stealing from companies that pay children pennies a day to make their products, it’s still illegal, and even the best thieves eventually get caught. 

 As we move toward the future, we have The Sun. It shows a jubilant child with outstretched arms and golden rays beaming down on it. This tells me that you will soon be enlightened in some way. Be open to opportunities for personal growth, especially ones you might otherwise have dismissed. Your desire to steal will soon subside along with your chances of getting pinched.

Blessed Be

Update: due to an editing error, the first question was accidentally omitted from the column. It has been restored, blessed be.