Prince of Swords with Seven of Wands

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Someone said the best offense is a good defense

…or is it the best defense is a good offense?

Either way, someone said it. Likely someone military or game or sports oriented, like George Washington or Lao Tsu or Guy Lombardo… or is that Vince Lombardi?

The idea here is that if you are constantly pressing an aggressive offense onto your opponent, they exhaust themselves in their defense so that they have no time or energy or provisions for a counterattack.

Enter American Football. The adage in today’s 21st century gridiron is that it’s the defense that determines the outcome of the game. In other words, an excellent defense against a good offense is more likely to win than an excellent offense against a good defense.

Are you confused yet? You should be.

Enter David and his warped-ass concepts, birthed from the carnival of his cognizance and conceptualization…

Much to the condescending contempt of colonels and coaches everywhere, I would dare to say these two sides of the coin of conflict are indistinguishable. Offense and defense may seem different on paper, but the only true difference is no greater than the color of the chess pieces on either side of the board. If you’re in an offensive position you are simply exercising proactive defense. If you find yourself on the defense it is because you are offended.

Let me take this one step further, a step away from merely waxing philosophical and toward practical and functional: whichever side we believe ourselves to be on during any melee, skirmish, scrimage, or campaign, it would behoove us to not purely consider ourselves merely on offense or defense. Each side must acknowledge and embrace the other aspect in all engagements, or we will lose whatever battle we are embrawled in.

As offense, we need to be ready to defend ourselves at a moment’s notice. When we are on the attack, the assailed will fight back. During our attack we constantly need to parry against defensive countering. On defense we cannot simply brace our shields and hope for the best. We must counterstrike each blow to drive back the aggressor.

This concept is not restricted to sports and military and fisticuffs. It benefits us to apply a well balanced mix of offense and defense in any challenging situation. Any time we need to apply energy to get through an obstacle or we need to steel ourselves against an adversity life decides to throw at us we need to apply this principle. A purely aggressive or defensive position in any endeavor leaves us vulnerable, no matter the power of our onslaught or the thickness of our fortification. Like all other things in life, balance in the mode we take toward our conquests assures us the strongest position.

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Six of Wands with Knight of Coins

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Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

I see in my mind the young hero having come back from some great war, sitting on the top of the back seat of an open convertible, grinning and waving to the cheering throngs, ticker tape descending in twirls and flutters onto the pavement around him.

On a whim he snatches from the air one of the thin strips of paper snowing down from the surrounding stories above. He stretches it out before his eyes and reads the text printed upon it:

You will soon have a regular job.

Fast forward to our one-time hero, the top button of his collared shirt loosened along with his tie, the crown of his head barely visible across the sea of cubicles, the sound of office phones chirping intermittently amongst the cadence of computer keyboard clackety-clacks.

On Saturday morning he pushes his lawnmower across the quarter acre lawn then douses the dastardly dandelions with the herbicide that is the second cousin thriced removed of the gas compound used to smite the enemy abroad. He is only a half hour away from drinking a mountain spring filtered canned beer in the maple’s shade while listening to the symphony of the surrounding cicadae.

We often see the lives of these people of greatness in the form of highlight reels, their grand achievements of a lifespan ranging from 24 to 94 years distilled down into vignettes of accolades and awards and recognitions. Yet the gently rolling hills and slightly dipping valleys of daily living comprise the majority of our lifes between those dizzying zeniths of grandeur.

Life is an iceberg. The great milestones such as seeing children born or being handed a diploma or traveling to every continent, the parts of our lives that the world gets to witness in all its magnificence, is only a fraction of who we are and how we spend out time. The vast majority of our lives stays invisible to the world, suspended below the surface. The passing days and the mundane repetition of daily living can feel cold and dark and lifeless as we feel like we’re endlessly drifting through frigid waters.

However, when we dare to dream, when we entertain visions of ticker tape and confetti dancing in the air around us, when we imagine inhaling that oxygen deprived air as we stand atop that alpine peak we’ve successfully reached, that cold deep stagnancy becomes a sanctuary of tranquility.

The Zen saying before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water shows us that the mundane span of time that comprise the largest percentage of our days transforms into peacefulness when we puncture the tapestry of our lives with grand visions and exhiliarating aspirations. The pursuit of those wonderfully lofty goals is what gives meaning to the mundane.

Karma (Judgment) with Knight of Wands

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Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

 

It’s perfectly safe to say our decisions, choices, and actions have an effect and impact on our world. What we say and do affects those in our social circle, at our jobs, in our culture, and our society at large without exception. Interestingly, we often make decisions based on how we think people will view us, or how we want people to perceive us, while in reality the perception of others toward us has less impact on our lives than most of our non-ego related choices.

Am I saying it’s not important to care what people think of us? I know you want to fire off examples which might prove otherwise such as going out in public without having showered in three weeks or getting that neck tattoo of a demon with an erection. Those are cases where one might be displaying indifference or flaunting disdain for public approval so they don’t count.

I’m talking about how much energy we expend to gain the approval or avoid the judgment of the throngs of strangers that we pass every day, none of which will mention us in their wills and testaments. Yet we worry about how we look or what we are driving or what social class we might be representing. Are we doing our culture proud? Are we saying things that are relatable to the cool kids?

Again, I’m not saying our projections designed to influence others’ perceptions of us have no effect. I’m saying that being perceived as Ms. or Mr. Wonderful or Glamorous or Successful has much less impact on the shaping of our culture than how we regard others. We may be surrounded by our steel cage of entitlement as we drive to our destinations but every errant maneuver of our vehicles that leaves a wake of frustrated drivers impacts the world far more than showing we can afford a new BMW.

Perhaps we need to embrace a greater level of self expression that does not bear the intention of gaining approval. Perhaps if we give ourselves permission to make choices that reflect the elements of ourselves we find titillating, we would be much less starved for the approval of others. We would then focus our actions on giving others the respect and consideration they would like to have.

Knight of Swords with Two of Coins

Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti
Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

I will start this post by assuming few of you reading this are blacksmiths. If you are indeed a blacksmith-slash-Tarot-aficionado or at least the apprentice of a blacksmith that has an interest in Tarot (or even a Tarot reader’s apprentice that dabbles in blacksmithing) then I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know…

There’s the old expression about putting too many irons in the fire. The expression is as old as the profession of blacksmith, coincidentally enough. The wisdom in this expression warns of the danger of overstuffing your forge with too many pieces of iron with which you wish to work. Each piece of iron has to be heated to just the right temperature to be sufficiently malleable. If it’s not up to a high enough temperature the metal is still too hard to work, requiring twice as much hammering with half as much result. If it stays in too long it gets burnt up and is essentially useless.

The danger of having too many irons in the forge is the smith risks losing track of what stage of heating each piece has reached, lest the smith can’t work the pieces fast enough to get them out of the fire in time. They might pull them once they’ve reached the right temperature but by the time they get to working on the last piece pulled it has cooled down too much to be workable.

Okay, so that’s my brief 17th century Mr. Science lesson. Taking that into the 21st century, this expression is often used when one has too many projects going on. They are trying to juggle a myriad of tasks and doing at best a barely adequate job with each. This horse-and-buggy aged expression is frequently offered as a warning to managerial folks and multi-child soccer moms and uber-artists and the ADHD afflicted and stage managers. I bet dollars to donuts that each will tell you it is a hard and fast requirement of their station, that is if they don’t get distracted and pulled off-course before they can provide you with an answer.

Each of us falls victim to the mayhem of the to-do tempest, becoming the whirling dervish of task coordination. In each case we feel that we are under life’s grand imposition and we flail our arms and animatedly proclaim that we have been compulsorily thrust into a game of 52-card pickup (or 78 card pickup for my fellow Tarot readers). Thus we now have a beautiful justification for providing the attention and quality to each given task that reeks of slapped-togetherness.

I ain’t buying it. What I am buying, however, is the perspective taken by Russell Wilson, quarterback for Superbowl XLVIII Champions Seattle Seahawks. He says, “That one mission week-to-week is to go 1-0”. In a season with 15 games he isn’t worried about how they will do in week 7 against San Francisco or what their schedule looks like on the road or who can stay healthy in the back half of the season. He is only concerned with winning the very next game before him. All else is irrelevant.

I guarantee if we took that kind of approach for each bulleted item on our bloated checklist, we would not be crying out in anguish over the crumbs of time doled out by a cruel taskmaster of a Universe. Unfortunately we behave like subjects under the rule of the tyranny of the urgent. The task whose hand is raised causes us to jump to it in a purely reactionary state, simply compelling us to complete it as hastily as possible in order to strike it from the to-do list so we can scurry off to the next one that much sooner… ad infinitum, ad hamster wheel.

The truth is, there are enough hours in the day, provided we are focused on what it is we want to accomplish. If our goal is to clear the list of as many of the tasks as possible by day’s end, then we will find ourselves subject to a Sisyphean reset when we wake the next day. However, if we see only one item on the list at any given time, the one task before us, when we complete that task having given it our fullest attention we will experience a satisfaction that is beyond measure. The sense of urgency will evaporate along with all the other items on our list and will only become relevant at the time each of them is taken on.

Knight of Wands with The Moon

Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler
Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

I am a man of many interests. As a quintessential Gemini I often suffer from Shiny Metal Object Disorder. Just in the amount of time it took me to type those last two sentences I found myself distracted by a dozen little nigglers of attention.

As I’ve shared before in some post in this blog, my grandmother used to iterate to me “jack of all trades, master of none” as some form of sage warning in light of my numerous dalliances and dabblings. Apparently this was intended to alert the focally challenged of the dangers of only developing these splinters of endeavors to the maximum level of mediocrity. One can either be good at everything or the best at any one thing.

I’m not looking for a recognition of achievement presented by Jimmy Carter in any of my numerous avocations. I don’t need to bring out the Hellman’s in the particular project that has grabbed my attention. These multiple forays into this, that, whatever, and whatnot form a veritable smörgåsbord of delights to titillate and tantalize my attentions if only for a fortnight, a day and a half, or the ironically short length of a Viagra commercial.

At the risk of exploiting an opportune placement for a sophomoric pun… herein lies the rub:

There are times I find myself fervently and feverishly seeking out a temporary pet project like a hamster with a broken wheel suffering Ritalin withdrawals. It’s not that a specific distraction du jour has become too fascinating or compelling for me to resist. It’s more like an insatiable craving for something, anything to keep my attention preoccupied, even when there’s no source of inspiration. Think of it like being at a buffet when you really have no appetite but you feel compelled to reach under every sneeze guard into every chafing pan because everything looks so delicious.

At these times I serve myself well to stop and breathe and examine the source of this restlessness. While it may feel like there’s a fire lit under me that I have to make use of, in reality it’s merely a few embers that need to exhaust themselves to black. I’m trying to desperately fan them back into flames like a band of castaways trying to beat the rainstorm following the setting sun.

I believe any time we get restless as such, we are not only ignoring the part of us that needs desperately to connect with the deep stillness within, we are also trying to run from it. We are doing our best to escape from the inner voice that is no louder than a whisper, doing its level best to tell us what we need to hear that we may not want to hear. That’s when we put our fingers in our ears and make lalala sounds in attempt to drown out the non-noise. If we can just keep our distractions going we can prevent our psyche from getting pinned down by our inner selves and be forced to listen to what is best for us, which is certainly counter to what we are currently doing.

So when we find ourselves compelled to drown in the swell of distractions without drives, that is our cue to take pause, to hit the brakes and sink into the stillness. It is at those times that the idea of remaining still might feel like leaning into an uppercut, but once we stop we will realize we were unwittingly delivering ourselves the blows in our fervor. The quiet is the time needed for us to heal and to rest and face our own truths from which our uninspired distractions were trying to hide us.

Prince of Pentacles with King of Pentacles

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Raise your hand if you either are a Virgo or you know a Virgo…

Perhaps I’m delving a bit into astrology, but if you are not well versed in the character of sun signs, not to worry. You will likely know the type of person I’m about to describe here or you are that person….

I’m talking about those people we file under slow and steady, that embrace the adverb of painstakingly. They are the sort that will deliberate night and day over whether or not to take on an endeavor, darting their eyes back and forth as they build out their mental pros and cons lists, vacillating between should and shouldn’t enough to burn up the bearings on any pendulum.

Once they’ve dabbed their toe into the water six dozen times before deciding to move forward, they get hung up on making sure every microscopic minutia is in alignment, once they’ve spent the better part of the century calibrating their gauges. They get lost in detail like wandering through the Queen’s hedge maze, the Minotaur’s labyrinth, an Ikea during a remodel. Some-Omnipotent-Being-or-Beings-That-May-or-May-Not-Exist forbid they make a mistake. The crippling fear of the possibility of venturing into the ever-persistent human foray of error is nearly paralyzing, therefore every step taken is akin to carrying nitroglycerin through an eggshell coated field of landmines.

Blessed are the Virgos, for they shall inherit the earth sign.

I can’t imagine what they say about us Geminis…

Let me make this declaration, however… most of my closest friends are Virgos.

The intent was not to tar and feather my mutable earth sign brethren and parade them through the town square on the way to the stockade. Thank you for standing in front of the crowd and allowing me to use you for my display; you may return to your seat. The truth is that each of us can be like this in some form or another, on some occasion or at some crossroad. We get obsessed with making sure there is not a hair out of place before heading out to the dinner party. We waffle between ordering waffles or pancakes. We are unsure to keep working at Scylla with its great wage and ogre boss or go to Charybdis for a pay cut but in a pleasant atmosphere.

The truth is we get caught on a treadmill due to our fear of making a misstep. Indecision and vacillation is merely our way of swaying back and forth on a cozy hammock, nice and safe from any chance of err. We forget that success is carved and hewn from the rocks in the road we tripped over and stubbed our toes on. The structure of every great achievement has a wall or more that was torn out and rebuilt.

At some point we have to stop proofreading the paper for the nth time, searching for that chance misspelled word we’re certain must be there. We have to shrug, hit submit, then know we did our best rather than constantly redefine what is our best. The greatest mistake we can make is not moving forward for fear of making one.

Knight of Pentacles with Eight of Pentacles

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans
Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Prepare yourself as I’m going to start preaching about the evils of microwaves.

Let me preface this by stating this is not a hippie sermon about the dangers of irradiating food, or about gamma rays convincing our personal DNA to manifest a third appendix (as if one wasn’t superfluous enough), or even any comedic observational chestnut about how in a matter of 13 seconds the food goes from the temperature of the surface of Mercury to that of the temperament of a spouse that got a hole punch for a birthday gift…

I’m talking about the devil’s oven that has contributed to the corruption of our expectations of time. This wicked tool that has rendered the prerequisite of patience regarding mealtime null and void. This boson bombardment box that has robbed us of the anticipation of a delicious dinner through the slowly building olfactory crescendo of salivation-inducing aromas in exchange for the two to five minute roaring of ozone production punctuated with a Pavlovian perforated beep.

The greatest crime committed by the introduction of the magic hot food box is its displacement of the art of cooking. When preparing a meal, we first try a new recipe in which we blend and prepare a specific set of ingredients, combine and cook it into a specific dish, then upon tasting it we determine what we could shift or change in the recipe, its process, and/or its ingredients to make it more enjoyable. The only variance to microwave meals we can apply is choosing which corner of the plastic film we will peel back. “Venting the northwest corner yielded a more oaky polypropylene last time. This time we’ll try the southwest corner.”

Each foray into meal preparation is a practice, an experiment, a new and completely altered experience. We find ourselves refining the process each time in perpetuity; even when we nail the recipe and produce the perfect meal there is no guarantee we will do so again. Yet we try, we attempt, we give it our best time and time again.

It is in this inexhaustible pursuit which gives birth the the beauty of the result. Yet the result is not the end in and of itself. We know however delicious or disappointing our meal turns out, we will invariably need to eat again, so we shall cook again. The result is not merely determined by robotically following a set of instructions, it is colored and shaded and accentuated and detailed by the attention we pay in each step of the process, by the depth of absorption we find in even the most seemingly banal and tedious component. When we treat each piece of the process like it is the lode-bearing step, giving it the attention and care that a surgeon would give each incision, the end result will always speak to the process.