Karma (Judgment) with Knight of Wands

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.


The Magician with Ace of Wands

Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

These two particular cards I just drew are reminding me that it’s time to talk about manifestation again. Clearly this blog is no stranger to this topic, with it being called The Tarot of Manifestation and all. Of course I have to obligatorily address the Law of Attraction again as well.

It shouldn’t be any secret how I feel about The Secret (the book, the movie, the workbook, the t-shirt and mugs, the personal certified life coach trainer guru) as well as LOA (that’s Law of Attraction in New Age hipster vernacular). I’m sure I’ve soapboxed on this topic a time or two or a baker’s dozen or ad infinitum. So grab a box of Marble Munch or whatever gets sucked into the snackhole while being entertained, put a pillow behind your lumbar and get your readers on if you are over 45…

There’s all these authors and coaches and spiritual advisors that offer to teach us how to manifest that which we desire. I even did it in the first chunk of the Tarot part of this blog via a post on each of the 78 keys. The not-so-secret pretty much says we have to believe we can and will create the reality we want for ourselves.

Most of the critics that are not skeptics infiltrating the flock disguised as believers bemoan the experience they had that is contrary to the New Age cheerleader’s wisdom. They say it is difficult to have faith when they don’t manifest yachts and Prada and gold bullion and cars of the douchey and reckless. Then the teacher and student wrestle with the Chicken Prime vs. Egg Prime, they don’t believe it because it didn’t happen/it didn’t happen because they don’t believe it.

I would say manifestation is like breathing, that it happens automagically without thinking about it, but the difference is we can hold our breath to temporarily halt our breathing, whereas our manifestation ability doesn’t turn off, much like the Christmas music at this time of year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a few more times during this lifetime: we are constantly manifesting.

Now before the enlightened ones patronizingly pat me on my head and say “Now, now… we’re talking about how to manifest our desires“, I say yes, I am aware, and that’s what I’m saying as well. Call me crazy, throw a full can of vegetables at my head, I don’t care. I truly believe we are constantly manifesting our desires.


The things we get, or actually create in life are the things that serve us somehow, that reinforce or build upon who we believe ourselves to be and who we are becoming. When we continue to get a lot of what we don’t think we want, we are stubbornly refusing to look at how these unwanteds are serving us. We keep sending that meal we ordered back to the kitchen with the hope they eventually meet our dizzyingly high standards but at the most basic level we just want to eat. Our stomach growls louder and our blame meter rises, ignoring the fact that each send-back was our decision.

Want to manifest the things you want? First figure out why you want the things you’ve been manifesting. That’s a cute and clever way of saying we need to practice self-awareness and be brutally honest in it while we’re at it. The manifester’s creations are a result of how we see the manifester, or simply how we see ourselves. We manifest who we believe ourselves to be.

The Fool with Four of Wands

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

What makes you happy?

So many of us would answer that question with the usual suspects: love, a good movie, a well built Lego castle, a leisurely Sunday drive with three dogs, a juicy steak, the sound of children cheating at the game of Sorry!, on and on and et cetera and et. al and yada yada…

Now let’s wax analytical as I am prone to do on a lazy Sunday on one side or another of a football game: if we really break down the question, it is asking us what makes us happy; in other words, what compels us to feel joy, what wrings and squeezes the feeling of pleasure from us like the last few drops of water out of a chamois, what backs us into a corner and shoves a microphone in our face forcing us to answer the question under duress disguised as euphoria.

We answer the question giving nary a thought to the way it’s phrased, how it places happiness in a container with some external event coming along to lift the lid and release it to flutter up and out unfettered on diaphanous wings. In the scenario that this question paints, happiness is sitting at home bored watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Full House until a catalyst comes knocking on the door to ask it to come out and play.

Maybe we can rephrase the question in the form of How do you make happiness? and give it a test drive. Perhaps we could look at joy and jubilation as a recipe where we are putting together the ingredients and cooking it for however long at however many degrees. I like this because it means happiness is brought on by our own efforts, that it is manifested by way of our own hands rather than waiting for the world to deliver it Next Day Air.

The advisory of caution I want to give to my recipe analogy, however, is the danger of seeing happiness as consistently resulting from a given formula. Any of us that cooks knows that there is no guarantee to the outcome of a meal or dessert despite following the recipe as if in a laboratory under the supervision of a Dupont chemical engineer. We may believe we know what brings us happiness, but we still argue with our lover, the brilliantly written movie plot collapsed under the weight of a jejune ending, the Lego castle is constructed with mostly wheels and tree pieces, the leisurely Sunday drive is with wet dogs, the juicy steak turns out to be a juicy seitan steak, on and on and et cetera and et. al and yada yada.

One ingredient of unbridled joy that seems to rarely get acknowledged is the element of surprise. We know what brings us pleasure and we chase the feeling of that first or best high only to come short as often as we hit the mark of delight. However, there’s something to be said for diving into an endeavor of which we have no notion as to the potential outcome. We might crash and burn, we might soar on the wings of Icarus for a few moments. When the results of an unknown foray are not the most positive, at least we went into it without expectation, for an expectation dashed is far more crushing than an unanticipated disappointment. When our venture into the unknown yields a pleasant surprise, the delight widens our eyes and tantalizes our senses far more with its newness than with the stock pleasures derived from the same ol’ same ol’ that threaten to inevitably disappoint with the increasing wear of each iteration.

To say when you know what to expect you’ll never be disappointed is true until you don’t get what you expect. As life loves to determine circumstance with the pitch of the dice, we are bound to someday crap out on what we think is a consistent safe bet on ensuring our own happiness. However, if we grab the dice and determine the coming out roll by the pitch of our own hand, there is something exhilarating in knowing we’ve created our own luck no matter whether we set the point or we crap out on the toss.

The Empress with Ten of Wands

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Between the ages of six and ten, what I consider the halcyon days of my youth, I lived on a military base in the Panama Canal zone. Save for when I was in school, I spent the majority of my time dressed inappropriately for entering any business establishment, donning only a pair of shorts in a climate that had only two seasons: rainy and dry.

The base was located on an isthmus, which offered a choice of two beaches on which I would play inexhaustibly that were only a handful of blocks in either direction of our quarters. They afforded me a bevy of entertaining choices: hermit crabs to catch, low tide that stretched a quarter-mile out to expose knee-deep mud sand, the washed up carcasses of manta rays and horseshoe crabs, a large moss covered trunk of driftwood the size of three Escalades upon which we would play that we creatively dubbed “The Big Log”, large fist sized chunks of pumice that would float ashore and smelled like a fishmonger when you scrubbed it on cement.

Regardless of how romantically I reflect on those childhood years, they were still ladened with tedious chores assigned to me. One of the most loathsome of all the chores I was given was mango pickup duty. Sure, having a mango tree that spread its limbs the breadth of the entire yard in which it stood dead center may sound like a treat, offering fresh mangos with skin that tore gently away from the fibrous golden yellow meat, sweet juice that ran down your forearm, bursting with the smell of the tropics. Nonetheless, for every delectable fruit one could eat, there was a dozen of its cousins strewn about the yard, casualties of overripeness, impending rot and fermentation, a veritable beacon for creepies and crawlies and buzzies.

Imagine the privilege of scooping up handfuls of rotting mangos, that once sweet fragrance having transformed into rancid syrupy stench, with leaves as stiff as cardboard in accompaniment, all the aforementioned detritus constantly battling and defying the tines of the rake. This is the chore that made a half hour of work feel like it dragged on more painfully than the first Star Trek: The Motion Picture with the extra twelve minutes of film. On one attempt to shirk this drudgery of a chore I was presented with a choice: either finish the cleanup before my parents got back home, or be grounded for two weeks. Employing the wisdom of a seven year-old I chose the latter.

Nothing will remind you that you are a kid blessed with living in a tropical paradise more than being confined indoors. If I thought raking rotting mangos felt like an eternity, being grounded made the chore feel like shore leave.

Forty years later, in the thick midsection of adulthood, I still sometimes have to catch myself when menial tasks of daily living feel so Sisyphean, when I climb into my mental time machine and go back and whisper in the eight year-old’s ear, raking mangos once a month ain’t nothin’.

I honestly believe we lose sight of the meaning of housework and weed pulling and bill paying and gutter cleaning whenever we declare that these are things that have to get done. The implication here is that these tasks and chores and responsibilities are meted out by the gods of grownupness, that we are condemned to forever have to pick up our socks and put away our toys. We so often forget that these tasks are not sentences, they are actually steps in a process. During those moments when we can stand back and appreciate the sweet charming home we live in, or look at our children with glowing parental pride, or appreciate the peace that surrounds us, these are comprised of a multitude of tasks that were applied layer by layer to build upon the moment that we stand in that is making us smile.

If we were able to fully indulge in a life of nothing but leisure, it would be a life that was not created. The body is toned because the workout was strenuous. The tomato is sweetest because the soil was turned. The beauty displayed on the canvas of life was comprised by many stiff and tedious strokes as well as the ones that glided smoothly and softly. When we see these tasks in that light they become so much less grueling. This Zen saying encompasses it all quite well: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

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.

Two of Swords with Five of Wands

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Recently on Facebook I came across this bit of jpg profundity:

If you have to choose between me and someone else, pick them. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with someone who is going to question if they made the right choice.

I will admit, some jpg profundity does make me take pause and mentally masticate on them. Others are just so steeped in rhetoric that, although there is a call to action to “Share if you love your (insert family member here)” I haven’t truly questioned the validity of my love for them when abstaining from hitting the Share button.

However, every now and then one comes along like the one that I quoted above that has me a bit nonplussed. It was curious enough to make me say “huh…”, yet not life-altering enough for me to remember it without having to Google it for this post. In doing so, I found other renditions of this cut-and-paste nugget of wisdom, one of which states:

If you have to choose between me and her, choose her because if you really loved me there wouldn’t be a choice.

…which, as I envisioned the person stating it, made me wonder how she could type that while her hands were firmly ensconced on her hips and her lip half pinched in a condescending smirk.

This led me to examine the nature of ambivalence, further prompted by the cards I drew today. It’s often said that ambivalence is the result of not knowing what we want. I beg to differ. I think this Facebook shareable illustrates quite well that it is more a matter of having and eating cake. Our ambivalence is born of wanting two thing, but not being sure which coffer hides the bigger booty.

As much as I can appreciated the apparent romantic conviction in this quote, I’m not sure I subscribe to it completely. The implication here, specifically in the second version I shared, is that if someone wants to have something or be with someone badly enough the alternative would hold absolutely no appeal. An overwhelming desire for a person or thing should completely eclipse any possibility of that person having a desire for any other.

While that is quite often the case, it is not exclusively. As fickle human beings with frequent fleeting desires, sometimes nothing does us a greater service in helping us determine what we truly want than being presented with two seemingly equally compelling options. I like to give Abraham Maslow a run for his money with my theory of a hierarchy of wants. The idea here is that in any list of desires a person has at any one time, every single desire resides in a hierarchy. Our personal lists of wants are akin to the way Americans like their final scores in sports… without ties.

I have yet to be convinced that two desires share equal ground. Take two desires and place them on a balance scale, one will invariably weigh out over the other. Since we’ve not invented a means of gauging each half of an ambivalent heart space, we just have to have our wants go toe-to-toe, fistacuffs, mano a mano, faceoff, draw at the count of three. There’s the idea that competition creates strength in nature. Without a competing force, complacency thrives and value diminishes. Yet when two species compete for survival, the one that is meant to thrive perseveres. Nature says that the one that should be allowed to survive in her harsh domain is the one that has to prove its right to be there.

The next time we are faced with a seemingly agonizing choice and the pros and cons list between the two seem evenly stacked, we are standing before a brilliant opportunity. We are about to earn a reward far greater than we imagined, simply because the other option which caused our ambivalence actually served to help us determine what we truly wanted. We do not have to lament the one that got away, we can be thankful for the assistance that it provided in helping us land our true catch, then release it to let it find its way to where it was truly supposed to go, thus repaying the favor it did for us.

Six of Wands with Ace of Swords

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

When I was in high school I lettered in band and theater. I remember getting some notice from the school that there would be an award ceremony on some given evening and they wanted to acknowledge my achievement. Personally, I didn’t know what it was all about, I had no idea what to expect. I had never lettered in anything as I never participated in sports in high school. The closest I came to entering into a sport was when I considered joining the water polo team. The season conflicted with a play I wanted to be in so I spared myself the experience of aspirating copious amounts of chlorine infused pool water.

I wanted to dress appropriately for this event, so I did my best to scratch up my best wardrobe from a school picture day long gone by. This resulted in a hodge-podge of raiment that consisted of an ill-fitted Oxford of a color that vacillated between neutral and pastel with a lavender knit tie that, as you may know if you’ve ever experienced any slice of 80s men’s fashion, is not unlike trying to tie a Windsor knot with a tube sock. My slacks told a story of having once been worn by a shorter David. The shoes… well, quite frankly I don’t remember the shoes.

I remember sitting in the back of the theater next to my mother and sister (and maybe my father, if my mom had successfully guilted him into attending, but my memory is too hazy on that). I listened to students’ names being called and watched each one that was present march onto the stage to receive their certificate and their pin. I did not find myself getting nervously excited about the accolades, nor was I indifferent to the whole event. I was anxious about walking the proscenium catwalk of teenage growth spurt style illustrated in color-blindness and punctuated with a deficit of fashion sense. My attempt to at least be well dressed was simply not well enough.

I believe I hung those certificates somewhere on one of the walls of my bedroom or my closet door. They were not displayed for the purpose of reminding family members and friends who crossed into my teenage lair of my extracurricular achievements. I just slapped them up there because I thought I was supposed to.

I’ve never understood the grand display of diplomas, awards, recognitions, and bravos framed behind glass and hung on office walls. If people desire to do that, more power to them. However, I’ve heard more stories of people who have become accomplished in one form or another attribute their motivation to a desire to prove to another person or specific peoples that they “made it”, that they’ve “become somebody”.

Isn’t there greater value in pursuing a goal primarily for the value returned from its accomplishment? Far too often many of us set out with something to prove to others, that we will show them once we’ve become successful. We feel that being one of the leaders in the cult of personality will bring even more personal significance to who we are, with our personal ascension toward enlightenment being achieved during the tossing of roses and the thunderous ovation. Then what happens when the last audience member to applaud realizes everyone else has stopped clapping and the curtain draws?

If our motivation toward any goal or achievement is based on winning the approval of another, or to gather around our plaque while nodding to each other the wonders of our excellence, that is a clue that our authentic selves have been left behind in the pursuit of our ambitions. Who we are and what we become needs no outside recognition to be validated, only the recognition that our greatest accomplishments are those that still make us proud in the stillness of our solitude when there is no one else to lay witness to them.