Five of Wands with Nine of Cups

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Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne

To the victor goes the spoils is one of those expressions that makes me cringe. Maybe because it sounds so self-congratulatory, the fact that someone bested their opponent means they are now entitled to their stuff, their land, their tv, their wives and husbands, their pet ferrets.

Doesn’t it just fill you with pride when you reflect on how apropos this expression is in reference to those moments in our past that make us giggle and smile, like the European displacement of indigenous peoples from the lands of [insert territory or continent here], or the cute and charming slap fights that replay endlessly in the Middle East over abiogenic petroleum?

The whole principle distills down to this: someone was worse at a challenge than you so you get to take whatever they previously owned. If they can’t defend it they don’t deserve it. Makes you feel all warmy and glowy inside, doesn’t it? This aggression-fueled avarice ain’t big enough for the both of us.

If we have to obtain something by way of defeating another and taking it from them, then that which we have taken is essentially hexed. I’m not talking about game or sports oriented attainments, such as trophies or belts or titles or other events that make us sit shoulder-to-shoulder with other aficionados or on our couch with a bowl of chicken rinds. I’m talking about conquests, muggings, exploitation, Manifest Destiny, Operation Freedom, congressional votes won by way of which corporations can best afford the most pliable members of Congress.

I say to gain through someone else’s loss is essentially hexed because the acquisition plays host to the viruses that are carried on the backs of the victims’ grief and misery. We may believe that which we’ve taken brings us joys and pleasures through padding our source of means, but those means have within its inherent bones and DNA and internal structure the decay which inevitably consumes itself from the inside.

With the exception of battles which involve points and mascots and fans that can disperse to their beds and homes and cars when all is done, no conflict has any winners if it has losers. There is no gain that occurs at someone else’s loss. When someone suffers a profound loss, we all do. As long as we stand on the same terra firma and breath the same nitrogen/oxygen mix, we are all interconnected. We can talk ourselves into the illusion of perceived insulation (thanks, ego) so that we can take from another with a false sense of impunity, but we are really only taking from ourselves. A gain by way of another’s loss is really a loan that is impossible to pay and encumbered with soul compressing debt.

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Four of Cups with The Empress

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Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

Are you feeling jaded and bored? Be homeless for a day.

You say, “David, being homeless sounds boring. I see those people sitting around doing nothing all day with a cardboard sign that asks for money.”

Well let me tell you this… most homeless people I encounter are busying themselves. They are searching for food and provisions that will get them through the day. There is nothing boring about constantly being in a state of survival mode.

Well I’m not here to talk about social welfare or the plight of the homeless. I’m simply trying to make a point.

Being jaded and uninspired seems to be a symptom of middle class and above. We surround ourselves with a myriad of trinkets and toys and distractions until we inevitably find that none of these things seem to do it for us. We land in between the new and the used, the sheen and lustre and chrome plating has become dull, the gadget has been played with for the thousandth time and has become predictable and stale.

So I say if we find ourselves in the throws of ennui it’s time to get rid of our comforts. If we can’t seem to entertain ourselves any longer with the shiny trappings with which we crows have crowded our nests, perhaps it’s time to do away with them. It’s interesting to see what yields from the deep dark well of deficit.

Inspiration is not derived from objets d’sire. We have fallen under the Madison Avenue induced trance that has convinced us otherwise. We believe we are inspired by the fascination that novelty brings in the heads-up display of our new car or the slick features of that new smartphone. Yet these are merely distractions as they do not inspire outward expression drawn from the well of creativity. They are merely the tools of Mesmer that hold us transfixed until the newness sloughs off like so many dead skin cells.

Creative expression is drawn from the great void of isness. It is processed from the syrup that flows from the tapping of our soul. When we can turn inward to the cornucopia of our inexhaustible and boundless inner landscape we will find an array of flotsam and jetsam strewn out of the collision of countless beautiful experiences, tiny fragments of the constant re-creating and defining of the utterly broken and errant yet perfect and beautiful self.

If we find ourselves in the throws of the dulls, it is time we stop looking outside ourselves for inspiration. Our numbness is an indication we have become disconnected from the kernel of who we are and our inner voice sounds like din or worse yet, we have completely soundproofed ourselves against the call of introspection. What we are hearing is a clarion call disguised as boredom and numbness. Once we release the agitated ego that is attached to the ennui we find we were actually yearning to retreat within yet we were afraid to do so.

Two of Swords with Wheel of Fortune

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

A for-sure guaranteed inevitability that will definitely happen at some point in life is where we come to a crossroads, that place of indecision. Chicken or fish? The one that comes in gray or the one that comes in black?  Date the one from Arkansas or the one from Missouri? Call an Uber or call a cab?

Of course I cited examples that could be filed under small potatoes minutia. There are the biggies like coming out of the closet, or taking a job in another state or province, whether or not to quit our job, or whether or not to deliberately disseminate our glorious bouquet of DNA throughout the universe. Those are the ones that make us lay awake at night with our eyes wide open, counting bits of ceiling popcorn.

These episodes of paralysis-inducing ambivalence on what we truly desire is not as it seems. We like to believe that our vacillation stems from the fact that we want Option A as badly as we want Option 2. Let’s keep telling ourselves that we are the flag on the tug-of-war rope with the equally covetable options vying for our final decision.

But here’s the truth: the very thing that gets us stuck between Scylla and Charybdis is fear. Fear of being permanently encumbered with the result of making the wrong choice. It’s not that we want what’s in the left hand and right hand equally, we are afraid of being disappointed with what we ultimately chose and letting the unchosen option get away, never to see it again.

It seems to me that we stand at these crossroads looking in one direction or the other as if the road will always continue in that chosen direction. The reality is no matter which decision we make, that path will lead us to another bifurcation at some point. Every choice presents us its reward through what it used to tantalize us, yet it also calls for sacrificing something else we desire.

We are never permanently stuck with the results of a decision. What we chose inevitably leads to the next mentally rending decision at some point down the road, like a set of Matryoshka dolls with another point of decision within the preceding one. We could decide to bivouac in the middle of the intersection and refuse to take a path if we find ourselves that paralyzed. However, life is avaricious for change, it insists on exacting its toll of metamorphosis, it throws entropy in the face of the static. If we think we can avoid regret by not choosing, life will choose for us and we will invariably receive neither option.

Ace of Wands with The Moon

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Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Simple question: Who doesn’t like to be tantalized and titillated, mesmerized and mystified, enthralled and enraptured?

Did you raise your hand? Did you say “No, I’m not one for wonderment”? Probably not. I didn’t. I like to have my senses all atingle. I am much like most people I know; we love to find ourselves enthralled by some stimuli that widens our eyes and pries our mouths agape.

This might come in the form of a plot twist in a movie or tv show, it might be the high conflict in a novel or a story, perhaps it is a juicy piece of news about some big event that happened to someone famous, or innocent, or notorious.

Maybe our senses were stimulated by something new in the form of the material; we bought a new car, we tried on a new fancy wig, a puppy was introduced into our home, we just powered on the latest version of the smartphone we just received.

I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or a human condition thing, but we are addicted to newness. New events, new circumstances, new things, new technological advances, even new concepts and ideas. We love the moment when we cross the threshold from the banal to the thrill, we love to gasp at the reveal.

The problem is, the eternal stretch of the jejune that lives between the moments of delight inevitably rises up. It is during those lingering moments when we leap out of staying in the present like a cat walking across a hot stove. We play in our mind the highlight reels of the past events which tickled our senses, or we drum our fingers on the table waiting to be delightfully surprised again.

We as present-day people are jaded by peace and quiet and solitude. The irony is that true inspiration is found in the still space beyond the senses. We believe we are moved by all the little twinkles of delight that we so fervently seek, but these really are just distractions.

In all honesty, we are quite often afraid of those quiet moments where we are left with nothing but our own thoughts and feelings. The unspoken and unseen recesses beneath our senses are regarded like under-the-bed monsters. We live in fear of facing the part of ourselves that is meant to be grounded indefinitely without tv, phone, or dessert. We do anything to avoid having that long overdue nonverbal conversation with our subconscious. We know it will tell us what we need to do to be who we want to become, who we need to become, but it requires of us the work we aren’t willing to sign up for. It requires ripping the bandaid off our tender ego to reveal the shadow side that comprises our wounds and begs to be washed, rinsed, and exposed to the air in order to heal.

If we find ourselves frequently uninspired, with an insatiable itch to be tantalized by the next distraction be it through acquisition of the next latest and greatest thing or through a volley of escapisms, that is our queue to seek out the quiet space within. That realm may seem like it offers nothing but void and formlessness, but in all actuality it is the source of that which propels us toward our own rich becoming.

Ten of Swords with The Fool

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Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne

At some point in nearly every life, without exception, we find ourselves at the end of the road. We have ventured far enough into the blind alley to the point where we can proceed no further.

If I were to take a guess, the path to this impasse contained detailed plans, carefully deliberated decisions consisting of tweaks and changes to an outline of what we intended to achieve. We thought we regarded every contingency. We thought we entertained multiple alternate scenarios. We believed we had made our plan as foolproof as possible, only to find it had failed to come to fruition at the end of the day.

There are occasions vast in number when it is more than appropriate to chart out exactly how we will proceed in a given endeavor. However, there are moments in our journey or steps in our undertakings for which careful planning is not only futile, it can be detrimental and inevitably disastrous. During times such as these it is imperative to rely on our intuition.

Our intuition is a most brilliant guidance system that seems to follow no guidelines. It will fire off a message that signals us to make a specific choice or avoid a specific scenario, sometimes suggesting an option that falls counter to what might make better logical sense. Yet our left-brain ruler born of academia and conventionalism and even dogma spurs us on to stay on the well laid out path of the tried and true. A sensible plan was created; we must stick to it.

The tales of the greatest achievements of our lives often contain an anecdote of a whimsical decision we once made, or a leap of faith we had taken, or a series of serendipitous events that fell into our laps simply because we responded to a strange urge that came upon us. I will be so bold as to say the grander the intention the more unreliable our meticulous plans will be and the more often we will be tapped on the shoulder by our inner voice as to the best course of action.

The most detailed roadmap or accurate GPS cannot predict cuts of chaos into the fabric of order. We could not account for the aluminum siding that flew out of the truck bed, lifted by a gust that had been generated by the Brazilian butterfly’s wing flapping days prior. The subconscious, however, has the ability to see such things. It lives in the basement of reality along with the fractals blossoming from seeming randomness, with the quantum particles that occupy multiple places simultaneously, in the realm where time is merely the phone conversation doodles of the unrealized forces of our universe.

Our inner knower scoffs at conventional physics and linear perception. We however are enslaved by this inviolate illusion. All too often when our intuition raises its hand and makes a suggestion we are all too quick to dismiss it. We go back to studying our pieces carefully laid out on the board of our game of Mitigated Risk. The non-Euclidian math of the inner voice’s suggestion just doesn’t add up, so we chalk it up to nonsense and we stick to the plan.

There is a beautiful opportunity for us if we choose to look back through our dead-end endeavors. I would bet my spleen (or any other non-essential internal organ) that there were multiple times in a failed journey we had embarked upon when our intuition was screaming and waving arms to get our attention and we simply hit the snooze on its signal. If we can find those moments and recognize them as directions from within, we will know how to spot them in the future when they come along again to save us from ourselves.

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.

Six of Cups with Eight of Pentacles

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Developing a skill is all about practice. Practice is all about repetition. Repetition… well who looks forward to that? Doing something over and over followed by one hundred and overs

That’s one of the elements of refining and perfecting which we sometimes dread. I’ll raise my hand if you’re calling on someone to be honest; that’s what can deter me from developing a new skill or perfecting a half-baked one. The imagination gets put on hold and suspended in liquid nitrogen in favor of mechanical motion. No matter how cleverly Mr. Miyagi instilled karate reflexes into young Daniel-san it still has us dreading the notion of waxing a dozen cars.

Practice and rehearsal have a way of extracting the fun liquid center from any endeavor and replacing it with cams and gears that call for us to do it again with each grind of our burgeoning albeit not yet perfected skill set. It is the Sisyphean eternal application between where we are in our progress and where we want to be.

Sometimes I wonder… and I’m just spitballing here, thinking out loud… if that constant repetitive application that becomes the Lidocaine to our delights is an indication that the particular pursuit we are undertaking is maybe not for us? I know I normally apply my ideas much more definitively in these posts, but I’m giving myself license to mull out loud here. I suppose I’m looking at it from the perspective of a young musician who is learning to play guitar, or a young athlete who takes shot after shot at the hoop. When we’re young and we first fall in love with wanting to be the next great fill-in-the-blank, we will go at our new endeavor with wanton abandonment. There is no thought of the drudgery of repetition. There is only us and that melody, that swing of the bat, that stroke of the brush applied once after another after another after another- that love of whatever it is we chose to pursue being so great that we lose time in the rinse and repeat cycle. We see perfection in our mind’s eye, and each application of the exercise whispers the promise of its attainment the next go round. If we reach it, we do it again for the sheer delight of experiencing it, where we will likely trip again only to try again.

Do we see a treadmill of loathsome repetition awaiting us in between our here and now and the developed skill we desire? Perhaps we need to see if we are truly and madly in love with all that the skill encompasses. If so, our practice of it will temporarily banish time. If instead the spectre of chore shows up during its application, perhaps our attraction to that particular skill was not love, but merely infatuation.