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.

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Influences on 2016

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Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Is this another one of those what’s coming in the year ahead readings? Yes with an ifNo with a but…

If you are one of the wonderful listeners of our podcast Menage a Tarot then I’m sure you’re already aware I don’t care to do predictions with the Tarot. If you do not or have not listened to our podcast… you know now.

I see Tarot as a way of seeing the influences that are floating around in the air of probability like dust particles dancing in the sunlight through a window. There are energies that create eddies of influence based on the culmination of current events, the way the amount of traffic on the road or a Miley Cyrus song on the radio can influence our mood. I don’t believe anything is set in stone, though I do believe a train can be headed in a certain direction that will be tricky to stop or redirect at it’s current speed.

Okay, enough of the disclaimer. Here we go.

Eight of Wands – 2016’s energetic influence

2016 is the year when we see endeavors come to their fruition, when imminent closure becomes the word of the day, when we are close to saying we’ve arrived. This may be things we’ve been working on for a few months or several years. Even if we don’t see definitive endings in this year we will certainly see the signal that things are wrapping up soon.

Karma – mid March to mid June (spring)

The roosters are coming home to roost. Or is the chickens? The chickens are coming home to roost. I suppose because chickens roost rather than roosters? You’d think roosters roost based on their name. Maybe they do. What do I know, I grew up on a block with a cul-de-sac.

Spring of 2016 is when the piper comes around and asks for his check. Events come around that make us say “Did I deserve this?” Good or bad, up or down, whatever big chunks of circumstance that come around seemingly out of nowhere, it’s the universe’s justice system meting out sentences. Whatever groundwork we laid in 2015 or even further back based on how we treated others or the decisions we made and actions we took will pop up out of the ground or fall from the sky during this time. Even if the reaping doesn’t readily occur we will see the chickens on the horizon heading back this way to settle into the coop, whether we’re ready or not. Nonetheless it has to occur to create the energetic space for the rest of the year ahead.

The Lovers – mid June to mid September (summer)

This time of year will present a nice ripe opportunity for us to get our big projects and endeavors wrapped up, to finally see our plans come to fruition. Now here’s the caveat, because there’s always a caveat and nothing is free: These plans won’t just fall into place. They need to have a safe place to land. That means that we need to have our house in order. We need to lay out the logistics with our head and find inspiration and enthusiasm with our heart. Nor can we attempt to stamp it finished without getting the one person closest to us to sign off on it. Without the approval, cooperation, and accompaniment of our bestie, the wheels will never touch ground and our plans will simply become carrots on sticks.

Queen of Swords – mid September to mid December (autumn)

If we paid attention in the summer and found completion with our closest advocate in some manner or another, we will have the clarity and strength to wrap up the self-work that is due as we roll into the autumn. There will be a particular type of fullness that we will have attained through traveling to the end of a given road abreast with our number one ally, which is just what the witch doctor ordered to ready us for finishing up our solo endeavors. If we brushed them off during the summer and told them we’d meet them in the fall to complete our plan, we will find them absent as the cool air drifts in with the falling autumn leaves. We won’t find ourselves going it alone, we will find ourselves going it lonely.

Seven of Wands – mid December 2016 to mid January 2017 (winter)

If we haven’t found closure or completion by the time winter comes around, it will be that much harder for us going into it. The heaviness of the cold season with its short days will add another 50 pound bag of flour to our load in getting things wrapped up. The naysayers will seem to come out of the woodwork and they’ll have their tongues cocked for clucking and their mighty pen-swords armed for trolling our efforts. All our energy will be spent fending off energetic saboteurs rather than completing what should have been done well before Old Man 2016 was delivered last rites. We will carry our unfinished endeavors into 2017 like returning home with suitcases full of luggage to unpack from a canceled trip.

What has been in play in 2015 will get a neat little bow in 2016, or it will throb and pulse in our vista until we give it the attention to enable it to culminate into whatever finale it is yearning to reach. We need to either let them finalize or willfully stitch them up. We can only carry into 2017 the endeavors which we began near this new year’s end, as this is the year the window on our long standing plans will close.

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.

Eight of Cups with Seven of Swords

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

As eye-rollingly poppy and filled with cliche tumbleweed town wisdom as is Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler, I cannot wax condescending regarding its seemingly jejune advice, as I would find myself belied by my previous poker analogy ladened posts regarding being pot committed that I had written here –> (Page of Wands with Eight of Wands) and here –> (The Tower with Eight of Coins).

These two posts echo in their themes the advice given by the anonymous 1978 version of Johnny Moss in the lines know when to fold ’em / know when to walk away. So as to avoid the risk of the police coming to my door saying they received a disturbance call and hauling me off to jail in handcuffs while the theme of knowing when to walk away stares out the window as they put me in the squad car, I’m going to simply take a different perspective on this rather than beat it to death. I would not want Doyle Brunson rolling in his grave, was he not actually still alive.

It may seem like the least apropos time to think about this when you’re chest deep in quicksand, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves if we are deceiving ourselves by believing we can succeed in an otherwise futile scenario or if we are merely deceiving ourselves into believing the scenario is futile as a means of an excuse to eschew any future effort required of us.

Since I’ve abandoned the poker analogy and am now going with one involving quicksand, I’m going to go with it. In this scenario, the solutions to prevent oneself from becoming further immersed in quicksand seem counterintuitive. Some suggestions from the Bear Grylls ilk is to sit down or attempt to lie down. This feels much like turning into the direction of a skid or pretending you’re dead if a bear is charging you, or pulling prime rib out of the oven before it reaches its ideal temperature, or complimenting the wardrobe choice of your boss of a different gender. When you’re steadily feeling yourself being pulled down by the perception-addling non-Newtonian fluid, the last thing you believe will save your life would be to relax into it like coquette sipping a Piña Colada in a cabana. Yet this has been proven to help one escape from nature’s gravity well, though it might provide futile in escaping from this encumbering analogy.

This is an illustration of the solution residing outside the box. All too often when we find ourselves way too far into our pursuit with no hope of success and a long way back to Start, we are driven by the dynamo of intensity-fueled frustration, of a tenacity that is applied simply for the sake of tenacity. When all we know to do is to put our heads down and push through, we can’t see the possible divergent paths to our left and our right.

Before we are ready to walk away from an exhausting black hole of effort with no return, leaving the construction of our dream three-quarters the way complete only to find out we are broke and ineligible for any financing assistance, it’s time to actually lie down on the floor and stare into the starry sky since there is no roof on the structure. Stop the pull of the quicksand and the hemorrhaging of hope long enough to let the mind wander. When we release the frenetic fervor of effort even only for a moment, leaving our thoughts free to roll in Elysium fields of disassociation from our task at hand, we open ourselves up to finding an alternate route, an untried avenue, a probability that is just crazy enough to work.

Eight of Swords with The World

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

I figure since the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. is a good three months behind us, what better time to refer to it in a blog post?

You know how we get on Thanksgiving day, where we make jokes about hollow legs and eye size disproportionate to stomach size and all that? We sit at the dinner table with 61 serving platters of various dinner items, enough starch content to drive all the dry cleaners in Poughkeepsie out of business, gravy the thickness of aircraft carrier paint playing duck duck goose with every item on your dinner plate, the Jayne Mansfield of turkeys beckoning you with its syringe of tryptophan in its crispy wingtip waiting to plunge it into your plaque-filled corroded carotid artery.

Sounds kind of unappealing on a cold Monday morning in February, doesn’t it? Yet on the fourth Thursday in November we find ourselves inspired by the cheerleaders of team gluttony in their seam strained skirts chanting “More! More! More!” until we find ourselves attempting to make the exhausting ten foot march from table to recliner in the fashion of Templeton during the fair scene in Charlotte’s Web.

Yes, I know. You couldn’t possibly eat another bite of my Thanksgiving analogy, so I’ll get to the point. When we become overindulgently self-serving, when we gorge ourselves on fulfilling our personal desires at the exclusion of others, we can find ourselves immobilized by the acquisitions of our avarice. We become driven by a fear of potential lack so we begin to acquire and hoard. We feel entitled to gain and gain to the point that the stockpiles we have acquired block us from being able to get to the exit of our storeroom.

When we find we have reached a point in our lives, even figuratively, where we feel immobilized, where we seemingly incapable of making any forward progress, it is time to be of service to our neighbor and fellow human being. During those times when we feel stuck we often experience the compulsion to become self-indulgent, perhaps from fear of having to go without, finding ourselves wedged into our own situation, believing all good things might fall outside of our reach.

We are no cornucopia in and of ourselves. Attempting to create movement and direction in our lives by feeding the insatiable hunger of a suffering ego will only further scorch the ground beneath our feet, only deepening the hole in which we stand. We need to offer our talents and gifts in service to our sisters and brothers of this world. What we give always returns to us tenfold, in some form of fulfillment, material or spiritual, and will in turn move us forward in our lives, carried by the gratitude and hearts of the inhabitants that share this world with us.

Page of Wands with Eight of Wands

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan
Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan

One of my favorite terms ever, in the history of idioms and colloquialisms and in my pursuit of blogging hyperboles is pot committed. No, this is not a reference to an unwavering devotion to all things cannabinoid. For those of you that didn’t dive head-first into America’s love affair with televised high stakes poker tournaments at the turn of the 21st century, let me explain:

When one has become pot committed in a hand of poker, it means the player has already put so many chips into the pot that it would be essentially throwing money away to fold, even if the prospects of winning the hand are grim at that point. The player might as well see it through, hoping for St. Somebody to start dealing out miracles at the poker table.

I love that term, I bought flowers and chocolates for that turn-of-phrase, I have gone down on my nearly-fifty-year-old cracking and popping knee to propose to that expression because it paints such a picture of our cultural reticence. It’s John Wayne holding hands with Clint Eastwood as they swagger through the main street of the town that will fall under the category of ghost at the arrival of the telephone to tell us to cowboy up and see it through. You don’t walk away when you’re this deep in it, no matter how many leeches are nipping at your ankles.

You know what I say? I think it takes bigger bowling balls to tear the whole thing down and start over when you’re so far into it, when you can see the vending machine within arm’s reach. That dollar bill you’re holding looks like a Scotch taped Sharpei which it will spit out in disgust with each attempt to feed it to the machine anyway. C5 will taunt you and deny you that tiny bag of Cheetos, leading to even greater shirt-rending anguish. Go back to Start.

I once learned of an apprentice to a drywaller who would erect and attach and mud and sand a wall under the supervision of his master. The master would watch him as he worked through the entire process, only to tear it down at its completion and make him start over. Meanwhile we sit in the studio audience and boo and turn to the lady sitting next to us that we only met on the tour bus on the way to the show and say “that guy is such an ass!”, as my applause slices through the din of disapproval like a drunk Nascar fan during the death scene of the antagonist at the opera.

Why do I find the idea of starting over when we’re near or at the finish line so fantastic? I believe it celebrates the notion that time is simply not. Time is a paper tiger of which we’ve become absorbed in the suspension of disbelief, obeying its barking orders like a Private First Class. When we fold on a futile hand while being so pot committed, we are declaring our inexhaustible wealth of time. We are showing the statement to our Swiss bank account of unending moments stitched into one great tapestry of eternity. We are showing ourselves and the world that it is our time, and it’s ours to burn as we see fit.

One of the most beautiful examples of this is the dul-tson-kyil-khor, the art of mandala sand painting by the Tibetan lamas of Drepung Loseling Monastery. They spend days, sometimes weeks, constructing exquisitely colorful mandalas with millions of grains of sand as you see here:

When they’ve completed this gorgeously intricate work of art they then deconstruct it, allowing its vibrant beauty to only reside in the memory of its viewers. It symbolizes that nothing is permanent, that the value in creating this great work of beauty is self contained, that it is about the process rather than the attainment.

So whether we believe we are too far into anything to turn back now, or whether we head back to the starting blocks just before breaking through the tape, the bottom line is it’s all one big Etch-a-Sketch that gets shaken by the universe when we eventually make that final exhale. At that point we’ll be in the middle of doing something as it is.

Wheel of Fortune with Eight of Pentacles

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Once upon a time when I was hanging with my mother, we took notice of the once popular Shit Happens bumper sticker that was displayed on the back of some non-luxury vehicle. Mom proceeded to express her distaste with that particular slogan. I’m not sure what about it she found distasteful; whether it was the vulgarity of the expletive displayed publicly to fall upon the eyes of pious women and the young offspring born not of longshoremen, sailors, and auctioneers with Tourettes, or the cavalier pronouncement that unpleasant things befall us and we would do well to accept it, or the banality of the a working class expression never to be uttered by any member of the Bronte family.

Perhaps I should have had her elaborate on it when I saw her at lunch yesterday. What better time to broach the topic of excremental transpirings, no?

Personally I don’t mind the expression. However, I do find it weighs in favor of the perspective of the pessimists who insist on declaring themselves realists. After all, lottery winning happens, love happens, family reunions happen, trees happen, street magicians happen, and Yom Kippur happens. Basically something, everything, and anything happens.

It’s too bad so sad that people often focus on the shit. As much as I do applaud the existential declaration of the inevitability of events undesirable, it overlooks that pure raw power that is inherent with being geared up with the tool belt of free will that immediately follows each shit ladened circumstance.

We human beings spend a great amount of time attempting to hedge our bets against the whims of the Fates. We hope to stack the deck and insure ourselves in the event of a fire, theft, or act of God despite what is written on the policy of That’s The Way Life Goes. The truth is, we can’t crystal ball every event on the horizon. The bumper sticker is absolutely right in its working class style of broad spectrum prognostication. Shit has happened, it happens, and it is going to happen.

Rather than trying to stock our bug-out bag for every possible contingency, wouldn’t it serve us better to embrace the truth that roses spring from the manure that gets spread around their bases? We make checklists based on our fears of what we are afraid we cannot handle rather than lists based on our ability to endure adversity. How many episodes of tragedy, misfortune, and shit luck have we encountered only to rise from the septic tank stronger than ever?

The people who appear to have the best luck also tend to have the worst luck. The trick is, the circumstances blown in by the winds of fortune did not determine their outcomes. The knowledge that the choices they made from the moment following these events would be the true determining factor of their own fate.