Five of Cups with Temperance

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Indulge me for a moment while I briefly discuss sports. American sports. Specifically, American football. I promise I’ll make it brief.

In 2008, the New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl, facing the New York Giants. New England waltzed into the Super Bowl having not lost a single game in the entire 16 game regular season, giving them a 18-0 record going into the big game. New York was facing this undefeated team after squeezing into the playoffs as a wildcard with a regular season record of 10-6.

Needless to say, the Patriots were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl. Yet New York was able to beat them in the big game 17-14.

Here’s my belief in the outcome of that game. Had the Patriots lost a game in the regular season they would have probably won the Superbowl.

Nobody save the psychological masochist or the celebrated victim likes to lose. Losing rends from us the last shred of self-confidence we clung to for survival during our final battle. The higher the stakes of the contest, the harder the gut punch we receive with a loss.

The biggest losses we experience, or let me be so bold to say nearly every loss we experience, comes through necessity. When we experience defeat it is a defeat that is necessary and often overdue. The loss tells us that our current trajectory of growth has plateaued, that there was really nothing more for us to gain with a win, and that it is our destiny to rediscover ourselves.

Does a win compel us to look inward to the degree that a loss does? Does one win create as great of an appetite for victory as does our most recent defeat? Now mind you, this is not to say we should make sure we lose or that we should deliberately lay down our swords in the midst of combat just for the sake of experiencing a loss. Au contraire, we should play to the hilt even knowing the odds are stacked against us, for when we lose in light of this, our loss creates an even greater opportunity for us to grow, beyond where we would have otherwise.

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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.

Faith with Five of Swords

 

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Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

Man, between ISIS, Syrian refugees, the attack on Paris, and the presidential campaigns, social media is a hotbed for heated dialogs, debates, arguments, and the ad hominem poo flinging that basically states I’ve got no rebuttal, so that makes you an asshole.

I will be honest, I do find myself being lured into some of these debates due to my predilection for challenging topical discussions. During one of these I was labeled as a postmodern philosopher, pejoratively if I might add. He told me I was dangerously blind to the truth of our society, a sociological given that I was a fool for not conceding to, that his choices were based on the quantifiable and predictable results of repeated historical behavior in our culture.

I told him as a postmodern philosopher I had to concede that he was right. I followed with “…then again, so am I.” with the obligatory winky emoji. If there were an eyeroll emoji I’m sure he would have sent it back my way.

The allure of championing ideological perspectives against an opposing view on social media is a chunk of pyrite on fly paper. We get drawn into the inescapable trap of wording our position cleverly, forcefully, or demeaning enough that we are convinced of our inviolate ability to verbally thwart our opponents into head-nodding submission, leaving us to collect their bobblehead effigies to mount upon the mantle of our own social righteousness. Then when we become disillusioned by their tenacity to hold their perspectives against our excellently delivered salvos we escalate our counter attack, continuing the melee until we get hungry or tired or distracted by a cat video and simply walk away.

If we are so resolute in our conviction, why do we seem so adamant in taking charge against the infidels in the comment threads? If we could convince that person that is just plain wrong and massively deluded to repent, do we get extra chits which we can carry into heaven to exchange for giant stuffed teddy bears or a DVD player or a golf cart stocked with a mini bar? Why the hell is it so all-fired important for us to be right?

This morning I shared this article by Lydia Wilson from The Nation regarding what she had discovered while interviewing imprisoned ISIS fighters. In sharing the article I had said:

It is said that in order to defeat your enemy you have to understand your enemy. Ironically, once you truly understand your enemy you find at the core they are no different from you.

Our greatest enemy is the enemy of ourselves within ourselves.

This article shows the value in actually taking time to understand the validity our “opponents” find in their position. We often forget or even ignore during our bantering and ballyhoo that the opposing position to ours taken was not chosen arbitrarily. The position espoused by those across the aisle or the street or the Thanksgiving table or the ocean or the DMZ was chosen because it reflects the human condition under which they live, it underscores their personal narrative formed from their collective experience. To tell them their views are invalid is to tell them their lives have been invalid since the day they were born.

When we seek to refute an idea, belief, opinion, or ideology that opposes our own we actually create a psychological and spiritual vulnerability within ourselves. I know there’s the romanticized notion of having a John Wayne level of unshakeable conviction that makes the pectorals of the toughest tough guy perform feats of granite. Yet the inability to see beyond one’s own sliver slice of the human experience leaves one’s foundation constructed of playing cards and wet toilet paper and the plot of Con Air.

Being unwilling to or incapable of seeing the validity of another’s truths for themselves prevents us from seeing our own shortcomings under the shadow of our chauvinism. When we see our perspective as inalienably irrefutable we can no longer see which aspects no longer serve us, or worse yet, are to our detriment to continue to uphold. When we stretch ourselves to look through the eyes of the adversary we can lift the blinders that conceal our own weaknesses and conquer the aspects of ourselves that encumber us from moving toward our own personal and spiritual growth.

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.

The Hanging Man with Five of Cups

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

I know a guy who fully embraces the Finders-Keepers game. He will often boast on one or another acquisition he’s recently stumbled upon. He’s kind of like a human crow, I suppose, carting off every shiny metal object to his lair, then cawing marvelously “look what I found” from the highest branch of the nearby cedar tree.

Some of his findings have little more value than the swag you grab from a fishbowl at a trade show. Then again, some things might possibly hold more value… specifically to the original owner that had lost the item. As the finder holds up a thumb drive and rotates it like a watch on a motorized turntable in a glass display case I sometimes wonder if it holds the final draft of a senior’s term paper and they are now in a full throttle panic trying to find that thumb drive. Perhaps they are tearing their bedroom asunder in the search for it, or they are returning to every classroom and computer lab they visited, or they are checking in with the lost and found every hour like the nerdy kid who just gave his phone number to a girl in the line at Panera yesterday, or they are putting up “Have you seen me?” flyers around campus with a picture of him with his arm around his thumb drive. “About 1.5 inches long, dark blue, goes by the name SanDisk”.

My, how Lady Fortune shines upon this guy, dropping in his foot path all sorts of lost items that he can claim. Before, he had stuff; now, he has more stuff! It is irrelevant to him that his more-stuff comes as a result of someone else’s less-stuff. One thing’s for certain, the path of discovered trinkets and chachkis does not lead to the Lost and Found box where any of it could be turned in to be claimed by its rightful original owner. Perish the thought.

Okay, so where was I going with this? I just had to look at the two cards again to bring me back to my original point…

Ah, yes. Okay. Here’s what I say: I once again make a counterintuitive-call-to-action here as I’m sometimes inclined to in this blog. If you find you’ve encountered a material loss, if you find that through a series of teeth grinding events your last $100 has been reduced to your last $20 in the blink of an eye, it’s time to give $10 of it away. What?! you say, making sure the interrobang comes through loud and clear in your exclamation. That’s all I have left to my name!

I have a couple of bullet points in the list of why it’s a good idea. The first is a bit woo-woo, the second is a bit humbling. Let’s do the woo-woo first. Sometimes the universe (with a capital or lowercase “U”, it’s your choice) likes to remind us that we have too much. We find ourselves taking into account all the advice Cousin Avarice keeps whispering in our ear in its most sultry voice and we either continue our compulsive drive for acquisition or we hold on tightly to what we have. We’ve become so caught up in that sweet tantalization of just how good the goods are we are deaf to the universe telling us to let go so we have room for something better that may or may not actually be a thing. Our own fear has us seeing space as being equivalent to deficit.

Now from a more human perspective: When we find ourselves lamenting over how much we’ve lost and how we are left with so little, here’s what happens when we decide to give away half of what remains; we look for the person or people who need it the most. Nothing gives us a nice wake-up call to the extent of the fortune we have when we encounter someone to whom ten dollars is ten dollars more than what they have while it’s merely half of what we have.

Give it away. You will not be left with nothing, you will be creating space for the universe to give you what it’s been wanting you to have for a long time coming.

Five of Wands with Two of Pentacles

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

One of the most tear-jerkingly beautiful aspects of the internet is the fact that it is a bastion of steadfast opinions and convictions. At any time when there’s that little argumentative tickle waving a feather across your uvula you can hop online, sling your bag of world view talking points over your shoulder, and wander the landscapes of Twitter and Facebook and the comment sections of blogs and articles to scatter your seeds of stalwart convictions on all things political, social, and ethical.

Where else can we dive into the deep end of dispute, armed with confirmation bias and an absence of eye contact, or even an ad hominem or the Godwin’s Law nuclear option in case our talking points turn to tissue paper, and walk away knowing we are right? What a fantastic venue social media and forum threads provide us for wiping away any niggling self-doubt we might hold toward our own personal convictions. If we can’t be troll slayers in our own right, we can be their king.

What about when we lose power to our house and we have a low battery warning flashing at us on our smart phone? Then what? Who do we argue with then?

Whenever we find ourselves having trouble making a decision, we are essentially in a heavy debate with ourselves. This lacks much of the satisfaction of debating with others; when we argue with other people we can simply glance at the cue card displaying the right buzzwords, memes, and pundit points and deliver them adroitly with a parenthetical so there! When we argue with ourselves, however, we either hold dearly to opposing ideals or wants, or there is no driving desire to nudge us toward a particular choice.

The irony here is that our ambivalence is fueled by the same Sterno that keeps our online contentions hot. It is less about having a need to be right and more about being afraid of being wrong. We juggle one option over another in fear of choosing the one that will send us down the well of wrongness, and we lack the self-trust to be able to climb out like the proverbial mule if we end up getting buried for dead.

If we can take ten steps beyond the myopia of the moment, we can see what lies beyond our indecision. Often it’s a matter of looking at the bigger view, at seeing our greatest goals even if they are seemingly unrelated to the bifurcated path we face, and working backwards to see which choice will take us in that direction. There may be something we need to give up in the short term that has contributed to our vacillation, but it is easier to surrender when we see the greater vision.

Interestingly, our ambivalence invariably comes from not knowing who we are rather than not knowing what we want. When we see ourselves from the perspective of who we are and who we want to be, the ability to move toward a given option becomes much clearer.

Five of Cups with The Tower

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

Another movie reference pops into my head as I draw these two particular cards…

Moonstruck is a movie from 1987 starring Cher, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aiello, and Olympia Dukakis. There is a particular scene, perhaps one of the most referred-to scenes in the entire movie, that comes to mind. I’m going to set it up here without the obligatory SPOILER ALERT as there is a rule that states that if a movie is more than 20 years old you are exempt from having to declare that particular advisory as such.

For the sake of full disclosure, I made that rule up.

With all that out of the way, the scene goes like this: Loretta (played by Cher) wakes up to find herself in bed with her fiance’s brother (played by Nicolas Cage). She scrambles out of bed, hurriedly dresses herself and declares that they take their entanglement from the preceding night to their respective graves. He declares that he can’t do that as he is in love with her. She looks at him, take a beat, then slaps him. She takes another beat, chases that first slap with an even harder one that seems intended to stop his heart for a millisecond, then retorts, “Snap out of it!”

Often when we don’t get our way, or something just falls through the rotting floorboards of our overbuilt expectations, we get fixated on our loss. We go on and on about the injustice of the circumstance that has befallen us. We hoist the sheets up over our head and dehydrate ourselves through the tears of the loss of that really cool job we were supposed to get. We grouse about how we should have ran the ball at the one yard line, or if we felt we had to pass we should have not thrown it to the intended receiver running a slant to the middle of the end zone…

Oops, sorry about that. I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan that’s been listening to a week’s worth of aggravation regarding their final play call from the Superbowl… we now return to our regularly scheduled blog post…

We can sometimes get fixated on that certain something that we had been wanting. When we don’t get it we throw back our heads and wail to the sky while rending our shirts or blouses or tunics or what have you. We lament about how much better things would have been had we gotten what we should have gotten, how ain’t nothing no good no more gonna come my way now.

The biggest issue with crying over spilled milk is while that glass lay on its side and the white bovine-based protein drink drips off the table’s edge onto the linoleum where the dog eagerly laps it up, there’s still the better part of the gallon jug sitting on the table with the summer sunlight beaming through the window creating the perfect conditions for the bacteria cultural festival to begin drawing in throngs to get that party curdling.

More often than not, when something does not come to fruition for us, or when an opportunity gets snatched from our hands by a gust of I-guess-it-sucks-to-be-you, there is something better waiting in the wings. The woo-woo gurus of the cult of optimism love to say if the Universe doesn’t give you what you want it’s to hold the space for something better to come along. That’s all well and good, but if we gnash our teeth over what we have been denied, the Universe is going to get tired of waiting for us to calm down and will just move along, leaving a note that says “Sorry I missed you while you were the only guest at your pity party. I had something really good for you but I had to go.”

Really it’s actually not the Universe in it’s vast anthropomorphism that walks away with its prize. It’s our field of undeservedness that our lament casts around us, cloaking all good things from our vision that are to follow. We have determined ourselves unworthy of blessings as we did not receive what we thought we were due, so even greater rewards cannot be ours by right if the lesser reward was not. At some point we need to shake ourselves off and recognize that what wasn’t, isn’t, and will not be is just that and move on. We cannot see what is awaiting us until we lift our gaze from the ashes at our feet and turn around to face the sun that is shining on our backs.