The Fool with Four of Pentacles

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Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

In this particular deck The Fool is portrayed as the Big Bang. You know, that astrophysical concept they teach in science, while forgetting to regularly remind students that it’s just a theory? Behemoth quantities such as 14,000,000,000 years ago which are capable of inducing astronomical ice cream headaches when trying to cognize them get thrown around. I wrote it in numerical form so all those zeros would force your eyes to cross.

Despite having a degree in metaphysical theology I’m not one to see Genesisian cosmology (I just made up that word) as barely more than allegory, yet when I compare this massively adulterated Sumerian origin story draped in anthropomorphic language to the fresh-out-of-the-autoclave science-based “I don’t know… it just happened” account of the forming of the Universe, I really don’t see much difference. In both, there was really nothing, then suddenly there was everything.

Let’s stroll over to the right and look at this deck’s portrayal of the Four of Pentacles. It is represented by a depiction of an elliptical galaxy. Basically, these type of galaxies don’t crank out very many new stars and as a result don’t have many young stars. Think of Branson, Missouri. Thus, they are mostly comprised of older stars and big black holes. They are essentially the Florida or Arizona of galaxies.

So what’s up with these types of galaxies? Why are they packing in the same old stars for eons of ages? With that big black hole in the middle keeping tight reins on everything, it’s suppressing the creation of all those new stars. Bastard.

This is the way I see the energy of this card. It states that we are holding onto something so tightly as a means of maintaining an iron-fisted sense of security. Change is the boogeyman threatening to crawl out from under our bed and consume us. Newness is the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at our door right when we’ve sat down with a dinner plate heaped with piping hot food. The unknown is a disruption, an annoyance and aggravation and inconvenience as we would have to go through the trouble of learning how to deal with a fresh situation or circumstance.

Staunch, rigid routines have the appearance of creating a nice safe stasis field, but in all actuality they rush us toward entropy. Ask how the preservation of the status quo is working out for the fly in ember. If we want to cling to an unwavering way of life, we will in the process (or lack thereof) create such stagnancy that it will inevitably become a vacuum. What did Aristotle say? Something about Nature abhorring a vacuum? We can substitute Nature for Life. If Life senses a vacuum being formed by those who “hate change”, it will seethe and punch them in the face. It will ensure an environment so inhospitable only the nastiest of creatures can thrive. Look at deserts and swamps, Nature’s poster children for stagnation. I once again reference Florida and Arizona.

Nothing keeps entropy at bay like a surprise. Life thrives when bursting through the opened door of which we had no clue as to what was behind it. Let us unlock the box of mystery and dump its contents on our dusty floor. Let us choose to take the action of which we have no idea of its outcome, for that choice leads to renewed life.

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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.

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.

Four of Swords with The Empress

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

The old adage seek and you shall find may sound simple enough, but it isn’t as clear as it sounds. First, one needs to know what one is seeking. Sometimes that in and of itself is challenging enough to determine. Next, it doesn’t specify what one will find. It only says you shall find; it doesn’t say what. 

Simply put, due to that fact that one is seeking something they will invariably find something. They may not find what they’re looking for, but in the process of seeking something will be unveiled. Sure, you’re sweeping the beach with your metal detector hoping to find that 15th century Spanish doubloon but in the process you dig down in the sand to discover the bedazzled Barbie blouse. You see, the saying doesn’t say seek and you shall find what you’re looking for.

The source of most any disappointment, when you distill it down, is the fact that our expectation has been dashed. We had envisioned and anticipated a particular outcome, but a different option was indicated on the rubber flapper once the wheel came to a stop. One can heed that broken advice and try to hope for the best, expect the worst in a vain attempt to circumvent disappointment but the hope and the expectation cancel each other out, in the same manner as a concert double-billing Rufus Wainwright and Korn.

Many people see Zen Buddhist principles as dull and unrealistic. They look at the idea of pure acceptance of any situation that arrives with the moment as tantamount to chanting Om while getting punched in the face. I like to think they realize the disappointment created from expectation is far worse that the reality of the outcome.

So right here and now I’m going to tell you the secret to life. The secret to life is that it’s a secret. We are soaking in a bit vat of mystery, all of us. We can’t know it, we can’t predict it, we can’t control it. I will go so far as to say it’s the mystery of life that actually turns the gears of our reality. It’s the unknown that moves and drives everything forward. Everything we know to be real and true is a result of reaching deep down into the unformed vat of chaos and being surprised by what we pull to the surface of our being.

So when we find ourselves tired of not getting what we want, we need to simply stop and let things happen, then figure out what we want to do with what just happened. Embrace the mystery. Feed ourselves on the unrevealed. If we knew all the answers ahead of time, we would be so well acquainted with ennui that we wouldn’t see the point of being alive. There’s no better stimulation in life than not anticipating whatever is coming and letting the surprise light up all our senses.

Queen of Swords with Four of Pentacles

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

There have been a few occasions on this blog when I have used the phrase clucking [one’s] tongue. If you are unfamiliar with that term it’s likely because you know it as clicking one’s tongue, or if you’re of West Indian descent as I am you know it as sucking one’s teeth (a slightly different sound reminiscent of a sarcastic cricket that involves pulling air through the teeth) or if your primary method of communication is with your thumbs you might know it as smh.

At the end of the day… or really any part of any given day… all of these are indicated as an expression of disapproval. A 49 year-old man wearing gray socks with a brown belt and blue shoes might elicit a tongue click, or a juicy bit of gossip about how Porter was hitting on the daughter of the mayor of Georgetown, Guyana, right in front of him might yield a sucking of the teeth, or finding out that Sally just got bk tgthr wth Herman might warrant an smh. Each of these scenarios deems worthy of our swift and critical condescension with extreme prejudice.

When we practice the art of criticism we are taking a page out of the book of Performing Magic 101; it’s all about misdirection. It’s all about averting another’s eyes away from our flaws and imperfections by drawing their attention to another’s. We are essentially Quasimodo saying “I can’t believe she left the house looking like that.”

Let me be clear here… I am not using this platform to preach on the evils of shit-talking. Make no mistake; I’m not condoning it either. I am by no means endorsing Judge Hisbehavior. I am just pointing out a marvelous opportunity we can take advantage of when it comes to our awareness. The more we think or look at or speak of others disapprovingly, the heavier base of foundation we are trying to smear on our faces to conceal the flaws we believe we have. We know we have them, we just don’t want others to know we have them, and if others can’t see them, maybe they will cease to exist. That did not work for Snuffleupagus. I’m just saying. Now everyone can see him and now he’s just another giant Muppet.

We can move into greater personal growth by observing how we regard another person, and if we find it to be in a critical light, let it serve as a bell, a notification to tell us there is an aspect of ourselves of which we disapprove that we are trying to ignore. We are silently sending an encrypted message to our subconscious that says “we might be broken but that person is so much more broken than we are so we can’t really be that bad”. Meanwhile the subconscious isn’t buying that; it instead slaps a “Damaged Goods” sticker on our personal issue and shelves it, only for us to unbox it later during a time when we really need courage or self-confidence.

It is a guarantee that the degree of criticism we express toward others represents a fraction of the criticism we hold toward ourselves. Let us find compassion for others who travel a different path and have a different set of life experiences; they may seem unfitting to our way of life, but they serve as a means for them to learn and grow. That compassion will in turn will help us to find the compassion we need to show ourselves to help us in our own healing and personal growth.

Four of Coins with Three of Cups

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

When in Rome, right? Or should I say, when in the thick of the holiday season…

As a result, I’m going to address the thousand pound gorilla in a Santa suit that usurps the attention of all other matters this time of year. Yes, folks… it’s the holiday season. Sure, you may be a product of the Judeo-Christian system, or you’re a Pagan that wants your co-opted Yule back, or you’re having your annual Mawlid an-Nabī argument about what day is really Muhammad’s birthday, or you’re a proud secularist who is proclaiming exile from all festivities that smack of religious orientation. However for none except the Christopher McCandlesses of our society there is no escape from the Alcatraz of in-your-faceness that pins your eyes open in A Clockwork Orangeesque style compelling us to involuntarily gaze upon the ubiquity of the season that ’tis.

Let’s not pretend that we haven’t heard the chants of the lighter-than-gravity love and light police that insist that the holidays have become too commercially driven, too much about consumerism, too focused about stuffing our stuff with stuff. I myself have this compulsion to go caroling with these types singing a chorus of “Oh Avarice” at every door which stands behind a portcullis of FedEx and UPS boxes. So in an attempt to sidestep that compulsion while melting in the satisfaction of having taken a sheet of 80 grit sandpaper to that proverbial itch, I’m going to try putting it in a form of a challenge:

How many of us are concerned that giving just one gift to a recipient is tantamount to a slap in the face? How many of us going for a gift that reaches Defcon Spectacular, serving to widen our loved-one’s eyes to the level of cosmetically overworked Hollywood star? Let’s be honest, is it really about the recipient or is it about the flashy neon arrows that we get pointing to us, with our name on the marquis of “Best Christmas Ever” starring Yours Truly?

Let’s try this: Let’s see if we can come up with a gift that can in no way be purchased in order to be presented. The challenge here is not necessarily to toss a cup of water on the forest fire of consumerism; the challenge is to show ourselves that our own personal value is greater than a line item on a VISA statement. The biggest crime with the “stuff” giving paradigm of the holiday season is that we are led to feel inadequate if we can’t provide that certain someone with that certain something.

The challenge is designed to encourage us to find within ourselves our value, one that doesn’t need to be indicated with a pricing gun. If we feel we can offer nothing more than what we can simply purchase, then whatever we end up purchasing will merely contain the amount of love as the Shenzhen factory worker put into it. I believe the intent of this season is for us to shine a light on the joy that resides within each other. We do so by finding the greatest parts of who we are as people and utilizing those parts by giving of ourselves the gifts we were born with rather than the gifts that can be described as “it”.

Anyone with enough good credit can buy a certain something, one that will invariably lose its luster in the blinding light of the next holiday’s trinket. Thing 2 of this season will kill Thing 1 of Christmas past and take its place as the Best Gift Ever while Thing 3 hides amongst the packed away nativity scene laying in wait to make his move next Christmas. Truly the gifts that mean the most to our loved ones are the gifts that we end up taking with us when we are gone.

Three of Swords with Four of Swords

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

When I first drew these cards I was like, “Oh wow… two consecutive suits in a row!”. Cue Twilight Zone theme song. Then I was like “Aww…” due to the card on the left.

Here’s the thing about our friend the Tarot. The Tarot is not a party that never ends, where the flow of champagne springs from an endless fount, or the hookah of infinite hoses that has its bowl perpetually topped off, or the oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss beat of the dance floor that never stops as the DJ never goes home or needs to take a restroom break.

The Tarot has it’s Pooh’s Eeyores, it’s Gulliver’s Glums, it’s college campus buddy that fell backwards into the indifferent arms of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche after an ironically inspiring introduction during Philosophy 139. Its bristly cast-of-characters features players like Death, The Tower, The Devil, Nine of Swords, Ten of Swords, et. al. to come along and slap us around and grab us by the shoulders to give us a good hearty shake. They are assigned to deliver us the most obnoxious of wake-up calls when the electronic cawing of the alarm clock fails to jolt us out of our self-imposed fugue state.

I personally believe it is not aspiring to serve as the bearer of bad news; rather, it is lending its voice to bring a message during the invariable difficult times we experience as we travel the road of life. At some point we will encounter loss, devastation, heartbreak, and trauma. The only way to avoid this is to be the first one out, and most of us don’t necessarily wish to exercise that option.

There come times in our lives when we will find ourselves enveloped in sadness and hurt, where the footfalls of time seem to occur with centuries between one and the other. We shake our fist at time and its imposing inconvenience, as we wait for him to finish writing that check with his geriatric hand in the cashier’s line at the grocery store. We just want to race through our grief as quickly as possible and get to the other pain free side well ahead of the jackrabbit.

What we fail to see is that time is actually our friend. It is said that time heals all wounds, but it is more accurate to say that time tends our wounds to ensure they do not become infected and abscessed. All the distractions and diversions that serve to numb the pain of loss and trauma only serve to postpone it until they wear off, leaving us at the upper end of the 1 to 10 scale on the pain chart and a trail of damage left behind in the wake of our denial.

The bottom line is, we grow from these challenges. The pain of loss is a great teacher, and it can provide us with tremendous wisdom if we simply allow it to run its course and exhaust itself when it has fulfilled its function. When we do, we will find we have gained the ability to hold onto our gifts for greater periods than we were able to before.