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.

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Judgement with Death

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Who of us doesn’t know the Glory Days guys and girls? The members of this club comprised of the defunct elite that include the ones who double-lettered in every sport available in school, offering them an ego on which the sun could set to attract any and all those cute little moths to the light of popularity. They flashed their bright Gleem-polished teeth across the serfs of their Homecoming court, knowing they would knight them with such titles as Best This and Most Likely to Accomplish That in the annals of the yearbook. What has earned them membership is the dues that they pay in the form of leaving a large slice of who they are back in those halcyon days. Their conversations consist of regaling others with highlight high school reels, with the end of the film going flap-flap-flap and the screen showing white the day after graduation.

It’s absolutely outstanding for people to have a bevy of wonderful achievements to list on their teenage life experience resumés, but life continues after age 20. That’s actually the danger of any point in our life where we create a bright vivid glorious set of memories of which we frame and underscore with the caption Best Days of My Life. We sit and reflect on them with a dangerous nostalgia that immobilizes us from reaching any further beyond those achievements.

With all that we work toward, with the culmination of actions and choices that we have made in our endeavors and undertakings, there is a final assessment, an evaluation, a recognition that occurs. We hang that diploma on the wall, we get the guy or girl we’ve been pursuing, we have the position and title and desk we have valiantly earned. All too often we get paralyzed by the attainment of our own accomplishment and we sit and polish our trophy when there’s a whole world outside zipping quickly by. We remain seated in the theater long after the MPAA logo has floated past the top of the screen and the attendants are sweeping up candy boxes and something-distantly-resembling-butter ladened popcorn.

Yay, we’ve unlocked our specific life achievement. It’s over now. What defines us is our pursuit, our reinvention of who we know ourselves to be. We’ve already earned the dots and letters that serve as the appendage to our surnames; what have we done for life lately? Basking in our past accomplishments without recognizing that that particular chapter is over and that it’s time to start on the new one leaves us in danger of stagnating under the marquee of our achievements. Who we are is not who we used to be, even in the brilliance of our past attainments. Who we truly are is who we are striving to become.

Six of Wands with Ace of Swords

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three of Wands

Three of Wands
A person stands overlooking the sea as several ships set sail toward their destinations

In envisioning the life we want for ourselves there are no goals that are too big for us to attain. However, we sometimes find ourselves resistant to setting goals that are too grand in fear that they are too far out of reach. We may not believe we have the patience or tenacity to reach those goals, that we may become jaded or frustrated with the continued efforts required to reach a desired outcome in our life that may take months or years to accomplish.

It is often said that we need to keep our eye on the prize when we set out to accomplish any goal that is highly ambitious. The truth is, the more ambitious the goal, the longer it takes and the further away it is from us. It is difficult to keep our eye on something that is extremely far on the horizon. Continue reading Three of Wands

Six of Wands

A man crowned with a laurel branch  holding a wreath topped staff rides horseback alongside a crowd with staves raised
A man crowned with a laurel branch holding a wreath topped staff rides horseback alongside a crowd with staves raised

What is a great way to accomplish those big achievements we set for ourselves? By recognizing and acknowledging the small achievements we accomplish.

Part of the process of learning to manifest our intentions is learning to feel the sense of accomplishment. With each accomplishment we acknowledge, we condition ourselves to become used to the feeling of taking positive steps toward our goals, of moving forward.

So often we get so focused on the goal that our pursuit of it can feel like the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick. It seems as if no matter what steps we take we do not seem to be any closer to our goal. However, every grand achievement is comprised of many many smaller achievements. Even the tiniest achievement is a victory upon itself.

Perhaps we only spent five minutes on a step toward a goal that might seem years away. That means we are now five minutes closer. That was five minutes we felt was important enough to invest our time and energy in our intended outcome rather than a diversion or a distraction.

Many of us have learned to be more self-critical growing up than self-approving. As a result we focus on where we fall short of our goals or our inability to reach them as soon as we like. We may base our self-worth on whether or not we have attained a given goal or station in life, feeling that we are inadequate if we are not yet there, rather than acknowledging we are moving in that direction, recognizing we are in a state of becoming that which we want to be.

Celebrating even the tiniest victories helps our minds and bodies learn and recognize the feelings of success. No step we take is too trivial. Acknowledging each step, not matter how insignificant it appears, works to reprogram and overwrite the negative thought processes that impede our own progress. When we learn to continually feel the sense of accomplishment we get used to having that feeling. We then find ourselves pursuing that feeling automatically, without having to put as much pressure on ourselves, and we move more effortlessly along the path we set for ourselves. Before we know it, we have attained the goal we set out for without even realizing it.