Faith with Five of Swords

 

wpid-imag1338.jpg
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.

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Five of Swords

Five of Swords
A man looks smugly toward two dejected adversaries, he holds three swords as two lay on the ground

Competition can be healthy if held in the proper perspective. It can serve as fuel to inspire us to push beyond the limits we previously imposed upon ourselves. However, there is a danger in depending on competition as the primary source of motivation in manifesting our desired outcomes.

As others merely serve as reflections of ourselves, those we compete against are serving as reflections of our limitations. They aid and assist us in seeing the limits we have created for ourselves. Once we can move beyond depending on adversaries to highlight our own limitations we become less dependent on needing competitors to provide the impetus to excel.

Defining our successes through the conquest and besting of others creates the illusion of success. As we look to our defeated competitors as an indication of our own improvement we immediately look away from the measure of our own personal growth. It may seem as the defeat of another is indicative of our success, but we can defeat another person with no measure of personal improvement. The measuring stick for success is a personal one, so once we hold our own measuring stick against another person’s endeavors we cannot be honest with ourselves in our own self-assessment.

What happens when we have no more competitors outside of ourselves? Our only means of self-improvement comes at the hands of another when we depend on them to drive us toward success. This means that we stand still and stagnate without another person to compete against. We become blind to our own personal power, we lose the capacity for self-motivation. We have not learned to recognize our limitations on our own, thus we experience defeat at our own hands without another to serve as an adversary.

In competition, in order for us to win someone has to lose. When we depend on another’s loss to define ourselves we continue to operate this way when we compete against ourselves, which means we have to ensure we lose in order to win. This in turn creates self-defeating behavior. The best way to ensure we succeed without an adversary is to help others succeed when we are improving our own circumstances. With every other person’s success or failure we can count that toward our own; with the defeat of a thousand people we suffer the death of a thousand cuts. When a thousand people succeed we excel by a thousand steps.

Seven of Swords

Seven of Swords
A man sneaks away from an encampment with a handful of swords, leaving only a couple behind

Sometimes when we evaluate our progress toward creating the life we want, we may see it as being impeded by the actions of others. Perhaps our efforts at work seem to be eclipsed by a coworker whose work is more noteworthy. Maybe we are looking for support from a friend or family member but the wants or needs of another member of the group seem to overshadow our own. Or we might land an interview or an audition time and time again only to be trumped by someone more qualified or experienced.

At those times it may feel to us as if no matter how great our efforts or qualifications, there is someone who stands out ahead of us. We may believe that we simply need that edge to bump ourselves out in front of our competitors, the edge that they seem to possess, the one we lack.

The trouble with this perspective is we automatically disempower ourselves when we believe our fate is at the mercy of those that seem to be in a more advantageous position. Within every single one of us lies a myriad of skills, gifts, and talents which are unique to us, which can only be offered, presented, and utilized in a way intrinsic to our own individuality.

When we see our fate as being at the mercy of our competitors, we employ blinders that prevent us from seeing our own unique talents and skills. It is not that others are better, more talented, or even superior to us; it is merely that we allowed ourselves to overlook our unique gifts that would enable us to see the opportunity that is an ideal fit for us.

Successfully seizing an opportunity is akin to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. One piece does not fit into another because it is better than all the other pieces. It is because they are mutually receptive by design. We have more success figuring out where our own piece goes when we examine our own unique shape to determine where we truly fit best.