Two of Swords with Wheel of Fortune

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

A for-sure guaranteed inevitability that will definitely happen at some point in life is where we come to a crossroads, that place of indecision. Chicken or fish? The one that comes in gray or the one that comes in black?  Date the one from Arkansas or the one from Missouri? Call an Uber or call a cab?

Of course I cited examples that could be filed under small potatoes minutia. There are the biggies like coming out of the closet, or taking a job in another state or province, whether or not to quit our job, or whether or not to deliberately disseminate our glorious bouquet of DNA throughout the universe. Those are the ones that make us lay awake at night with our eyes wide open, counting bits of ceiling popcorn.

These episodes of paralysis-inducing ambivalence on what we truly desire is not as it seems. We like to believe that our vacillation stems from the fact that we want Option A as badly as we want Option 2. Let’s keep telling ourselves that we are the flag on the tug-of-war rope with the equally covetable options vying for our final decision.

But here’s the truth: the very thing that gets us stuck between Scylla and Charybdis is fear. Fear of being permanently encumbered with the result of making the wrong choice. It’s not that we want what’s in the left hand and right hand equally, we are afraid of being disappointed with what we ultimately chose and letting the unchosen option get away, never to see it again.

It seems to me that we stand at these crossroads looking in one direction or the other as if the road will always continue in that chosen direction. The reality is no matter which decision we make, that path will lead us to another bifurcation at some point. Every choice presents us its reward through what it used to tantalize us, yet it also calls for sacrificing something else we desire.

We are never permanently stuck with the results of a decision. What we chose inevitably leads to the next mentally rending decision at some point down the road, like a set of Matryoshka dolls with another point of decision within the preceding one. We could decide to bivouac in the middle of the intersection and refuse to take a path if we find ourselves that paralyzed. However, life is avaricious for change, it insists on exacting its toll of metamorphosis, it throws entropy in the face of the static. If we think we can avoid regret by not choosing, life will choose for us and we will invariably receive neither option.

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Voting for President Meh

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In nearly every previous presidential election cycle, I have all too often heard people declaring their voting choice as a strategy to prevent a particular candidate from getting elected. This election is no different.

“Whatever it takes to keep [Candidate X] from getting into the White House!” is the declaration I hear every leap year. The pony getting backed is often not even a person that the voter is all that enthusiastic about. They vote with resignation for the person or even the party who they believe will do “the least amount of damage”.

After bearing witness to this voting strategy enough times, I began to wonder: How seriously do we take the position of The Leader of the Free World, The President of the United States of America?

Let me go ahead and provide the rebuttal: we take it seriously enough to not allow [insert candidate or candidate’s party here] to become president. That would destroy our country.

To begin, are we really buying into such hyperbole as to believe the president could single-handedly rend the fabric of our nation so irreparably? Do we not have faith in the checks and balances of the three branches of government?

Despite the degree of concern over a president stacking the judicial bench, at the end of the day they still follow the framework of the Constitution, albeit with wide interpretation at times. The Congress is still the body that creates laws and has the power to overturn  vetoes with a large enough consensus. Nothing will cross the divide of the legislative butt crack than a Commander-In-Chief that makes completely egregious decisions, which will invariably lead to impeachment.

How seriously do we take the position of President when we shrug and say he or she will do to keep their opponent out of office? That’s like choosing to go out with someone we’re rather ambivalent about just so we don’t have to date someone we can’t stand. How can we say we take the presidency so seriously we’re willing to block the candidate who disgusts us, but it isn’t so serious of a position that we’re willing to just toss someone in there to lead our country that makes us say meh…? Yeah, meh should lead our country and make the big decisions.

If we take this position seriously, we need to vote for the candidate that most closely aligns with our values. If we vote for a candidate based on their popularity, or their odds according to the media, then the presidency is really the Homecoming dance. Who are you voting for for Homecoming King/Queen? Me too. That’s who’s going to win, so that’s who I’m voting for. That’s the tail wagging the dog, isn’t it? Let’s put a dog in the White House.

Let’s stop letting boogeymen, bullies, and thugs scare us into choosing our vote. If we cast a vote based on what we fear as opposed to what we want, we’re sending the message that we are super easy to control. If you scare us, we’ll do whatever you want so we don’t have to face the monster. Let’s take a stand. Let’s spit in the face of the complacency of pragmatism that wants to tell us the outside odds of our dark horse winning.

We’ll only settle for what we feel we deserve (which is clearly not much) if we go with that tired talk track. We will get what we truly want if we insist on having what we want. If we vote based on what we don’t want, then anyone else will do and that’s what we’ll get. If we vote based on what we do want, we will get what we want and conveniently not get what we don’t want at the same time.

 

How to Win Despite Who’s Elected

As the presidential elections are in the beginning stages of the primaries, we’re moving past a slow simmer and the bubbles are rising to the surface. Soon the nominees for the Coke and Pepsi parties will be determined and the election cycle will kick into a rolling boil.

Since we live in a polarized political landscape where independent’s day never seems to come, the air will be roiling with the rhetoric of choosing sides. The supporters of primary candidates that now lay among the detritus of also-rans will sigh with great resignation and band arms against the Godzilla of the opposing political party. Portcullises will be lowered, moats will be dug, boiling oil will be poured down from embrasures to ensure the enemy does not win the election.

This makes me crazy. Every single presidential election cycle there’s a segment of potentially disgruntled voters spreading portents of how life will end as we know it if the opposing candidate gets into office. The defeated candidate they had supported will part the Great Lakes and their constituents will make their Exodus into the Great White North. America will descend into chaos, the ground will open up and swallow the consituents who practice idolatry before the worst president in history.

Once the styrofoam hats of party conventions lay broken on the floor and the inaugural dresses have all been sent to the dry cleaners, we find the redwoods are still standing. They are still selling Pringles. Brady Bunch reruns are still in syndication. The Knicks are still playing. We go on with our lives. There may be some shifts in the economic landscape, some for better, some for worse, but Zombie Nero has not taken over the presidency. Well, the same Zombie justices are still there for the most part… maybe the political ideology on one side of the seesaw got a fatter kid.

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What makes me crazy about this reaction to your man or woman not getting to sit in the big chair is that we seem to think the outcome of our personal futures is based on who is president of the United States. Yes, I said in my recent post that I believe that allowing corporations to basically create U.S. laws to their exclusive benefit is toxic, but at the end of the day we still have personal choices. Some of them may have become squeezed or encumbered or restrained or even limited, but we still have them. We are still the architects of our own lives. We still choose what to eat and where to work and how to raise our children and how to spend our free time.

There is power when individuals discover that no one is coming to rescue them – that if they don’t do something different, nothing in their life is going to get better. When that thought connects, it’s electrifying . A lot of people turn their lives around in quite marvelous and exciting ways, simply because they decided to stop waiting for help.
– Nathaniel Branden, The Psychology of Self-Esteem

I’m not so naive to think that a poorly chosen candidate can’t do some damage. I am saying that the damage can’t really be so great that we no longer have any control over the direction of our own lives. I believe this because we can still vote. We still have a voice in our election system. If that voice seems to be getting drowned out by the din of lobbyists and gerrymanderers, it is an indication we need to turn up our own volumes and consider more carefully the voting choices we have been making. For those who believe we become powerless at the hands of a single political party, they are only correct by virtue of believing it.

Death with The Star

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

“Hope when you’ve got nothing else, he once told us. But if you´ve got anything else, then for Heaven’s sake, Do it!”

Interestingly I came across this quote this week while reading Neil Gaiman’s Interworld. I had never heard this perspective on hope, and I had to chew on it a bit. When I read the above line from the novel it gave me pause…

As I rolled it over in my head, I wasn’t sure it jived with me out of the gate. I love hope. I live on hope, I suck the nectar of hope from every flower I pluck. Hope is that sweet scented carrot on a stick onto which I carved all my dreams. Was I supposed to regard the first half of that line as a modified welcome mat at the door of Dante’s Inferno, abandoning hope with an asterisk on having absolutely no other options?

The part of me that found this quote attractive was the teeny tiny cowboy in my psyche, sitting in the corner doing shots of tequila and smoking roll your owns while hawking my throat clear every 90 seconds. I scratch my nine day beard with my revolver and declare hope for cowards, that it’s only action that counts. Doing is what makes things happen, not wishing like some drunken horny toad hopin’ he don’t get squished by no car while crossin’ the road.

Any Law of Attraction motivational speaker can ask the crowd the one requirement to successful manifestation and once we sift out belief and positive thinking, what is left in the pan is taking action. Hope without action is just drifting clouds, when-I-win-the-lottery lists, someday sonatas.

Then I scrawled the line on the mirror in my mind and looked at it from the other direction. This quote is not advising one to take action without having hope cheering and yelling and jumping on the sidelines. We can let hope rub our shoulders and give us pep talks when we’re sitting in our stool on the corner and spitting into the bucket until the bell rings again, but the fights are won during the bouts when we’re on our feet sticking and moving.

The thing is, at some point, we run out of obvious choices. We are too exhausted to take any more actions. We stand in front of the Road Closed sign and nightfall is minutes away. This is where the meat of this quote comes into play. When there is no other turn to take, that is when we cast out our line of hope. Because we do not see any other options does not mean they are not there. They are invisible to us at the moment, but hope serves as a flashlight or a lantern that illuminates the hidden paths.

Hope also allows us to molt the uselessness of that which we had employed up to the point of exhaustion. Hope enables us to recognize that all of our efforts toward our goals and visions serve us well even if they do not enable us to succeed in reaching them at the current moment.

So when I read the line “Hope when you’ve got nothing else”, I truly believe when all seems to be exhausted, you are never left with nothing else as long as you have hope.

Karma with The High Priestess

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

I’m going to start this post with an examination of one of the cards drawn and presented here. I want to talk a bit about the Karma card…

Many of you are familiar with card XX (20) of the Major Arcana traditionally being the Judgement card. Interestingly, Ellen Dugan chose to instead refer to the card in this position as Karma. I’m a fan of this take, especially in juxtaposition with The High Priestess as I will explain here.

Even though Judgement in the Tarot is not necessarily meant to convey this as such, the concept of judgment carries with it a critical perspective of polarized ethics; good and bad, right and wrong, should and shouldn’t, etc. I don’t know if it’s due to having been marinated in Judeo-Christianity for so many centuries, but to judge is not as impartial as it erroneously implies, no matter how many kunk-kunks of the gavel we hear on each Law & Order episode. Judgment implies… nay, clearly denotes… right and wrong. You’re either with our with our laws and ethics or you’re against them. Hang ‘im! (no offense to the Hanged Man)

Perhaps it’s due to Eastern Philosophies being unsullied by the Abrahamic Religions whose protagonist is vengeful and jealous, not to mention they are by far the older stepbrother as religions go, but karma is driven by unbiased mechanics at its core. It is part of the cams and gears of the Universe rather than the byproduct of the fist clenching and face scrunching of some seemingly omnipotent entity. Karma is simply cause and effect. All actions create results of the same frequency.

I like the pairings of these particular cards from this deck, like how a specific type of fermented grape juice might go well with a specific type of bovine meat. Once we strip away the critical eyes and clucking tongues of social structures and mores we are left with pure and distilled action and consequence, of which not a single one occurs without the other. It might seem that we woke up as a cast member in this ultimate reality show to learn the rules of right and wrong, with a test at the end of class to see how well we applied them, but I don’t believe this is the case at all.

Without the misspelled sentences meted out by Judge Judgy McJudger we are free to learn to learn what we learn while jumping on the trampoline of self-aware corporeality. Armed with the potion of free will and the magic wand of choice, we get to create to our heart’s content. We also get to feel the effects of our creation. We get to play a benevolent rabbi that does great multiplying math tricks with fish and bread which we can partake in as well, or we can play a twisted rabbi that brings to life our golem which will eventually crush us when it inevitably goes into its uncontrollable rampage.

The bottom line is, we get to play god as the god fragments that we are. We create all day long by choices and decision and actions. It’s kind of a game of let’s make this and do this and see what happens. Yet what happens always happens to us at some point in some way. We cannot create then retreat into our impenetrable booth that renders us immune to the law of cause and effect. When we create through our choices and release our little pretties and tell them to fly, they always come back home. The biggest lesson we learn is not whether we did right or wrong, it is at what point we can determine which particular choice and action created a given personal experience.

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 Star with Two of Wands

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

…and they all lived happily ever after.

This is the end to every fairy tale we heard as children, then years later read aloud to our children as parents as we prayed for its hypnagogic effect to kick in so we could catch some iteration of CSI before we ourselves have to get to bed. All the while we are either completely unaware or in total denial that these tales originally had enough sex and violence to be potentially optioned by the Fox network.

Along came early 19th century romanticism that called for these tales to become sanitized to make them match the level of idealism that could be found in any middle school girl’s diary. The fae, otherwise known as fairies to our Western whitewashed sensibilities, are replete with bells and dust and wands and wispy wings and benevolent magic, transformed and bastardized from their original character of being mischievous, spiteful and conniving supernatural assholes.

This is the state of the human condition… we either focus on the devastating atrocities committed by the avarice and wrath of humanity or we create Disney-wrapped ideals for ourselves to attempt to attain. The optimists like to believe that Vlad the Impaler could have become a lightworker if enough people had meditated on opening his heart chakra, while the pessimists merely claim to be realists.

I have to step aside and confess to being 82% optimist and 18% I don’t know what the hell is going to happen. Having said that, let me share my perspective on perspective: One of the most important things we can have is hope. Hope moves us through dark times, hope propels us toward taking another step forward to a future that we want to see come to fruition. Hope helps to prevent us from resigning to a bleak situation with a potentially dark outcome.

Now here’s the advisory label I’m going to slap on the idea of embracing hope: Hope does not come with a lifetime 100% money back guarantee of happily ever after. It is foolhardy to believe that any circumstance for which we hope to come to pass will serve as a permanent panacea for all challenges, struggles, trials, tribulations, knee scrapes, angry spouses, sick pets, unsatisfactory meals at a restaurant, or other such malignance.

Here’s what we often fail to realize… the seeming fulfillment of our desired outcome tends to come with a rider. What happens is we find that we have recovered from a physical condition or we find ourselves in a better work environment than our previous one, or we have come into more money, only to find that there was some secret hidden choice presented to us. We find ourselves faced with having to continue on our golden path having learned there are ruts and dead possums and bumper-to-bumper traffic up ahead, or there is a different unknown path that might be more appealing than the one we are currently upon, the one where hope’s taxi cab let us out.

The unfortunate trap of hope is that it springs from the well of dissatisfaction with our current circumstance, so it is simply the escape we envisioned, the lawn with the greener grass. It was less of something compelling that we really really really really-to-the-tenth-power wanted and more of wanting to break free from the embrace of the ogre of our current situation. Invariably what happens is when we land somewhere over the rainbow and that outcome for which we have hoped has been sworn into office, along comes the litmus test we have to take to determine if our new condition is what we truly want.

Am I saying to embrace Dante’s inscription above Hell’s entrance and dispense with the notion of hope altogether? Not in the least. Pave your path before you with the the gleams and twinkles of hope. Just remember when you get there and have thrown the you’ve-finally-arrived party, the next morning you may be waking up to wonder if this is where you really intended to end up. But that’s a good thing. It means you made the right choice. Soon you will be making another.