Prince of Swords with Seven of Wands

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Someone said the best offense is a good defense

…or is it the best defense is a good offense?

Either way, someone said it. Likely someone military or game or sports oriented, like George Washington or Lao Tsu or Guy Lombardo… or is that Vince Lombardi?

The idea here is that if you are constantly pressing an aggressive offense onto your opponent, they exhaust themselves in their defense so that they have no time or energy or provisions for a counterattack.

Enter American Football. The adage in today’s 21st century gridiron is that it’s the defense that determines the outcome of the game. In other words, an excellent defense against a good offense is more likely to win than an excellent offense against a good defense.

Are you confused yet? You should be.

Enter David and his warped-ass concepts, birthed from the carnival of his cognizance and conceptualization…

Much to the condescending contempt of colonels and coaches everywhere, I would dare to say these two sides of the coin of conflict are indistinguishable. Offense and defense may seem different on paper, but the only true difference is no greater than the color of the chess pieces on either side of the board. If you’re in an offensive position you are simply exercising proactive defense. If you find yourself on the defense it is because you are offended.

Let me take this one step further, a step away from merely waxing philosophical and toward practical and functional: whichever side we believe ourselves to be on during any melee, skirmish, scrimage, or campaign, it would behoove us to not purely consider ourselves merely on offense or defense. Each side must acknowledge and embrace the other aspect in all engagements, or we will lose whatever battle we are embrawled in.

As offense, we need to be ready to defend ourselves at a moment’s notice. When we are on the attack, the assailed will fight back. During our attack we constantly need to parry against defensive countering. On defense we cannot simply brace our shields and hope for the best. We must counterstrike each blow to drive back the aggressor.

This concept is not restricted to sports and military and fisticuffs. It benefits us to apply a well balanced mix of offense and defense in any challenging situation. Any time we need to apply energy to get through an obstacle or we need to steel ourselves against an adversity life decides to throw at us we need to apply this principle. A purely aggressive or defensive position in any endeavor leaves us vulnerable, no matter the power of our onslaught or the thickness of our fortification. Like all other things in life, balance in the mode we take toward our conquests assures us the strongest position.

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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.

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 Wands with The Hanged Man

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Have you read the news lately? Have you been on Facebook and Twitter? Have you recently participated in a Thanksgiving holiday?

If so, congratulations for being involved with, or at least bearing witness to, lots of conflict and controversy. Some current event seems to incite some willing participant to state or share or post some provocative comment, one with a parenthetically implied “In your face!” within its message.

I often wonder what the intention is when all the bravado is distilled out of these stated positions. Is it to brazenly declare one’s ethical or political position? Is it to serve as a polarized beacon intended to illuminate the pathway to our opinion for those who share our world view? Is it to stomp on the ant mound of those who disagree so we can watch them all scurry to the top in an attempt to rebuild their logic that was razed by the foot of an astutely delivered statement?

Personally, I believe it’s all about the conflict. These current events slap our psyches around, leaving us unsafe and insecure. They storm into our comfortable lair of complacency like a drunken angry stepfather at 3am, lifting us out of the cozy bed of our belief system, pummelling us with the idea that our society continues to be a frightening and dangerous place.

The next day we stomp into the schoolyard of our preferred social media outlet or family gathering, looking for that weak kid with the opposing ideology, snatching from him his right to see the world from his perspective, playing keepaway with our ideological allies, doing whatever we can to thrust onto him the mantle of victim that fell upon us when we were reminded that we live in a scary society.

When I watch these verbal badminton matches play out along the entrails of the comments in a Facebook status based on a display of political JPG wisdom, I don’t see a think tank. I don’t see an attempt at finding a common solution. I see a game of choosing up sides where each commenter hopes their hand reaches the top of the bat and can proclaim the title of the Giver of the Last Word.

Somehow we’ve developed some sort of social pathology that has us equating being safe with being right. As long as people hold an opposing viewpoint to our own we are at risk of becoming personally invalidated. It is often said that the truth always lies in the middle. This infers that as long as there are opposing viewpoints neither can wholly lay claim to what is right. In order for anyone to find the safest place to reside, the DMZ that exists between any two sides of conflict, we have to not only acknowledge that there are aspects of our ideologies that can in no way be valid for many others. We need to painfully and deliberately tear ourselves away from a perspective that has been carefully constructed over a lifetime, if only for a moment, to cognize the validity of the perspective that is furthest away from our own. Only then will we truly feel safe, as compassion has no sharp edges.

Three of Swords with Five of Wands

The Witches Tarot By Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans
The Witches Tarot By Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Our emotions form the impetus for every intention we set. The choices we make in life are based on these very intentions set from specific emotions. When these emotions are heavy, dark, and difficult we often forget that the strife we experience is generated by the emotion. We believe the inverse to be true, attributing our hurtful disposition to the struggles we have been facing.

Heavy emotions such as heartache, loss, and depression can be more compelling than we realize. When we find ourselves in this state for long enough we can sometimes forget what it is like to feel joy. We may also feel deserving of our state of despondency, so when joyful moments come our way, we might believe we are not worthy of being happy, that we need to remain in our dark place.

As the pain of loss begins to subside over time, we can find ourselves out of balance for a moment, seeking the “devil we know”, the familiar state of sadness we had resided in for so long. When a sense of lightness shows itself in our lives, we unconsciously find ways to push it away. We will create challenges and adversities to invite conflict into our lives. We can become confrontational with those close to us that have helped us through dark times. We may unwittingly sabotage events that promise to yield positive results for us.

One of the most difficult things to do is to break this cycle of self-destruction. Believing we are victims of circumstance is the clever trap we create for ourselves to keep us in that oh-so-familiar state of despair. When we step back and acknowledge that we are the architects of the flow of events in our lives, we can more easily see that we are creating a state of conflict for ourselves as an easy means to pull ourselves back into a state of sadness that we know it is time to move through.

The rabbit hole of retribution

With the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, it appears that hardly anyone is without some sort of reaction. I am no exception.

Last night I witnessed the pundits lobbing perspectives back and forth. I saw Facebook statuses blow up with cheers and exultation. I watched news cameras pan across celebratory dances, hand-hoisted American flags, fists pumping in the air. And it made me sad. Continue reading The rabbit hole of retribution