The Moon with Seven of Wands

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Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne

Recently I’ve been hearing the idea of microaggressions tossed about, although the term has actually been around since 1970. I have no desire to chase down Webster or Wikipedia or any sources in an effort to give a nice clean clinical definition for you; however, I will give you a description of how I understand it to be.

I see the idea of a microaggression as an act or statement against a group of people (generally a minority) that could be construed as offensive, whether intended or not, but not necessarily overtly. I’ll give a personal example here. As a biracial person, I have been told several times in my life by one person or another that they don’t think of me as black. That statement could be construed as a microaggression.

What makes it so? In this case, there are implications that can be called into question. What does the person making the statement consider a black person to be? What is the intent behind the statement? Does it hint to how they may view black people, or how they view me in the perspective of that contrast?

In light of the deconstruction of that statement I just gave, it could be considered a microaggressive statement if you choose to chase it down the cultural rabbit hole deep enough. At some point amidst the roots and rocks and hardpan and grub worms is buried the grain of sand that gives way to offense. Therein lies the nerve that has been jabbed to send up a klaxon of psychological antibodies.

I think of such epithets as heat seeking missiles and our unresolved angst in the given cultural genre as the heat signatures. In the example I gave above, I personally find the statement very much a throw-away; it has little to do with who I am and mostly to do with who the bearer of the statement is. But what if I found it deeply offensive? What fragile and delicate part of me did it speak to where I felt a call-to-arms in protection of my ego and definition of self?

I am not making light of people slinging around offensive statements without consideration or forethought. Nor am I condoning it. I am saying that being offended is a cooperative action. We enter into a contract with the offender where we are consenting to being offended. Our offense is often our ego imposing an expectation on all others out in the world to view us the way we insist that we should be viewed.

To flesh out the example I gave earlier, here is how the conversation went:

Microaggressor: You know, I don’t think of you as black.
Me: (facetiously) You know, I don’t think of you as white.
Microaggressor: You know what I mean.

Sad thing is, I actually did. And it had nothing to do with me. At least that’s the way I chose to see it.

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The Moon with The World

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

Let’s talk about the subconscious for a moment…

When I first learned about the subconscious mind, I was probably in high school. I was taking the most basic of psychology lessons which spoke of ids and egos and superegos, of a coked-up closeted Freud who saw penises wherever he looked. I suspect at some point the teacher was out sick and brought in Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff for a substitute who wrote on the chalkboard in drippy spooky handwriting The Subconscious.

The subconscious gets such a bad rap, doesn’t it? It’s basically the dank basement of the mind where damp mildewed Playboys are stashed, where vermin chomp on millipedes. It’s the secret hidden family raised in a bomb shelter. It’s the boogeyman of the identity, hiding under your bed to come out and play once the waking conscious has finished sweeping the floor and flipped the store sign to “Closed”.

While the conscious or the ego or the what-have-you is the protagonist of the Harry Nilsson song “Best Friend”, the subconscious is this creepy bastard that makes us do things that we have not necessarily intended. We seem to peg its decisions on desires that only float to the surface once the goldfish has overeaten. We make the subconscious our scapegoat, fall guy, stool pigeon, patsy for all those words, deeds, and actions gagged and bound by our conscious mind.

Personally, I believe the subconscious, rather than a root cellar, is more like a system of roots. It is more like a subterranean space with a set of networked tunnels that connects to all the other caverns of the world. In other words, our subconscious is not ours alone. If you think about it, pop psychology has claimed the ego wants to disavow any association to the nefarious underworld of the mind. If the ego is all about maintaining a GI Joe Kung-Fu grip on the identity of the self, the subconscious has no concern regarding such trivial matters as self-identity, much less self-awareness. See where I’m going with this?

Let’s sharpen this pencil a bit more, like that kid that’s trying to stall before taking that state-mandated test: The subconscious is not concerned with only our immediate survival. The subconscious only recognizes its formless borderless self, devoid of the demarcations imposed by identity. It sees itself as the cellular spokesman of the world-at-large. While it is making recommendations and decisions based on what is best for the self that otherwise renders the cowardly lion of the ego immobile, it knows what is best for the self is what is best for the whole.

So while pop psychology wants to vilify the subconscious on a cultural level, it truly is the hero of the story. It pulls us back to functioning as an integral part of the big picture. It knows that if the body dies, so does each and every cell along with it. To persistently listen to and follow the machinations of the ego is a path to certain death. Cousin Id with its identifying characteristics hidden beneath a haystack of hairiness is actually what is looking out for our best interest, as it knows what is in our best interest is actually what is in the best interest of everything and everyone.

The Tower with Eight of Coins

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

Some of us just don’t know when to quit.

Now don’t get your security blanket all knotted up. This is not a post that celebrates the merits of quitting. This is about knowing when to start over, when to begin again.

In the game of poker there is a principle referred to as being “pot committed”. It goes a little something like this: When a player has been betting on a hand that is showing decreasing odds of winning with each round, it is quite possible that they are better off staying in at that point rather than folding. They have already contributed so much money to the pot they might as well see it through.

We often get to this point with an endeavor or project. We get so invested in what we have devoted a great deal of time and energy and whatever valuable resource we dumped into it that we will feel it is all wasted, all for naught if we tear it down and start over.

Our delicate little human egos can’t seem to grasp the concept that abandoning a project that we have over-invested in is not a sign of failure. Indicators and warning signs and red flags and shots across the bow merely cause us to shrug them off and dismiss them with a wave of our hand, convinced we can circumvent the iceberg straight ahead. Hey, with the amount of time and energy and resources we’ve put into this boat, it is nigh indestructible, right? I think we’ve all heard that before somewhere…

Allow me to relate the following experience as an illustration:

Last week I made a hot sauce. I had planned to make it on Friday so I thawed the peppers on Thursday. Friday became bloated with sundry unrelated tasks so the peppers sat on the kitchen counter through to Monday, which I proclaimed Hot Sauce Making Day 2.0.

I cut open the bag of peppers which had oddly inflated like a parade float. That was the first alert to pop up. Throwing caution to the wind I poured out the liquid from the bag which was likely some grade of capsaicin-ladened moonshine and proceeded to separate the stems from the peppers. A few of them bubbled a bit of juice with a teeny hiss, quietly whispering to me that this endeavor might not be such a good idea. Icy waters be damned, said the captain of my ego that had become as bloated as those peppers. Full speed ahead.

The peppers were nicely laid out on a jelly roll pan all prepared for roasting, just under a pound of little imp tongues laughing at me as they went into the oven. I just kept throwing proverbial poker chips into this project as I cooked the garlic and onions and produced the already cooked sugar pumpkin. It would have been a good time to abandon the project when, after having roasted the peppers, the oven carried a pungent smell akin to a ferret spraying a pile of week old grass clippings. Nope. The writ decreed by the whir of the food processor had spoken. I was officially pot committed.

See that Tower card? That is the wings of Icarus melting in the sun, hubris taking us to heights where we have no business as land dwellers. If we don’t figure out when to quit, no matter how tall we’ve built the structure it will come crashing down with resounding inevitability. It does not mean we have to completely walk away, never to return; it means we have to start over, begin again, lay a fresh foundation and break ground anew.

I stared at the three bottles of hot sauce, playing the “it’s still good” game, like staring at the dog that had gained unfettered access to the Thanksgiving turkey when the guests were due to arrive in five minutes. I took one more tiny taste test to discover the final klaxons in the form of a strange tingling sensation that had undermined the flavor, perhaps from the botulin that was dancing on the tip of my tongue. Deciding it would be more welcomed in the forehead of the vanity stricken than in the stomachs of the sauce recipients, I discarded my completed project.

Was I pot committed? Indeed. Would those who ate my sauce be pot committed? If by a pot you mean a commode, quite likely. Either we acknowledge defeat and cut our losses or the leviathan comes and devours us in the midst of our pride. We can make the choice to tear down and begin again or the universe will make it for us, with disastrous results.

Death

Death
The angel of death approaches on a white horse, all matter of people before him unable to deter its inevitable arrival

The intention we set on the life we wish to manifest is born of desire. These desires are often based on a life we wish to attain that we are not already living. What we desire is what we currently lack, so we imagine how much more fulfilling our life would be once we attain what we want that is currently not part of our experience.

One of the most challenging aspects of manifesting our desired outcome is crossing the threshold that lies between who we are and who we want to become. This threshold can become an insurmountable wall as it requires a mental shift to overcome. The mental shift is a shift in our identity, in redefining who we are.

We have based who we are on what we lack. The person we are is the person who does not yet have what we desire, while the person we want to become has not yet been realized. When we identify with our deficit, we operate from this place. We make choices and decisions based on the person we have defined ourselves to be, the person who does not have the things we desire. So while we would very much like to become the person who has attained these successes we’ve envisioned, we still do not believe we are that person, as we have identified too strongly with our lacking.

In order to become the person we have envisioned, the currently defined self has to die. We have to shed our ego and leave it behind. To strip away from an identity we have long held may seem appealing in theory, but it is one of the most difficult things to do in practice. Our current identity is like an animal whose life is being threatened. No matter how unhealthy our self-identification may seem, our ego will fight as hard as it can to preserve its existence.

We can most easily recognize this in cases where we want to walk away from our current way of life but find ourselves saying we cannot picture a life without this particular aspect of our lifestyle, no matter how appealing the other side may seem. This is when we do well to immerse our minds and inner visions into that desired lifestyle, mentally becoming the person who has attained that outcome to the point that it is no longer foreign to us. In the process we must recognize our current self as our past self. We must say goodbye to who we thought we were and leave it to be devoured by the fears that the ego was using to prevent us from moving forward.