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.

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The Hanging Man with Five of Cups

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

I know a guy who fully embraces the Finders-Keepers game. He will often boast on one or another acquisition he’s recently stumbled upon. He’s kind of like a human crow, I suppose, carting off every shiny metal object to his lair, then cawing marvelously “look what I found” from the highest branch of the nearby cedar tree.

Some of his findings have little more value than the swag you grab from a fishbowl at a trade show. Then again, some things might possibly hold more value… specifically to the original owner that had lost the item. As the finder holds up a thumb drive and rotates it like a watch on a motorized turntable in a glass display case I sometimes wonder if it holds the final draft of a senior’s term paper and they are now in a full throttle panic trying to find that thumb drive. Perhaps they are tearing their bedroom asunder in the search for it, or they are returning to every classroom and computer lab they visited, or they are checking in with the lost and found every hour like the nerdy kid who just gave his phone number to a girl in the line at Panera yesterday, or they are putting up “Have you seen me?” flyers around campus with a picture of him with his arm around his thumb drive. “About 1.5 inches long, dark blue, goes by the name SanDisk”.

My, how Lady Fortune shines upon this guy, dropping in his foot path all sorts of lost items that he can claim. Before, he had stuff; now, he has more stuff! It is irrelevant to him that his more-stuff comes as a result of someone else’s less-stuff. One thing’s for certain, the path of discovered trinkets and chachkis does not lead to the Lost and Found box where any of it could be turned in to be claimed by its rightful original owner. Perish the thought.

Okay, so where was I going with this? I just had to look at the two cards again to bring me back to my original point…

Ah, yes. Okay. Here’s what I say: I once again make a counterintuitive-call-to-action here as I’m sometimes inclined to in this blog. If you find you’ve encountered a material loss, if you find that through a series of teeth grinding events your last $100 has been reduced to your last $20 in the blink of an eye, it’s time to give $10 of it away. What?! you say, making sure the interrobang comes through loud and clear in your exclamation. That’s all I have left to my name!

I have a couple of bullet points in the list of why it’s a good idea. The first is a bit woo-woo, the second is a bit humbling. Let’s do the woo-woo first. Sometimes the universe (with a capital or lowercase “U”, it’s your choice) likes to remind us that we have too much. We find ourselves taking into account all the advice Cousin Avarice keeps whispering in our ear in its most sultry voice and we either continue our compulsive drive for acquisition or we hold on tightly to what we have. We’ve become so caught up in that sweet tantalization of just how good the goods are we are deaf to the universe telling us to let go so we have room for something better that may or may not actually be a thing. Our own fear has us seeing space as being equivalent to deficit.

Now from a more human perspective: When we find ourselves lamenting over how much we’ve lost and how we are left with so little, here’s what happens when we decide to give away half of what remains; we look for the person or people who need it the most. Nothing gives us a nice wake-up call to the extent of the fortune we have when we encounter someone to whom ten dollars is ten dollars more than what they have while it’s merely half of what we have.

Give it away. You will not be left with nothing, you will be creating space for the universe to give you what it’s been wanting you to have for a long time coming.

Five of Cups with The Tower

Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler
Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

Another movie reference pops into my head as I draw these two particular cards…

Moonstruck is a movie from 1987 starring Cher, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aiello, and Olympia Dukakis. There is a particular scene, perhaps one of the most referred-to scenes in the entire movie, that comes to mind. I’m going to set it up here without the obligatory SPOILER ALERT as there is a rule that states that if a movie is more than 20 years old you are exempt from having to declare that particular advisory as such.

For the sake of full disclosure, I made that rule up.

With all that out of the way, the scene goes like this: Loretta (played by Cher) wakes up to find herself in bed with her fiance’s brother (played by Nicolas Cage). She scrambles out of bed, hurriedly dresses herself and declares that they take their entanglement from the preceding night to their respective graves. He declares that he can’t do that as he is in love with her. She looks at him, take a beat, then slaps him. She takes another beat, chases that first slap with an even harder one that seems intended to stop his heart for a millisecond, then retorts, “Snap out of it!”

Often when we don’t get our way, or something just falls through the rotting floorboards of our overbuilt expectations, we get fixated on our loss. We go on and on about the injustice of the circumstance that has befallen us. We hoist the sheets up over our head and dehydrate ourselves through the tears of the loss of that really cool job we were supposed to get. We grouse about how we should have ran the ball at the one yard line, or if we felt we had to pass we should have not thrown it to the intended receiver running a slant to the middle of the end zone…

Oops, sorry about that. I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan that’s been listening to a week’s worth of aggravation regarding their final play call from the Superbowl… we now return to our regularly scheduled blog post…

We can sometimes get fixated on that certain something that we had been wanting. When we don’t get it we throw back our heads and wail to the sky while rending our shirts or blouses or tunics or what have you. We lament about how much better things would have been had we gotten what we should have gotten, how ain’t nothing no good no more gonna come my way now.

The biggest issue with crying over spilled milk is while that glass lay on its side and the white bovine-based protein drink drips off the table’s edge onto the linoleum where the dog eagerly laps it up, there’s still the better part of the gallon jug sitting on the table with the summer sunlight beaming through the window creating the perfect conditions for the bacteria cultural festival to begin drawing in throngs to get that party curdling.

More often than not, when something does not come to fruition for us, or when an opportunity gets snatched from our hands by a gust of I-guess-it-sucks-to-be-you, there is something better waiting in the wings. The woo-woo gurus of the cult of optimism love to say if the Universe doesn’t give you what you want it’s to hold the space for something better to come along. That’s all well and good, but if we gnash our teeth over what we have been denied, the Universe is going to get tired of waiting for us to calm down and will just move along, leaving a note that says “Sorry I missed you while you were the only guest at your pity party. I had something really good for you but I had to go.”

Really it’s actually not the Universe in it’s vast anthropomorphism that walks away with its prize. It’s our field of undeservedness that our lament casts around us, cloaking all good things from our vision that are to follow. We have determined ourselves unworthy of blessings as we did not receive what we thought we were due, so even greater rewards cannot be ours by right if the lesser reward was not. At some point we need to shake ourselves off and recognize that what wasn’t, isn’t, and will not be is just that and move on. We cannot see what is awaiting us until we lift our gaze from the ashes at our feet and turn around to face the sun that is shining on our backs.

Three of Swords with Four of Swords

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

When I first drew these cards I was like, “Oh wow… two consecutive suits in a row!”. Cue Twilight Zone theme song. Then I was like “Aww…” due to the card on the left.

Here’s the thing about our friend the Tarot. The Tarot is not a party that never ends, where the flow of champagne springs from an endless fount, or the hookah of infinite hoses that has its bowl perpetually topped off, or the oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss beat of the dance floor that never stops as the DJ never goes home or needs to take a restroom break.

The Tarot has it’s Pooh’s Eeyores, it’s Gulliver’s Glums, it’s college campus buddy that fell backwards into the indifferent arms of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche after an ironically inspiring introduction during Philosophy 139. Its bristly cast-of-characters features players like Death, The Tower, The Devil, Nine of Swords, Ten of Swords, et. al. to come along and slap us around and grab us by the shoulders to give us a good hearty shake. They are assigned to deliver us the most obnoxious of wake-up calls when the electronic cawing of the alarm clock fails to jolt us out of our self-imposed fugue state.

I personally believe it is not aspiring to serve as the bearer of bad news; rather, it is lending its voice to bring a message during the invariable difficult times we experience as we travel the road of life. At some point we will encounter loss, devastation, heartbreak, and trauma. The only way to avoid this is to be the first one out, and most of us don’t necessarily wish to exercise that option.

There come times in our lives when we will find ourselves enveloped in sadness and hurt, where the footfalls of time seem to occur with centuries between one and the other. We shake our fist at time and its imposing inconvenience, as we wait for him to finish writing that check with his geriatric hand in the cashier’s line at the grocery store. We just want to race through our grief as quickly as possible and get to the other pain free side well ahead of the jackrabbit.

What we fail to see is that time is actually our friend. It is said that time heals all wounds, but it is more accurate to say that time tends our wounds to ensure they do not become infected and abscessed. All the distractions and diversions that serve to numb the pain of loss and trauma only serve to postpone it until they wear off, leaving us at the upper end of the 1 to 10 scale on the pain chart and a trail of damage left behind in the wake of our denial.

The bottom line is, we grow from these challenges. The pain of loss is a great teacher, and it can provide us with tremendous wisdom if we simply allow it to run its course and exhaust itself when it has fulfilled its function. When we do, we will find we have gained the ability to hold onto our gifts for greater periods than we were able to before.

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.

Five of Cups

Five of Cups
A cloaked figure gazes with hanging head at three chalices spilt at the feet, not acknowledging the two still upright behind

The process of manifestation is not foolproof by any means. Not only do we encounter obstacles, setbacks, and losses on our path to attaining our desired outcomes, these are often part of the design in enabling us to achieve our goals.

It is not uncommon for us to become discouraged at the losses we experience along the way. We may feel that the universe is telling us that we are not deserving of what we desire, or that the intended outcome is not part of our life path. After all, if we are truly deserving of and entitled to what we want, why is it we cannot seem to attain it?

In all actuality, the frequent setbacks we face are not necessarily messages to ourselves that we are not worthy of our desires. It is possible that we need to examine what it is we truly want. The losses are often of our own making, due to our unconscious act of preventing ourselves from acquiring what we don’t want in the process of trying to accomplish what we may believe we actually want.

Continue reading Five of Cups

A sense of identity through the lives of others

I haven’t really been present enough to post as of late.

In the three weeks since I last posted, much has transpired. In the events that have transpired I have had a role ranging from ancillary to pivotal, but these events are really other people’s stories. It’s as if the ego, my means of pointing to myself and declaring myself the lead role in my own story, has been granted furlough from constant focus on the self. Thus has been the sabbatical of my own minister. Continue reading A sense of identity through the lives of others