Six of Wands with Knight of Coins

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Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

I see in my mind the young hero having come back from some great war, sitting on the top of the back seat of an open convertible, grinning and waving to the cheering throngs, ticker tape descending in twirls and flutters onto the pavement around him.

On a whim he snatches from the air one of the thin strips of paper snowing down from the surrounding stories above. He stretches it out before his eyes and reads the text printed upon it:

You will soon have a regular job.

Fast forward to our one-time hero, the top button of his collared shirt loosened along with his tie, the crown of his head barely visible across the sea of cubicles, the sound of office phones chirping intermittently amongst the cadence of computer keyboard clackety-clacks.

On Saturday morning he pushes his lawnmower across the quarter acre lawn then douses the dastardly dandelions with the herbicide that is the second cousin thriced removed of the gas compound used to smite the enemy abroad. He is only a half hour away from drinking a mountain spring filtered canned beer in the maple’s shade while listening to the symphony of the surrounding cicadae.

We often see the lives of these people of greatness in the form of highlight reels, their grand achievements of a lifespan ranging from 24 to 94 years distilled down into vignettes of accolades and awards and recognitions. Yet the gently rolling hills and slightly dipping valleys of daily living comprise the majority of our lifes between those dizzying zeniths of grandeur.

Life is an iceberg. The great milestones such as seeing children born or being handed a diploma or traveling to every continent, the parts of our lives that the world gets to witness in all its magnificence, is only a fraction of who we are and how we spend out time. The vast majority of our lives stays invisible to the world, suspended below the surface. The passing days and the mundane repetition of daily living can feel cold and dark and lifeless as we feel like we’re endlessly drifting through frigid waters.

However, when we dare to dream, when we entertain visions of ticker tape and confetti dancing in the air around us, when we imagine inhaling that oxygen deprived air as we stand atop that alpine peak we’ve successfully reached, that cold deep stagnancy becomes a sanctuary of tranquility.

The Zen saying before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water shows us that the mundane span of time that comprise the largest percentage of our days transforms into peacefulness when we puncture the tapestry of our lives with grand visions and exhiliarating aspirations. The pursuit of those wonderfully lofty goals is what gives meaning to the mundane.

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Six of Cups with Eight of Pentacles

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Developing a skill is all about practice. Practice is all about repetition. Repetition… well who looks forward to that? Doing something over and over followed by one hundred and overs

That’s one of the elements of refining and perfecting which we sometimes dread. I’ll raise my hand if you’re calling on someone to be honest; that’s what can deter me from developing a new skill or perfecting a half-baked one. The imagination gets put on hold and suspended in liquid nitrogen in favor of mechanical motion. No matter how cleverly Mr. Miyagi instilled karate reflexes into young Daniel-san it still has us dreading the notion of waxing a dozen cars.

Practice and rehearsal have a way of extracting the fun liquid center from any endeavor and replacing it with cams and gears that call for us to do it again with each grind of our burgeoning albeit not yet perfected skill set. It is the Sisyphean eternal application between where we are in our progress and where we want to be.

Sometimes I wonder… and I’m just spitballing here, thinking out loud… if that constant repetitive application that becomes the Lidocaine to our delights is an indication that the particular pursuit we are undertaking is maybe not for us? I know I normally apply my ideas much more definitively in these posts, but I’m giving myself license to mull out loud here. I suppose I’m looking at it from the perspective of a young musician who is learning to play guitar, or a young athlete who takes shot after shot at the hoop. When we’re young and we first fall in love with wanting to be the next great fill-in-the-blank, we will go at our new endeavor with wanton abandonment. There is no thought of the drudgery of repetition. There is only us and that melody, that swing of the bat, that stroke of the brush applied once after another after another after another- that love of whatever it is we chose to pursue being so great that we lose time in the rinse and repeat cycle. We see perfection in our mind’s eye, and each application of the exercise whispers the promise of its attainment the next go round. If we reach it, we do it again for the sheer delight of experiencing it, where we will likely trip again only to try again.

Do we see a treadmill of loathsome repetition awaiting us in between our here and now and the developed skill we desire? Perhaps we need to see if we are truly and madly in love with all that the skill encompasses. If so, our practice of it will temporarily banish time. If instead the spectre of chore shows up during its application, perhaps our attraction to that particular skill was not love, but merely infatuation.

Knight of Pentacles with Eight of Pentacles

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

Prepare yourself as I’m going to start preaching about the evils of microwaves.

Let me preface this by stating this is not a hippie sermon about the dangers of irradiating food, or about gamma rays convincing our personal DNA to manifest a third appendix (as if one wasn’t superfluous enough), or even any comedic observational chestnut about how in a matter of 13 seconds the food goes from the temperature of the surface of Mercury to that of the temperament of a spouse that got a hole punch for a birthday gift…

I’m talking about the devil’s oven that has contributed to the corruption of our expectations of time. This wicked tool that has rendered the prerequisite of patience regarding mealtime null and void. This boson bombardment box that has robbed us of the anticipation of a delicious dinner through the slowly building olfactory crescendo of salivation-inducing aromas in exchange for the two to five minute roaring of ozone production punctuated with a Pavlovian perforated beep.

The greatest crime committed by the introduction of the magic hot food box is its displacement of the art of cooking. When preparing a meal, we first try a new recipe in which we blend and prepare a specific set of ingredients, combine and cook it into a specific dish, then upon tasting it we determine what we could shift or change in the recipe, its process, and/or its ingredients to make it more enjoyable. The only variance to microwave meals we can apply is choosing which corner of the plastic film we will peel back. “Venting the northwest corner yielded a more oaky polypropylene last time. This time we’ll try the southwest corner.”

Each foray into meal preparation is a practice, an experiment, a new and completely altered experience. We find ourselves refining the process each time in perpetuity; even when we nail the recipe and produce the perfect meal there is no guarantee we will do so again. Yet we try, we attempt, we give it our best time and time again.

It is in this inexhaustible pursuit which gives birth the the beauty of the result. Yet the result is not the end in and of itself. We know however delicious or disappointing our meal turns out, we will invariably need to eat again, so we shall cook again. The result is not merely determined by robotically following a set of instructions, it is colored and shaded and accentuated and detailed by the attention we pay in each step of the process, by the depth of absorption we find in even the most seemingly banal and tedious component. When we treat each piece of the process like it is the lode-bearing step, giving it the attention and care that a surgeon would give each incision, the end result will always speak to the process.

Eight of Pentacles

Eight of Pentacles
A craftsman diligently carves out pentacle after pentacle, honing his skills

When we set an intention on a desired outcome we are imagining what we want to incorporate into our lives. When we manifest that outcome we have reached a point where we have incorporated the realized intention into our identity.

Between setting an intention on what we desire and becoming the person that has attained that goal is a process of shaping the intention to match who we are. We begin by taking the first step in moving toward our goal, but we rarely reach it with a single step.

At some point with enough tenacity we find we have gained the ability to attain what we originally set out to manifest. However, making our goal happen is still tenuous at this stage. We are too green to be truly proficient and accomplished, so maintaining a successful position is precarious at best. We realize we are able to do what we were not able to before, but it is still new, foreign, and uncomfortable. We need to shape this aspect of ourselves much the way we would break in a new pair of shoes.

To truly manifest our desired outcome we need to know with complete certainty that this goal is part of our identity. To become certain of this we need to have our application of our skill become like second nature. We have to move in this manner without thinking, with a fluid effortlessness that only comes with repeating our applications time and time again, where our errors are minimal, where we function as if on automatic, where the task at hand has taken complete ownership of our focus.

Once our efforts toward our goal become an extension of our mind and body, we have finally incorporated our actions into our identity, and manifestation occurs unwaveringly. This extension occurs through continuous trial and error, through repetition, through crossing the threshold from skill to talent, as is only possible when we create a natural rhythm of our efforts through continued and diligent practice.