Queen of Cups with The Tower

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Several days ago I decided to whack at a hornet’s nest with a pencil metaphorically. I climbed into the den of honey badgers otherwise known as the comments section on a political Facebook post. Armed with my chosen weapon of presumptuous arrogance I decided to adroitly illustrate the lack of compassion of the people who held a perspective in contrast to my own.

Somehow in my self-righteousness I forgot the adverse effect of telling a person who is politically moved that they don’t give one-tenth of one percent of a shit about people and their well being. Most people take a particular political, ethical, social, or moral stance on a matter because they believe their view aligns with what they believe is best for the society at large. So after shaking the hornet’s nest like a meth head with a Magic 8-Ball I watched what started out as what originally barely passed for a discussion disintegrate into my debate mate slinging poo ladened ad hominems like chimps behind bars.

Shy of imprisoned apes I cannot defend nor condone the hurling of misplaced epithets in the form of insults, derision, and name calling. Granted, I did shove my No. 2 pencil into the paper thin side of the hive. I made my statement, and as I firmly believe, no one says anything without an underlying intention. We choose the specific words we extricate from our minds with a specific purpose, with a desired effect. Often that effect is the intent to shape and contort the perspectives of other human beings to either match our own or to deter them from maintaining theirs. Our emotional fervent blinds us to the fact that we are running on the treadmill of futility.

My mother on many occasions would offer me morsels of sage advice based on her own experiences. She wanted to spare me from traversing the landscape of error-strewn regrets that she had stubbed her toe on along the path of her past. My father, on the other hand, never gave anything resembling advice that wasn’t wrapped in an off-colored joke. His philosophy was that mistakes were the great Socrates, that wisdom was most purely imparted through trials and tribulations, the semester’s final in the form of a hard knock from the school of the same name.

There’s a strangely beautiful balance in that approach to watching people walk toward the field of landmines. The danger of the protective coddling, repeated warnings, and the unending doling out of unsolicited advice is that it sends the message that we do not have faith or confidence in others we think are making mistakes in being able to learn from them. Our warnings on how wrong people are in their perspectives also renders us unable to recognize that their truths are valid for themselves, no matter how ludicrous they may seem to us.

At the same token to shrug and say let them learn the hard way does in no way shape or form let them know we care and that we are concerned for their future, their successful outcome, and their well being. While the parent of the Millennial approach of over protection and insulation sends the message of a lack of trust in their ability to survive mistakes, the throw them in the lake and they’ll learn to swim approach almost conveys an indifference to whether or not they survive.

Challenging another’s perspective or process is in essence the hostile form of giving unsolicited advice. When engaging in a sharing of personal or political or ethical opinions, we would do best to find the precise wording that conveys our perspective without condescending or attempting to invalidate the opinion of an opposing party. This provides those within earshot the choice to either bank or dismiss our opinions. Some lessons can only be learned through trial by fire. We must allow people to walk through the flames if this is what they choose and be there to help them heal on the other side.

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Page of Wands with Eight of Wands

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan
Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan

One of my favorite terms ever, in the history of idioms and colloquialisms and in my pursuit of blogging hyperboles is pot committed. No, this is not a reference to an unwavering devotion to all things cannabinoid. For those of you that didn’t dive head-first into America’s love affair with televised high stakes poker tournaments at the turn of the 21st century, let me explain:

When one has become pot committed in a hand of poker, it means the player has already put so many chips into the pot that it would be essentially throwing money away to fold, even if the prospects of winning the hand are grim at that point. The player might as well see it through, hoping for St. Somebody to start dealing out miracles at the poker table.

I love that term, I bought flowers and chocolates for that turn-of-phrase, I have gone down on my nearly-fifty-year-old cracking and popping knee to propose to that expression because it paints such a picture of our cultural reticence. It’s John Wayne holding hands with Clint Eastwood as they swagger through the main street of the town that will fall under the category of ghost at the arrival of the telephone to tell us to cowboy up and see it through. You don’t walk away when you’re this deep in it, no matter how many leeches are nipping at your ankles.

You know what I say? I think it takes bigger bowling balls to tear the whole thing down and start over when you’re so far into it, when you can see the vending machine within arm’s reach. That dollar bill you’re holding looks like a Scotch taped Sharpei which it will spit out in disgust with each attempt to feed it to the machine anyway. C5 will taunt you and deny you that tiny bag of Cheetos, leading to even greater shirt-rending anguish. Go back to Start.

I once learned of an apprentice to a drywaller who would erect and attach and mud and sand a wall under the supervision of his master. The master would watch him as he worked through the entire process, only to tear it down at its completion and make him start over. Meanwhile we sit in the studio audience and boo and turn to the lady sitting next to us that we only met on the tour bus on the way to the show and say “that guy is such an ass!”, as my applause slices through the din of disapproval like a drunk Nascar fan during the death scene of the antagonist at the opera.

Why do I find the idea of starting over when we’re near or at the finish line so fantastic? I believe it celebrates the notion that time is simply not. Time is a paper tiger of which we’ve become absorbed in the suspension of disbelief, obeying its barking orders like a Private First Class. When we fold on a futile hand while being so pot committed, we are declaring our inexhaustible wealth of time. We are showing the statement to our Swiss bank account of unending moments stitched into one great tapestry of eternity. We are showing ourselves and the world that it is our time, and it’s ours to burn as we see fit.

One of the most beautiful examples of this is the dul-tson-kyil-khor, the art of mandala sand painting by the Tibetan lamas of Drepung Loseling Monastery. They spend days, sometimes weeks, constructing exquisitely colorful mandalas with millions of grains of sand as you see here:

When they’ve completed this gorgeously intricate work of art they then deconstruct it, allowing its vibrant beauty to only reside in the memory of its viewers. It symbolizes that nothing is permanent, that the value in creating this great work of beauty is self contained, that it is about the process rather than the attainment.

So whether we believe we are too far into anything to turn back now, or whether we head back to the starting blocks just before breaking through the tape, the bottom line is it’s all one big Etch-a-Sketch that gets shaken by the universe when we eventually make that final exhale. At that point we’ll be in the middle of doing something as it is.