THE DEVIL CARD AND THE CONUNDRUM OF EVIL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

An exploration of the notion of evil as it applies to anti-social personality disorders.

There are some people who seem to be just . . . evil.

It feels kind of icky, just making that statement.  It seems like stepping into that whole judeo-christian tar-pit of demon possession and punishing, crazy gods and hell fire and damnation and sinners.  We can see that idea illustrated pretty well in The Devil tarot card.  Two nude people are chained to a black altar while a gigantic, scary demon bat/goat sort of a thing hovers over them.  Yikes!  They done been possessed by the devil!!!

Evil in that context seems like a very medieval, primitive sort of a concept.  Something that you expect to hear coming out of the mouths of fundamentalist religious people who aren’t very spiritually evolved.

Still . . .there are some people who seem functionally evil.

Many of us have had the ill-fortune to encounter a few psychopaths or sociopaths or malignant narcissists.  Usually – if we’re normal people – they take us completely by surprise.  Many of them are extremely adept at concealing their inner natures, but they basically have NO EMPATHY.  No sense of compassion.  No kindness.  No love living inside of them.  Not even a little sprout.

It’s a shock, when we realize that.  That these are people who appear to be perfectly normal on the outside (in fact, in the case of narcissists, they may be very attractive on the outside) but have nothing but a dead, arid desert in their hearts.  What’s worse, many of them aren’t content with just being morally and ethically dead, they actually delight in causing harm to others.  Sociopaths may be content to live and let live (as long as you don’t cross them) but malignant narcissists and psychopaths go out of their way to fuck people up.  They don’t see other people as humans – they see them as prey.

It can still be difficult to get from that behavior to the concept of evil.  We tend to view, “evil,” in terms of moral wrongness and choice.  In other words, if we see a clear choice between loving kind behavior on the one hand and cruel, malicious behavior on the other and we choose to be cruel and malicious, then that’s evil.  The evil lies in perceiving the distinction between the two behaviors and choosing the one that causes harm.

Psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists don’t seem to have that sense of choice.  It’s not that they’re choosing to be evil rather than being kind, they simply have no concept of kindness.  What’s more, they view that lack of a sense of compassion as a strength.  They view normal people who have a conscience and try to be kind as weak and they go out of their ways to exploit that weakness.

So, in a classic sense of ethics, we can’t really see them as being evil, because they don’t have that capacity to choose between being a good human being and being a fucked up human being.  They’re just fucked up.  Period.

We may embrace the medical/psychiatric model and try to make excuses for them.  We look at them from a normal person’s point of view and think, “How awful it must be to live in a world of no love and no kindness.  Something horrifically traumatic must have happened to them to make them that terrible.”

Well, yes and no.  Sociopaths, for instance, have brains that are measurably, physically different from those of normal people.  They appear to have been born that way.  Not all people who are born with that brain structure become sociopaths, however.  It seems that something has to happen in their environment to trigger the brain into becoming sociopathic.  It’s like they’re hardwired that way at birth, but someone or something has to throw the switch to activate the wiring.

Psychologists and researchers are still arguing about exactly what it is that throws the switch.  It could be emotional trauma, physical trauma, horrible parents, malnutrition, all of the above or – in some cases – none of the above.  A lot of sociopaths were born into wealthy, loving families. Somehow, though, they end up with NO feelings of compassion or empathy, with a total lack of the characteristics that make us fully human.

It’s important to note, though, that THEY DON’T FEEL THAT WAY.  At all.  They’re quite happy with the way they exist in the world and think the rest of us are fools.  They don’t see themselves as lacking in basic human characteristics, they see us as weaklings.  

It’s also important to note that there are apparently no, “cures,” for these disorders.  There’s no way to magically change them into, “normal,” human beings.  If you dig around on the internet you’ll find some theorizing that talk therapy may be effective in treating malignant narcissism, but when you ask actual therapists about that, they just shake their heads.

There is some evidence that the number of sociopaths and narcissists among us is actually increasing, but there are arguments against that.  It could be that our methodology for detecting them has just gotten better.  It could be that they’re just more visible because of our new world of social media.  

In any case, there’s no question that they’ve always been among us.  In fact, Austrian philosopher Karl Popper argued that what we call, “history,” is largely the record of the psychopaths of our species.  We study people like Hitler, Napolean, and Genghis Khan, people who caused immense pain and suffering in the world and just didn’t care, but we ignore all of the millions of kind, loving souls who were trying to just get through life.

 Although they are very much a minority, almost a tiny fraction of the population, they have an oversized effect on the people around them.  Because of them, we tend to question the goodness of human nature.  We see the world as a dangerous place and fail to see all of the love and compassion that exists in the majority of human beings.

Even worse, they frequently succeed in dragging us down to their level.  Anyone who’s been worked over by a malignant narcissist will tell you that you emerge from that experience with a lot less trust of other people and  with a constant question of whether the next person you become involved with will be a real human being or another monster in disguise.

So . . . we end up having to recognize that there ARE people living among us who have no empathy, no compassion, no sense of ethics, no internal moral compass, and who cause a great deal of suffering for other human beings.

We can’t really call them, “evil,” in the ethical sense of their choosing to be rotten human beings.  And we can’t really use the medical model and say that they’re, “sick,” because many of them live normal, productive lives and appear to be quite happy, making everyone around them miserable.  And, thankfully, we’re evolving out of that primitive model of thinking that they’re possessed by demons or they’re servants of the devil.

But there they are, walking among us like human question marks. How can you be a human being and exist in that space?  If you DO exist in that space, are you still fully human?  It’s truly a conundrum that currently has no solution.  Until there IS a solution, they can at least serve as a contrast for the rest of us.  We can look at them and realize, “That’s what I DON’T want to be.”

Dan Adair is the author of, “Just the Tarot,” available on Amazon.com at a very reasonable price.

Entropy, Coyote, The Tower Card, and That God Person

A brief exploration of why god didn’t make shit happen.

I have a lot of friends who are atheists.  While I disagree with them (leaning more toward polytheism myself), I can’t blame them for feeling that way.  When humans talk about god they tend to get plumb ridiculous.

It isn’t hard to imagine where the idea of god originated.  We can visualize one of our very ancient ancestors standing beside a tree scratching his crotch when – KABLAM!!! – a giant bolt of lightning hits the tree and blows it into a million smoldering pieces.  Being a thinking primate, our ancestors’ initial reaction was probably deeply profound.  Something along the lines of, “HOLY SHIT!  WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT???”

A little later, he probably tried to reason out exactly that question:  “What in the hell was that?”  He would have noticed, of course, that whatever IT was, IT had come from the sky.  From up there, somewhere.  Therefore, he would have arrived at his initial conclusion:  there MUST be a, “somewhere,” up there.  There must be some place up in the sky that the lightning monster came from.  Just for ease of discussion, he thought, let’s call it, “heaven.”

So did the lightning monster fall out of heaven?  Did it slip over the edge and tumble down to earth?  No, he’d reason;  upon consideration it was much more like it was THROWN from the heaven place because it hit really hard.  As he turned this over in his brain cells, it would dawn upon him that if it had been thrown, then there must be someone up there in the heaven place who threw it.  And when we throw something at someone, it’s usually because we’re pissed off.  Therefore, the heaven person must have been pissed off at me, he thought, and he threw a lightning monster at me, but he missed me and hit the tree.  Poor tree.

So just in the space of a few hours, he’d worked out that there was a place in the sky called heaven, that someone lived in it, and that he had a very bad temper that caused him to throw things at people he was pissed off with.  And he decided that, just for ease of discussion, he’d call that heaven person, “god.”

Now, of course, the next step would be to figure out why god was pissed off and, logically, it must have had something to do with what our ancestor had been doing when the god person threw the lightning monster at him.  And when he thought back on it, he realized that he’d been scratching his crotch.  “Aha!” he thought.  “The heaven person must not like crotches because . . . um . . . we use them for sex!  That must be it!’

And just like that, he’d invented the concept of sin.

So we can see that our incredibly wise ancestor was able to come up with the notions of heaven, god, and sin, and deduce all of that from the presence of a lightning bolt that hit a tree.  Brilliant, really.

There were a few flaws in his reasoning about god that would come back to haunt us.  First of all, the god person seems to be a bit on the irrational side.  Why wouldn’t he like crotches?  They’re perfectly nice human apparatuses that make us feel really good, so what’s his problem with them?  Especially as the idea that the god person actually MADE us evolved, it seemed more and more problematic that he wouldn’t like our genitals.  If he didn’t like them that much, why didn’t he just make us with something else between our legs, like, I don’t know, a flower or an extra foot or something?

Second, we can see that god has a really bad temper.  A really, really bad temper.  If he didn’t like what we were doing, he could have just sent a nice angel with a handwritten note that said, “Hey, that’s really irritating, so knock it off.”  But, no, he has to blow up a tree.

Third, we see that this god person is very strongly associated with bad things happening.  If a tree blows up or there’s an earthquake or a flood or a tsunami, it’s because god is PISSED.  It’s a punishment, presumably because we’ve been playing with our genitals again.

We can see that idea pretty clearly illustrated in the Tarot card called The Tower.  Most of the Tower-Being-Hit-By-Lightning myths have to do with punishment for human hubris.  Those idiots were trying to build a tower so high that it would reach to the heaven place and the god person got pissed and blew up the tower, just to show them that HE owned the heaven place and not them.

There’s actually a conundrum hidden in The Tower card that theologians have wrestled with for centuries.  If god loves us, and god’s all powerful, why does all of this bad stuff keep happening to us?  I mean, if he can control everything, why doesn’t he just make good stuff happen to us?  Why is there cancer and fires and floods and why do terrible, terrible things happen to people?

The traditional answer goes right back to the idea that god is an extreme control freak with a really bad temper.  He WANTS for good stuff to happen to us, but we keep doing the wrong things and so he HAS to make bad stuff happen to us.  Because we’re crotch scratching sinners, doncha know?

Native Americans had a slight shift in that perspective that makes a major difference in how we view the world.  They noticed that there is a factor in the universe which physicists would later label as, “entropy.”  The definition for entropy is, “a lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.”  Another way of putting it is that any organized system will start to disintegrate.

On a practical level, that means that just as soon as we get things arranged to our satisfaction, they start to fall apart.  It’s like when we clean our houses and then a week later they’re a mess again.  Entropy snuck up and bit us in the ass.

Native Americans built that into their theology and we might call it, “the shit happens,” principle.  Yes, there are loving, benevolent gods who want our lives to go perfectly well and want us to be happy.  But sometimes shit happens.  And when it does, it’s because of the Trickster Gods, like Coyote and Raven.  The benevolent gods are busy weaving a beautiful tapestry of life, but the trickster gods are over there in the corner unraveling it as fast as they can.  They’re entropy and they’re making the system disintegrate.

On the one hand, this allows us to have loving, caring gods.  On the other hand, it explains why shit happens.  In this scenario, the lightning bolt that hit the tree our ancestor was standing next to would have been sent by Raven or Coyote.  And they would have been laughing their asses off when they watched him jump.

That turn in their theology was actually a very important step.  First of all, it acknowledges that shit happens.  Second, it says that shit happens, JUST BECAUSE.  It doesn’t necessarily have a damned thing to do with us or whether we’ve sinned or we’re scratching our crotches again.  It just happens because entropy is a part of the fabric of the Universe.  Coyote or Raven are always there, turning our orderly, sensible worlds upside down, JUST BECAUSE.  So it gets rid of the concept of sin and we don’t have to feel guilty about our genitals anymore.

Most importantly, though, it gets rid of the nutso, bipolar, control freak, mean bastard that we’ve had running heaven.  It’s not OUR fault that shit happens, but we also don’t have to invent a crazy god to explain it.  No more vengeful patriarch who’s just itching to throw us into eternal flames.  No more voyeuristic stalker who’s counting how many times we masturbate so he can punish us for it.    No more crazed Jehovah demanding that Abraham shove a knife into his son’s chest to prove how much he loves god.  

And, all in all, the heaven place is  much nicer without him.

Dan Adair is the author of, “Just the Tarot,” available on Amazon.com at a very reasonable price.

Loneliness, Being Alone, and The Hermit Card

An exploration of loneliness as a perception.

There was a pretty amazing poll released recently which found that, post pandemic, over 67% of Americans report that they feel more alone than ever before.  62% said that they felt they had ABSOLUTELY NO ONE to talk to about their loneliness during the quarantine.

While it’s easy to blame that on the social consequences of COVID, another poll conducted a year before the pandemic found that about 47% of Americans felt lonely or isolated.  That means that right around half of the people we pass on the street feel seriously lonely.

I was particularly interested in the findings in these polls, because The Hermit archetype has been a prominent feature in my life over the last couple of years.  The Hermit represents a turning away from society and deliberately isolating ourselves from other people and social influences.  It involves a period of solitude, meditation, and contemplation, for the purposes of spiritual growth.  I’ve spent a lot of time in solitude and pondered quite a bit over the differences between being alone and being lonely.

And there ARE huge differences.  

Being alone is, obviously, just a physical state of being.  My body is by itself, with no other humans, in this room, or in this house, or on this trail, or in this campground.  Being lonely, on the other hand, is an interpretation, a perception, a psychological/emotional state and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether you’re physically isolated.

About 29% of Americans live alone, which is an all time high.  Again, that means that almost one third of the people we pass on the street are living in some degree of physical isolation from other humans.  They are alone for a substantial period of their lives.  But, going back to this new polling, 67% of Americans feel lonely and isolated.  Even if you were to make the very radical assumption that every single person who lives by him or her self is de facto lonely, that still leaves around 38% of the population feeling very lonely while they’re living with other people.

So, first of all, we can see very plainly that feeling lonely doesn’t necessarily have a thing to do with being alone. We can feel every bit as lonely while we’re sharing a bed with another human as we can living out in the wilderness by ourselves.

Secondly, though, this points to a Great American Myth, which is that feeling lonely is somehow abnormal.  That, if we feel lonely, there’s something wrong with us, because, after all, other people don’t feel lonely.

But they do.  About 67% of us feel lonely and isolated which means that feeling that way is perfectly normal for a majority of people.  

Where it becomes emotionally painful is in the perception that we somehow shouldn’t feel that way.  Ever.  And if we do feel that way, we’re emotionally disturbed or mentally ill or social rejects or things just never work out for us the way that they do for other people.

Perhaps we can gain a little insight by looking at another Great American Myth, which is monogamy and living happily ever after.  We’re all programmed, from the time that we’re little children, to believe that someday we’re going to meet THE perfect person for us, fall deeply in love with them, and live happily ever after until we keel over in our matching rocking chairs at the age of 110.

The divorce statistics, however, tell a different story.  While the divorce rate has been dropping somewhat in recent years, the percentage of marriages that will end in divorce nearly always holds at 45 to 50 percent. Which means that for about half of Americans, monogamy just doesn’t work. 

Put another way, having our marriages end IS PERFECTLY NORMAL.

Despite that, having our marriages end is strongly associated with depression, hopelessness, and sometimes even domestic violence and suicide or murder.  And the reason for that is . . . expectations and perceptions.

We have been taught – all evidence to the contrary – to expect our marriages to last forever and if they don’t, we feel like losers and failures.  We have been culturally hypnotized – all evidence to the contrary – into the perception that everyone else’s marriages are working out just fine and it must somehow be our fault that our’s didn’t work.

Because our expectations for a, “successful,” marriage are so high (and so completely unrealistic) we are deeply hurt when they end.  Suppose we were to change the marriage vows to reflect reality, though?  Instead of saying, “until death do us part,” we could say, “I promise to love, honor and stay with you for six months, at which point we’ll renegotiate this contract and see if we want to exercise an option to renew it.”

Suppose, as Louise Hay suggests, we were able to simply end a relationship by saying, “I guess we’ve learned everything we’re supposed to learn from each other and it’s time to move on.”

That completely shifts the perception of what ending a relationship means.  Instead of feeling sad and thinking we’re failures, we can congratulate ourselves for, “graduating,” from that very important phase of our lives and moving on.

In the same sense, we can learn to shift our perceptions of what it means to, “feel lonely.”  Once we accept the fact that it’s a normal part of human existence, and that over half of the people we meet feel exactly the same way, we can actually start to look at what the feeling represents.  If we’re living with someone else and we feel lonely, is it time to, “graduate,” from that relationship and move on?  If we’re living by ourselves and we feel lonely, do we need to reach out more and spend more time with others?  Or do we feel lonely because we’ve lost touch with ourselves, with who we really are, and we need to spend a little more time meditating, reading, and thinking?

Most of all, though, we need to remove a lot of the hidden emotional stingers about loneliness.  Feeling lonely doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us.  Feeling lonely isn’t the same as being depressed, nor should it trigger depression.  Being physically alone doesn’t mean that we automatically have to feel lonely.  Feeling lonely isn’t something that we need to hide or be ashamed of because – guess what? – a lot of other people feel just the same way.

Once we start making those perceptual shifts about loneliness, then the statistics from these polls cease being shocking.  They’re not, “alarming,” or, “a hidden mental health crisis,” or, “an epidemic of loneliness,”  or any of the other hyperbolic phrases we see.  

They’re just honest.

To be human is, to a certain extent, to be lonely.  We are thinking, extremely emotionally complex beings, who are constantly evolving.  It should come as no surprise that there are times when we feel that other people don’t understand us because there are times when we don’t understand ourselves.

And that’s okay.  Feeling lonely is okay.  Being alone is okay.  The only thing that needs to be fixed is our perceptions and expectations.

Dan Adair is the author of, “Just the Tarot,” available on Amazon.com at a very reasonable price.

Predicting the Future, Predestination, and Black Out Drinking

I can state with no hesitation at all that Tarot cards, “work.”  What I mean by that is that, after decades of using them, I can attest to the fact that most of the time they’re mostly accurate in predicting the future outcomes of current events.

Which, of course, leaves a lot of questions hanging about exactly what we mean by the future and how it can possibly be predicted if it doesn’t exist yet.  

There is a particularly hideous christian doctrine called, “predestination,” which holds that the future is, somehow, already decided.  It was espoused in different forms by Augustine and the Calvinists, and is sort of the logical outcome of the christian world view.  It holds that

  1. God is all knowing and all powerful;
  2. Which means that God already knows exactly what’s going to happen in the future; and
  3. Human beings don’t have the power to change what God knows to be true;
  4. Therefore, the future is already decided and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The upshot of that – according to their thinking – is that it’s already been decided that some people are going to heaven and some people are going to hell and that’s just the way it is.  If you belong to the,“hell group,” it doesn’t matter how good or kind or compassionate you are in this lifetime, you’re still going to hell.  Why?  Because God already decided what the future is going to be.

Pretty weird, huh?  I mean . . . it’s logical, in a strange, twisted way . . . but what a bizarre, cruel way to view life and God.

It has a major flaw in that it’s what philosophers would call a, “closed system.”  That means that, if everything’s already been decided, then nothing can change, evolve, grow, or become different in any meaningful sense.  And if nothing can grow or change, then it’s dead.  And, as we all know, if there’s one thing in the universe that’s constant, it’s change.  Everything is constantly growing, changing, and evolving and all we have to do to prove that is to look out the window.

So Predestination was kind of a sick, christian brain fart that grew into a religious doctrine.  It would be laughable, except for that belief that the future somehow exists already and, therefore, can be predicted.

Which it can, but not because it already exists.  It can be predicted because some things are . . . well . . . predictable.

Here’s an example.  I live in Northern California which has been burning down with wildfires all summer.  The Western United States has been in a major drought for two years, the forests are overgrown and dry as a match stick, and the government refused to fund any additional firefighters or fire fighting equipment.

THEREFORE . . . it was entirely predictable – last winter –  that we were going to have an AWFUL summer of forest fires.  No question about it.  That doesn’t mean that the forest fires somehow already existed in the future, it just means that all of those factors – drought, overgrown forests, not enough firefighters – added up to a very predictable event.  In terms of Tarot cards, it would have been represented by The Tower – disaster and destruction.

Human beings are also very, very predictable.  If we have a friend who has a history of being involved with abusive men, the odds are very high that she’s going to go right on getting beaten up, unless she gets therapy.  If we have a friend who’s suddenly experiencing black outs when he drinks, the odds are very high that he’s going to devolve into an alcoholic.  

We tend to get stuck in patterns – or perhaps ruts would be a better term – and keep going in those directions unless something intervenes and changes our course.  To put it in terms of Newton’s Laws of Motion, “an object in motion will stay in motion at constant velocity, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  In this case, a life going in a particular direction will tend to keep going in that direction unless something happens to change that.

Essentially, that’s all that a Tarot reading does.  There are card positions for the past, the present and the future, as well as possible intervening factors.  The reading is just saying, “This is what’s happened in your past, this is where you’re at now, and this is, logically, where that pattern is taking you next.  Here’s what you can do to change that, if you want to.”

The magic, of course, is how all of that information gets into a card layout.  How do the cards somehow pick up on what’s happening in our lives and transfer that into a discernible, coherent pattern in a reading?

I have no idea.  I just know that it works.  I really don’t understand exactly how electricity, “works,” either, but that doesn’t stop me from flipping on a light switch if the room is dark.

When we’re talking about, “predicting the future,” it’s always important to remember that nothing’s ever written in stone.  It’s very, very likely that a person who is into abusive relationships will go on being abused.  BUT – sometimes they find a great therapist.  It’s very, very likely that a person who’s having black out drinking will end up dead or in jail.  BUT – sometimes they stumble into an AA meeting or just stop drinking.

In a very real sense, we’re not predicting the future at all.  We’re predicting the present.  And we can always change our present moment.

Dan Adair is the author of, “Just the Tarot,” available on Amazon.com at a very reasonable price.

Ahimsa, Love, and John Wayne’s Therapist

I ran across an interesting quotation from Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level :  “If you have any sort of a problem, send love at it.  If you’re dealing with a bully, send love at him.  If your life is stuck, send love at it.”

It’s fascinating because it makes love into an active proposition, rather than a passive state of being.  He’s not talking about just sitting in a meditative state of love, he’s talking about consciously generating it and using it to solve problems.

There is a principle that’s called, “ahimsa,” which is one of the five Yamas, or ethical rules of behavior, in yoga philosophy.  It’s widely translated as non-violence or doing no harm to any living thing.  I know a lot of Buddhists and Wiccans who have incorporated that idea into their lives.  If they find a spider in their house, they carry it outside and let it live rather than squashing it against the wall.  It’s a basic measure of respect for life and not taking it or harming it.

If we dig a little further into the idea, though, we find Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras saying, “once ahimsa is mastered, even wild animals and ferocious criminals will become tame and harmless in our presence. … Ahimsa, rightly understood, is the ultimate weapon; it turns one’s enemy into a friend, thereby banishing the possibility of further conflict.”

In other words, send love at them.   Use love as an active force to dissolve other people’s aggression.

One of the problems with sending love at people and things that threaten us is the limbic system in our brains.  That’s that very ancient part of our brains – sometimes called the crocodile brain – which is responsible for the fight or flight reaction.  If it detects a threat, it immediately dumps massive amounts of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into our systems.  Our heart rates go up, our blood pressure goes up, we become hyper focused on the threat, and our thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, pretty much stops functioning.  We’re ready to fight like hell or run like hell, whichever action is most likely to help us survive.

The thing is, it’s very easy for other people to reach right past our conscious minds and our spiritual beliefs and tap into that fight or flight reaction.  If someone at a business meeting makes fun of us, or a coworker is nasty to us, or a friend puts us down, we reflexively, unconsciously go into fight or flight.  We can see that happening in the Five of Wands:  everyone is madly swinging their clubs at everyone else and no one is stepping outside of the conflict and thinking things through.

The problem with fight or flight – aside from being a really unhappy, miserable way to go through life – is that aggression breeds aggression.  If you get up in my face, I’m going to get right back up in yours.  Which will make you even more aggressive, which will make me even more aggressive and on and on until someone gets hurt or someone flees.  It’s a self-feeding cycle that inevitably leads to someone being wounded, either emotionally or physically.

And that’s the genius behind Ahimsa:  it short circuits the fight or flight reaction by changing the energy field.

To put it in New Agey terms, incompatible energies cannot exist in the same energy field.  If we’re actively generating love and nurturance and caring from our heart centers, then hatred and anger and aggression can’t enter into that field.  One of two things will happen with the people around us who are generating anger:  (1) they’ll go away because their anger isn’t compatible with our love; or, (2) they’ll change into more loving, mellow people in order to be compatible with the energy we’re putting out.

All of that starts, though, with our actively, consciously generating love and applying it to our problems.  It’s not just a state of being that we sometimes live in and sometimes lose sight of.  It’s beginning to see love as a very powerful force for change and not just some wimpy phrases on a Valentine’s card.

It makes perfect sense when we think about it.  The Buddhists have an old aphorism that we don’t take darkness OUT, we bring light IN.  We don’t just sit in a dark cave and imagine that there’s light – we actually light a candle.

It’s not an easy place to get to, certainly not in our society.  We’re constantly programmed that violence and anger are solutions, rather than problems.  Our heroes carry guns and know karate and drop bombs on other people.  Love, on the other hand, is seen as something that’s weak and wussy, appropriate, perhaps, for mothers who are nursing babies but not very useful in the, “real world.”  Love, when our tough guy heroes encounter it, is something that happens TO them, something that they have no control over and have to put up with, despite their best instincts to the contrary.

Changing that paradigm is going to involve embracing the idea of love as being much, much stronger than hatred and rage.  As being an irresistible energy that’s an undercurrent in the universe.  It’s going to involve realizing that people who are living in constant anger are the ones who are really afraid and the people who are living in love are the ones who have the courage to embrace life to the fullest.

It’s sort of like imagining John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in a bar, face to face with the BAD HOMBRE’.  They’re glaring back and forth at each other, their hands are resting on their pistols, and everyone else in the bar is hiding under the tables.  The music slowly builds to a crescendo and at that exact moment of the highest tensions in the scene, John Wayne reaches over, hugs the bad hombre’, and says, “I love you, man.  I’m sorry that you’re having to live in such a terrible, negative space, and I know a good therapist I could recommend.  Here, let me buy you a drink and we’ll talk about it.”

It works.  Try it.

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The Tower, the Rules, and the Hidden Gift of Losing It All

The gifts that may be concealed in disasters.

It can be hard to find anything positive to say about The Tower card in the Tarot.  It shows a tower being struck by a lightning bolt and the inhabitants of the tower plunging to their death and destruction.  When you draw the card in a reading, it symbolizes total disaster, either on a physical or a psychological level.  Everything that you believed in and held dear is being blasted into debris and smoke.  It gives any Tarot reader a real case of the heebie-jeebies.

Most people don’t experience that kind of total destruction.  That’s not to say that they don’t have terrible or traumatic experiences sometimes.  Usually, though, most of their world remains intact.  A person’s partner may leave, but she still has her children.  Or perhaps she’s fired from her job, but she still has a sizable savings account.  Or her house burns down, but it was fully insured.  Yes, we all experience disasters of greater or lesser magnitude, but it’s rare to have everything fall apart at once, to be left with nothing but a shell of our life.

When that happens, we lose our sense of being in the world, our sense of living in a sane, orderly, safe universe where we fit in and life is predictable.  It’s literally like being in a psychological and spiritual earthquake, where previously solid ground has shaken and shifted and split apart and left you standing in ruins.

In his book The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (Penguin Psychology), R.D. Laing refers to what he calls, “ontological insecurity.”  Ontology is the philosophy of being, of studying how we, as living beings, fit into and exist in our world.  Ontological insecurity, then, is the pervading sense of not fitting into the world, of not belonging.

We can see a mild example of that when someone travels overseas.  Every society has unwritten rules that the citizens just take for granted.  There are macro-cultural rules like the fact that in America we drive on the right hand side of the road and we mostly speak English.  There are also micro-cultural rules like the fact that people who live in the Southern part of the United States make eye contact and smile as they pass strangers on the street and people in New England don’t.  A woman on the East Coast may wear skirts and heels to work every day while a woman in California wears jeans and a blouse.

Whatever the rules are for that particular society, they are so comfortable and so well known by the people who live there that they operate on an almost unconscious basis.  People take the underlying rules for granted and because of that they fit in.  They know their place in the world and how to behave in it.  That’s ontological security.

If you were to take one of those people, though, and parachute them into Thailand or Indonesia or India, their ontological security would vanish.  Suddenly they’re in a place where the language sounds like gibberish, people drive on the wrong side of the street, buildings aren’t, “right,”, bathrooms aren’t right, the beds are weird, and the money makes no sense.  

In other words, they don’t know the rules.

There’s very much the same sense of angst when your whole life blows up in your face.  When you lose your life partner AND your home AND your job AND your family walks away from you.  Not only are our lives shattered, but, even worse, we’re left with a sense that the world just doesn’t make sense anymore, that nothing is safe and orderly and predictable, and that no one is trustworthy.

In other words, we feel like we don’t know the rules anymore.

And that’s ontological insecurity.

R.D. Laing was working primarily with severe schizophrenics and, unfortunately, many of them never come back from whatever hell-scape they happen to be living in.  With those who did come back, however, he likened their illness to a shamanic journey, a deep, spiritual pilgrimage to strange dimensions where our ordinary sense of reality, our, “rules,” of behavior simply don’t exist. 

Having the underlying fabric of your life destroyed can feel very much like that sort of a descent into madness.  Unfortunately, when we’re faced with total disaster, most of us can’t stand to live in that space for very long.  It’s too threatening, too scary, too overwhelming to face the fact that our lives are built on a very thin veneer of rules and normality which really have no substance to them.  And so we begin to reconstruct our lives as rapidly as possible using the same template that failed us in the first place.  

Your wife died?  No problem – get remarried.

You lost your shitty job? No problem – get another shitty job.

Your family deserted you?  No problem – join a social club or AA or a church and make a synthetic family.

We desperately want to get back to our sense of safety but, in doing so, we lose the gift of the loss, the gift of the shamanic journey into darkness.  And make no mistake, losing everything can be a magical gift because it can make us realize that we never really had it to begin with.

When we realize that everything we treasure can vanish, then we can begin to reconstruct our lives with things that are real and won’t disappear in the next disaster.  Love.  Compassion.  Inner wisdom.  Peace.  Tranquility.  But first we have to relinquish the safety of our, “rules,” and our so-called normal lives.  As Pema Chodron said in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times/p>

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”

The gift of The Tower is to be fully alive and fully awake, to live without our previous illusions.  If we choose to take the gift.

Happiness, Meaningfulness, and the Four of Pentacles

The importance and differences between happiness and meaningfulness in our live.

In her wonderful book,The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In, Anna LeMind references a study by Roy F. Baumeister on the differences between happiness and meaningfulness.  In some cases, the two experiences may overlap, but they aren’t always synonymous.

It turns out that human beings crave both happiness and meaningfulness.  The Buddha tells us that all sentient creatures want to feel happiness and avoid pain, and we share that drive with the birds and the bees, the turtles and the spiders.  Bring on the happiness, baby, and take away that pain.  That’s an old blues song, I think.

Where we differ from most of the animal world (we believe) is that we also need to have a sense of meaning in our lives.  Having a lot of orgasms may make us extremely happy, but it doesn’t necessarily bring any meaningfulness into our existence.  If we’re lying on our death beds reviewing our lives, we’re not likely to say, “Man, I had 20,000 orgasms.  Now that’s a life well lived.  My life really meant something.”

According to this study, it’s actually pretty easy to define what makes us happy.  Being happy involves three major components:

  1. – having our needs satisfied.  That’s a pretty simple one.  If we’re hungry, it makes us happy to eat.  If we’re cold, it makes us happy to get warmed up.  If we’re horny, it makes us happy to have sex.
  2. – having the sense that we can obtain what we need and want.  In other words, not just eating when we’re hungry but knowing that we have the powers and abilities to get out there and get that food all on our own.
  3. – feeling good most of the time.  That’s kind of a no-brainer, but it’s true.  People who mostly feel good are mostly happy and people who feel lousy are mostly unhappy.

None of those three factors necessarily make us feel that our lives are meaningful, though.  Feeling good, for instance, is very strongly associated with being happy, but not necessarily with feeling meaningful.  People who are very healthy tend to be happier than people who are sick, but both healthy and sick people have an equal shot at leading a meaningful life.

Having the powers and abilities to get what we need and want is another one that may make us happy, but it doesn’t necessarily bring meaningfulness along with it.  In our society, having the power to get what we need and want usually means having money.  If you really, really, really need and want that new computer, you have to have the dough-ray-me to pay for it, right?

But even money has a very strange relationship with meaningfulness.  In the Tarot, the suit of pentacles represents material possessions and money.  In the Four of Pentacles, we see a guy who’s really having a love affair with money.  He’s got his feet resting on money, he’s got his arms wrapped around money, and he’s got money sitting on his head.  What a happy guy!

Probably.

Maybe.

Could be.

The study found that people who have plenty of money tend to be happier people, BUT they don’t necessarily report living a life that’s more meaningful.  On the other hand, NOT having enough money makes people less happy and their lives feel less meaningful.  So it’s not really the money that counts, it’s the lack of it.

Here’s another interesting little snippet of information that’s about life being easy versus life being hard.  We’ve all known people who appeared to be unbelievably lucky.  It’s like anything they want just seems to fall into their laps with little or no effort on their parts.

And we’ve also known people who seem to be unbelievably unlucky.  No matter how hard they work, no matter how much they struggle and strive, life consistently turns into a shit sandwich for them and their desires and goals slip away like vapors in the wind.

Unsurprisingly, having an easy life makes people very happy.  And having a hard life makes people unhappy.  But neither one of those is linked in ANY way to a sense of meaningfulness.  You can have the easiest life in the world and still feel like it doesn’t mean anything.

There’s another fascinating element with meaningfulness and happiness, which is TIME.

We know how the mindfulness meditation people are constantly hammering at us about, “Stay in the present moment!  There’s no unhappiness in the present moment.”

It turns out they’re right!  Happiness is very highly correlated with living in the NOW, in the present moment, rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

But, unfortunately, it’s also inversely correlated with having a sense of meaning.  The more you live in the present moment, the happier you’ll be, but you also sacrifice a sense of your life having any overall meaning.

Why?  Because meaningfulness is a function of time.  The greater the span of time in your life that you’re contemplating, the greater a sense of meaningfulness you’ll have.  If you think about what yesterday and today meant, the odds are that they didn’t mean very much, unless something extraordinary happened.  On the other hand, if you think about what the last ten or twenty years of your life meant, you’re much more likely to see patterns and meaning.

And the same thing applies to the future.  The future gives the present moment meaning because it involves us in taking purposeful actions meant to create that future.  What we’re doing today is meaningful because it has a purpose – making the future.

So we have this odd conundrum.  The more we stay in the present moment, the happier we’ll be, but the less meaning we’ll derive from our lives.  The more we dwell on the future and the past, the less happy we’ll be, but the more our lives will feel meaningful.

The study also found an oddity in our perceptions of happiness and meaningfulness.  People tend to view happiness as being relatively fleeting, something we feel momentarily and then it gets away from us.  And they feel that meaningfulness is more permanent, something that will last long after happiness has disappeared.  Which is just not true.  Both meaningfulness and happiness tend to be fairly stable and long lasting.  We probably just feel that happiness passes quickly because it’s so intimately related to the present moment, which is always appearing and disappearing, appearing and disappearing, shazam!

Which brings us to the probable reason for why meaningfulness is so important to human beings.  The author concluded that MEANINGFULNESS IS AN ATTEMPT TO IMPOSE ORDER ON FLUX.  Life is chaotic, man.  Life is constantly changing, constantly transforming, constantly shazamming from one thing into another and then another and then another.

And it drives us nuts.  We need a sense of stability, of orderly progression, of the past moving logically into the present which will then move logically into the future.  We need to be able to connect the past, present and future of our lives in a MEANINGFUL way.  Otherwise it feels like life is something that just happened to us, rather than something we lived.

If all of this sounds very complex, it’s because IT IS.  We are very complex.  To seek happiness is to be alive.  Every single animal on the earth seeks happiness.  But to seek meaning is distinctively human.  It’s who we are.  It’s what we do.  Meaningfulness is not necessarily the same thing as happiness, but it’s just as important.

The Law of Attraction, The Magician Card, and Dumping the Scientific Method

Looking at the wonderful messiness of magic.

I love this little section from Genevieve Davis’ Becoming Magic: A Course in Manifesting an Exceptional Life (Book 1)

“Is magic unscientific?  I don’t care two hoots one way or the other.  I have no desire to make what I do fit with a scientific world view.  I don’t give a flying fig whether it does or doesn’t fit in with quantum physics or Newton’s Laws.”

We all grew up learning the scientific method and so we know the general ideas involved with it.  In order for something to be a scientific law, it has to be predictable and verifiable and universal.  In other words, if we’re talking about the Law of Gravity, then we have to be able to predict that when an apple – any apple – falls off of a tree it’s going to come straight down and hit the ground.  Over and over and over again.  And everyone has to be able to see that that’s the way that apples fall and they have to fall the same way in Tierra del Fuego as they fall in Texas.

If some apples fall halfway to the ground, turn sideways, and zip off into the horizon, then we’re fucked as far as gravity being a universal law.  Then we have to go back and re-examine our theories, do thorough, scientific studies on apple-ness, and try again.  That’s called, “revising your hypothesis.”

Now, for some reason, many people who are involved in metaphysics and spirituality have ALWAYS craved the approval of scientists.  I don’t really know why, because most of the scientific folks I’ve met have been pretty boring, one dimensional people with whom I would not care to share a beer or a joint.  Perhaps it’s because scientists are always hopping up and down and screaming, “You can’t PROVE that there are ghosts (or angels or fairies or spirit guides or the astral plane, etc., etc., etc.)”  Perhaps some people who are involved with spirituality have developed a sort of a Stockholm Syndrome where they really, really want their abusers to love them.

Or maybe they just really, really want for magic to be predictable and verifiable and universal.  Which it isn’t.

There’s that word, “magic,” again.  Let’s talk about it a little bit, in terms of the famous, “Law of Attraction.”

The Law of Attraction IS, essentially, magic.  If you can make something appear out of thin air with the power of your mind, that’s magic.

The Law of Attraction is NOT a law, and that’s where a lot of us get screwed up and where a lot of us give up.

The point is that it’s a Not-A-Law that works most of the time, which is why we shouldn’t stop using it and exploring it.

When we first learn about the Law of Attraction, this is how it usually works.  We encounter someone who says something like, “If you only think of good things, then only good things will come into your life.”  And so we try it and it works pretty well and we’re feeling pretty damned jazzed about it.  “Hey, you know, only good things come into MY life!”

Then life turns into a shit sandwich and we go back to the person who told us that we should only think good things and ask them why all of this crap just floated into our lives.  They start suggesting flaws in our approach to only thinking good things, such as:

-Did you write down exactly 25 affirmations in the morning and 22 and ½ before you went to bed?

  • Did you use a vision board?
  • Maybe you were thinking 7 good things and 285 bad things and your bad thoughts overwhelmed your good thoughts.
  • Do you put a lot of emotions into your visualizations?
  • Did you try dancing on one foot when you were visualizing and  holding an amethyst in one hand and a tourmaline in the other?

Again, that’s called, “revising your hypothesis.”  If only good things are supposed to come into our lives when we think good thoughts and bad things start happening, then it must somehow be our fault.  We must be doing something wrong, because the Law of Attraction is a LAW, by god.  And that means it always works and it’s predictable and it’s verifiable.

Eventually a fair number of people become dejected over the fact that the Law of Attraction doesn’t always work and they just quit trying.  Which is a drag.

It’s not a Law.  And that’s okay.  It’s magic.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but a lot of the time it does.  Just like magic.

Let’s take a look at the Magician cards from a couple of different decks.

The first is the Magician from the Waite Deck, which was designed about the turn of the 19th/20th century, the dawn of the Scientific Age. 

He’s dressed in perfect, dramatic ceremonial robes, he’s holding a wand aloft to gather in Universal Energies and he’s directing those energies into manifestation on the material plane, as represented by the four objects on the table.  He’s magnificent, he’s powerful, he’s in control.  His magic is verifiable and predictable because he KNOWS HIS SHIT.  His magic works every single time.

Now let’s take a look at the Magician from the ancient Marseilles deck. 

He’s kind of goofy looking, his clothes look like they were sewn together from rags, and look at all of that weird stuff he’s got spread all over the table!  The expression on his face isn’t so much one of being in command and control as of, “Um . . . did I forget something?  Was there an Eye of Newt in this spell?  I just can’t remember . . .”

The Magician from the Waite deck really exemplifies the type of magic that many purveyors of the Law of Attraction would like us to believe.  The Universe is an orderly, positive place and if we behave in an orderly positive manner, then only orderly, positive things will happen to us.

If I’m doing a magic spell, then I MUST draw a circle that is EXACTLY nine feet across and place four white candles in each of the cardinal directions.  I have to have a knife and a chalice on my altar and a specific kind of incense burning and the spell has to happen at a specific time of the month or IT JUST WON’T WORK.  If I do all of those things just exactly right, though, then my magic will be predictable and verifiable.  You know, like a Law.

The old Magician from the Marseilles deck is much more like what magic is really about.  He’s slinging together odds and ends and making it up as he goes along.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but he’s NOT going to walk away from his table because most of the time it DOES work and he’s having a hell of a lot of fun.

The old Magician recognizes the Sacred Dictum passed down to us from the Ancients:  sometimes weird shit happens.  Magic, like life and emotions and love, is NOT always predictable.  That’s why all of the old cultures had trickster gods like Loki and Coyote and Raven, because sometimes life just jumps up in our faces, yells, “BOO!” and then laughs it’s ass off at us.

Here’s another interesting passage from Genevieve Davis, this one from her book Doing Magic: A Course in Manifesting an Exceptional Life Book 2

“There is a reason that women are particularly good at magic . . . the slightly chaotic nature of women, often negatively deemed ‘irrational,’ is actually a desired trait when doing Magic.  Embrace irrationality, embrace chaos, allow things to just turn out in whatever higgledy-piggledy pattern they please and you will find this SO much easier.”

The Law of Attraction ISN’T a Law.  It’s a general principle that if we act and think in a mostly positive manner then mostly positive things will mostly come into our lives.  Most of the time.

And that’s not only good enough, that’s GREAT!

We don’t need no stinking laws!

The Moon Card, Insanity, and 40 Rolls of Toilet Paper

Moving toward a new definition of normality after the pandemic.

So . . . we appear to be coming out of the other end of the corona virus pandemic.  After a year plus of being told to stay home, live in isolation, and wear masks, we’re being told that it’s at least semi okay to start to take off the masks and socialize a bit.  It’s rational to have some hope that we’re not all going to die horrible deaths in understaffed Intensive Care Units.

Huzzah!  Now we can get back to normal!

The question that I’ve been dealing with lately is what exactly IS, “normal?”  And, secondarily, did I ever really, truly KNOW what normal is?  Because it appears to me, in looking back over the past year, that a whole lot of people are a whole lot crazier than I ever thought they were.

The Moon is, “the crazy card,” in the Tarot.  It represents insanity, delusions, illusions, self-deception.  The juxtaposition of the dog and the wolf howling at the moon show us that our evolution from pure animal state was not that long ago.  The crawfish crawling out of the water shows our most primitive, prehistoric state of being emerging from its murky depths.

We’ve seen a lot of murky depths and de-evolution over the last year.  Two things stand out in particular.

The first is The Great Toilet Paper Insanity of 2020.  We, as a society, received the news that we were faced with a horrible epidemic that could kill millions and millions of people.  A virulent plague such as the world hadn’t seen in a hundred years.  Humans were dying like flies in a cosmic spider web in China, Italy, New York, and no end was in sight.  

And our response was . . . BUY TOILET PAPER!!!  Lots and lots and lots of toilet paper.  Buy so much toilet paper that the shelves of grocery stores would be stripped of the stuff for months.  Buy more toilet paper than we could use in five years. If elderly people and weak people who couldn’t shoulder their ways into the head of the line didn’t have any toilet paper because we’d bought it all . . . well, FUCK them!

It was truly insane in the real definition of the word.  You can’t eat toilet paper.  You can’t heat your house with toilet paper.  You can’t wrap your shivering body in toilet paper during the freezing winter months.  Toilet paper – to a sane mind – has a very limited value in our overall lives.  It’s good for wiping our asses and blowing our noses.  Period.

Yet, in a matter of just a few weeks, people had been hypnotized into believing that it was the most valuable commodity on earth.  And it was a truly bipartisan hypnosis.  This wasn’t just a bunch of far right, neo-conservative survivalists hoarding toilet paper.  I have friends on social media who are life-long, foaming at the mouth, liberal-progressives who were proudly posting pictures of the two hundred rolls of toilet paper they had stashed in their hall closets.

Huh . . . who could have seen that coming?  In all of the post-apocalyptic movies we’ve seen, in all of the creepy end-of-civilization Stephen King novels we’ve read, has anyone EVER mentioned toilet paper?  Was there EVER a scene of a howling mob breaking into a grocery store and killing each other over . . . toilet paper?

Not.

The second, much darker, much more disturbing scenario that emerged was the embrace of the, “herd,”  vision of humanity, particularly as it applied to frail people and old people.  At a certain point, the medical model of the virus that emerged was that it was very likely to kill older people and people with pre-existing health problems, less likely to kill healthy middle aged people, and unlikely to kill younger people.

Using that knowledge base, a pretty brutal theory emerged:  for the sake of, “the herd,” it would be better if older people and sick people were exposed to the virus and just . . . you know . . . died.  The Lieutenant Governor of Texas actually said that it was somehow the DUTY of older people to get out there, get exposed to the virus and die, because that would get the economy open faster and there, “are more important things than living.”   

Strong evidence has emerged that the anti-mask movement that many of us found so puzzling was never about, “political freedom,” at all.  It was about ensuring that the maximum number of people would be exposed to the virus as quickly as possible in order to achieve “herd immunity.”

Now, that’s basically one small step down from Nazi eugenics.  It’s a theory that views humans as a herd, rather than as individuals.  If there are members of the herd who are sick or old, they need to be, “culled,” out so that the herd will stay healthy and vital.  Yes, millions of people will die, but think how much healthier we’ll be AS A WHOLE after all of them are dead!

It’s exactly the same mentality that led the Nazis to proclaim that, “the Herd,” (the Master Race) would be SO much better after we eliminated the Jews, the Blacks, the Gypsies and pretty much anyone who wasn’t a pure aryan, whatever the hell that is.  If you’re willing to expose people to a virus that you KNOW is going to kill them, that’s essentially a gas chamber mentality.

The salient point, of course, is that we AREN’T a herd.  We’re a society.  One of the hallmarks of virtually all societies is that they take care of people who are old and ill, they don’t just kill them.  We don’t toss Grandma into a lake with a cinder block around her neck because she’s become a bit of a pain in the ass.  We don’t execute people because they’ve got cancer.

So, yes, in reviewing this last year, I have to conclude that there are a whole bunch of us who are pretty fucking nuts.  And some of us are pretty fucking nuts and pretty fucking brutal.

The question is –  being realistic and acknowledging those facts – where do we go with that knowledge?  How do we react to the idea that the lunatics seem to be running a large part of the asylum?  Do we withdraw and hide?  Do we view other people with contempt or fear?

The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is to just react with compassion.  

In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) don Miguel Ruiz points out that many people are barely conscious.  They’ve been programmed by their parents, their churches, their schools, and society at large to NOT think.  To NOT question their values or their reality.  They just get wound up like little robots when they’re children and they go through their lives never really waking up.  In essence, they’re Sleep Walkers, stumbling around in the darkness and not even having their own dreams.

When we see something like The Great Toilet Paper Insanity of 2020, it just reinforces that truth.  If your response to a life threatening situation is to grab as much toilet paper as you can, you’re not thinking, you’re not reasoning, you’re not even awake.  And that is sad and that deserves compassion.

If your response to a life threatening situation is to view other humans as being somehow expendable so that you have a better chance to live, as mere members of a herd, then you’re cut off from love, from empathy, from basic human decency, and you’re living in fear.  And that is sad and that deserves compassion.

 What I believed to be, “normal human behavior,” has turned out to be a pretty thin veneer over a LOT of crazy shit. I’m probably going to be a little more cautious around my fellow humans after this, a little less open and willing to believe that we have a common vision of the world.  But I also know I’m going to be a lot more compassionate toward them.

And that’s a good thing.  Hell, I’d trade 40 rolls of toilet paper for a little more compassion.

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Happiness, Capitalists, Yellow Rocks, and Radical Meditators

Most people who are on a Spiritual Path eventually come to hold beliefs which conservatives consider, “politically radical.”  It’s ironic, because most people who are on a Spiritual Path have very little interest in politics, except to casually observe it as another form of human insanity.

When I use the term, “radical,” I mean it in its original use from the latin word, “radix,” or root, as in, “the root of a plant.”  To get radical is to get at the very root of something, to get to the place that it all grows out of, so to speak.

Let’s take the example of the Six of Pentacles.  It shows a richly dressed man, scattering coins to beggars, and holding a scale so that he can measure exactly what he’s giving away.

You couldn’t ask for a better representation of the, “scarcity,” view of life that’s at the root of our society.  There simply isn’t enough wealth to go around and some people have it and some people don’t.  Those who DO have it, should share it with those who don’t have it, but they need to be very, very careful about not giving too much away, because there’s never really enough.

In real time, we see that happening with the gazillionaires who live in penthouses, fly around in private jets, take vacations on yachts, and are DESPERATELY WORRIED that poor people might be getting too many food stamps.  Having enough to eat without working for it at minimum wage jobs is bad for their character, doncha know?  Makes them lazy and dependent.  Pass the champagne, darling . . .

As we move into a deeper level of spirituality, though, we begin to understand that there’s another model for looking at life, which is the, “abundance,” view.  The Universe and Mother Earth seem to be richly, almost insanely, abundant.  There are enough seeds in one tomato to plant an entire farm.  There are enough sperm cells in one tablespoon of semen to repopulate the world.  Women’s bodies produce far more eggs than they could ever bear as babies.  And, yes, we could produce enough food to feed every hungry person in the world.

And we begin to realize that the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough, the problem is that some people are spiritually sick and want far more than their share of the abundance.  Even worse, they want to be sure that other people have less than THEIR share, because they believe in their hearts that wealth is scarce and if they have more wealth, they’re better than other people.

Eckhart Tolle talks about this quite a bit in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Oprah’s Book Club, Selection 61)  In a nutshell, the Ego always wants more STUFF, because the Ego believes that the more STUFF it has, the more important it is.  And, as a part of that contrast, if you’ve got less stuff than I have, then I’m just that much more important!  If I drive a BMW and you drive a Honda, I’m better than you.  If you have a two hundred dollar computer and mine cost five thousand, then I’m better than you.  If I live in a McMansion and you live in a trailer, then I’m better than you.

And so we get hypnotized into this weird dance of thinking that our STUFF makes us, “better people.”  But, as Tolle points out, it’s just a sugar rush, not real nutrition.  Yes, the new computer (or car or house or jewelry) makes us happy for a while, but then it doesn’t anymore.  So we have to buy more and more and more stuff to keep getting that rush, but somehow happiness keeps slipping away from us every time.  

If we keep walking down the Spiritual Path we realize that the STUFF doesn’t really make us happy, not for long.  As we continue to evolve, we start to get a glimpse of happiness WITHOUT the stuff.  Maybe that revelation comes to us in our meditations or our dreams or journals, but we begin to get just a glimmer that the material stuff really has very little to do with happiness.  We can actually BE HAPPY anytime that we want to and we don’t need a new computer to get there.

And that, my friends, is a RADICAL idea!  That goes right to the root of our whole economic system and way of life.  It short circuits the entire capitalist system which is based on consumers being convinced that they need to keep consuming STUFF in order to be happy.  If we quit buying all of that crap that doesn’t really make us happy, then the gazillionaires who are selling us all of that crap that doesn’t really make us happy are going to lose a lot of money.  

Dangerous, dangerous thinking!  LOL – it really is.  It’s why they killed Jesus.  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”  WHAT????  Kill that guy!  Quickly!

The point is that as we explore and grow spiritually, our values change and we become less and less in synch with society as whole.  We realize that, ultimately, what all of us want is love and happiness.  And we realize that love and happiness flow out of our hearts, not our possessions.  Possessions and materialism itself start to feel like a form of insanity, which it can easily become.

Consider the example of the genocide committed against Native Tribes in the United States.  We killed hundreds of thousands of Tribal Peoples in the Dakotas and Northern California because they were sitting on land that contained gold.

From their point of view, we were totally out of our minds because NO ONE HAD TOLD THEM THAT GOLD ISN’T JUST A ROCK.  Why kill someone over a rock?  Which, by the way, it IS just a rock.  You can’t eat it.  You can’t fertilize your fields with it.  You can’t make clothing out of it. Other than being pretty, gold is totally useless.

Except that somewhere, thousands of years ago, some asshole said, “I have this pretty yellow rock and you don’t, so I’m better than you.”  Since that original asshole, wars have been fought, untold numbers of people have been tortured and killed, and whole civilizations have been decimated, all because some people wanted to have ALL of the pretty, yellow rocks. 

 It really is monumentally nuts, when you think about it.

It’s my fervent hope that, as we move out of the ego-based scarcity model and into the new spiritual paradigm, we’ll see materialism begin to wither on the vine.  Contrary to their paranoia, that doesn’t mean we need to have a revolution and take all of the rich people’s stuff away from them. There’s plenty to go around and if their yellow rocks make them feel better, so be it.  

That’s abundance.

That’s radical.

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