The Wheel of Fortune – Good Luck, Bad Luck, Flying Monkeys and Eckhart Tolle

A closer look at good luck and bad luck in The Wheel of Fortune

Luck.  It seems to be a universal concept, found in every human culture.  There are blues songs bemoaning the fact that, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”  People talk about how their luck’s been so bad they’d have to look up to see the belly of a snake.  Then there are other people who seem to live enchanted lives, lives where one good thing after another happens to them for no apparent reason other than they’ve got really good luck.

The Wheel of Fortune Tarot card is obviously about luck, but the modern, Waite Deck depiction of it is really just about good luck.  It shows a wheel bedecked with Egyptian deities and surrounded by symbols of the four elements or, perhaps, the four apostles.  There’s nothing threatening or scary about this version of the card.

When we look at the old, Marseilles deck version of the card, though, we see a different story.  Instead of Egyptian deities, we see . . . um . . . monkey critters.  Wizard of Oz flying monkeys, one perched atop the wheel, wearing a crown and wielding a sword, one being carried upward on the wheel and one being cast down by the wheel.  This is really much more in keeping with that very primal perception of luck that we humans have always had about luck.  It’s something kind of creepy, magical, and outside of us, outside of our control.  We can never tell when a flying monkey might swoop down out of nowhere and carry us away in its nasty little talons

Humans are always trying to find a way to harness luck, to somehow bring it under our control.  There are dozens of gods of good luck that we’ve worshiped through history – Hotei, Fortuna, Lakshmi, etc. – hoping that they’ll bless us with strong luck.  Many people carry a rabbit’s foot or a lucky penny or have, “lucky socks,” or jeans that they favor.  A lot of obsessive compulsive behavior flows out of a ritualistic quest for luck.  OCDs may feel an urgent need to wipe the counter exactly seven times or wash their hands three times in order to avoid something catastrophic happening.  Most of us were taught the basics of avoiding bad luck as children.  Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.  Don’t walk under a ladder.  Don’t break a mirror.  Oh, shit, it’s a black cat!

The older Tarot card shows both good luck and back luck – one monkey is rising on the Wheel of Fortune and one is descending.  The two phenomena seem to go together, to be attached, one rising from the other.  The second verse of the Tao Te Ching alludes to this when it says:

Once we know beauty, we know ugliness.

Once we know good, we know evil.

High and low, long and short—all these opposites support each other and can’t exist without one another.

That duality, that sense of opposites always going together, seems to apply to everything on the material plane, including luck.  Good luck seems to give way to bad luck and bad luck gives way to good luck, or that’s the way that we conceptualize it.

Eckhart Tolle suggests that, at least to some extent, it really is just about the way that we conceptualize it.  Many times, what we view as bad luck is just the end of a cycle.  Everything grows and then it diminishes and then it grows again.  We don’t view plants dying at the onset of winter as a tragedy, but we do view humans dying at the end of their incarnations as tragic.

Louise Hay has much the same view of the ends of relationships.  When we break up with someone or we get a divorce or our partners die, it feels like a horrible, painful tragedy.  It feels like bad luck.  She suggests viewing it instead as a sort of a graduation.  At the point the relationship ends, it means that we’ve learned everything we were supposed to learn from the dynamic of that relationship and it’s time to say, “thank you for the wisdom,” and move on.

The Law of Attraction people tell us that good luck and bad luck can actually be learned behaviors, patterns that we get into that, “attract,” more of the same.  If we can learn how to maintain a positive, healthy outlook on life, we tend to attract positive, healthy people and things into our lives.  In the same sense, if we see life as a terrible, crappy experience where we’ve got nothing but bad luck happening, that’s what we attract.  Even worse, we attract people with the same negative vibes and then we get to deal with their shit in addition to our own.  That can go a long way toward explaining why some people always seem to be lucky and some people seem to have a curse on them.

Pema Chodron said that life is all about being constantly thrown out of our nest. Constantly forced to give up our security and adapt to new experiences.  Quite a bit of what we call, “bad luck,” is that simple, elemental human experience of not wanting things to change.  We envision an idyllic, static existence where nothing new or challenging ever happens to us because change is scary.  Getting fired from our jobs, losing our partners, having to move out of our houses – these are all bad luck because they’re changes that we don’t want.

There are a couple of things worthy of noting about that, though.  The more that we resist change – the more that we say, “no,” to the end of a cycle –  the more dramatic that change is eventually going to be.  It’s almost like an explosive force that just keeps getting more and more powerful the longer we sit on it, until it eventually blows our existence into tiny, smoldering pieces.  A small change that we resist can easily grow into a catastrophe that we could have avoided.

The other thing to note is that good luck so often grows out of bad luck.  After we’ve had a period of seriously rotten luck, we frequently find our lives being showered with blessings of all sorts.  It could be that, as the Taoists assert, good luck is attached to bad luck and one inevitably gives rise to the other.  Or, as Tolle said, perhaps we’re just ending one cycle and plowing the dead weeds under the ground to make room for the new growth.

That can make a huge difference in how we experience those periods of, “bad luck.”  We can realize that The Wheel of Fortune is a wheel that’s constantly turning and that we’re never stuck in one place.  It just feels like it.  Being thrown out of the nest may feel incredibly uncomfortable emotionally.  It may be terrifying.  It may feel like horrible luck.  But it’s the only way we learn how to fly.

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

The Sun Card and The Uncarved Block

Seeing the human Soul in the Taoist concept of The Uncarved Block.

One of the core tenets of Taoism is an idea called, “The Uncarved Block,”  or, as it’s written in Chinese, “Pu,” (not to be confused with The Tao of Pooh although it IS the Tao of Pu.)  

It refers, quite simply, to a piece of wood that’s never been touched, never been carved into a statue or an ornament or a utensil.  It’s just the wood, as it came into and grew into this world.  It’s in its’ primal, original state of being.

When the term is used to refer to the human experience, it means the primal state in which WE came into this world, untouched by experiences, prejudices, or dualistic thinking.  And, of course, it implies that there was a SOMETHING that arrived when we were born, other than just a tiny little human body.  There was a primal NATURE that came into the human body. Some people call it a Soul.

This has actually been a pretty hot topic for philosophers and psychologists for hundreds of years.  Are we just reducible to the sum total of our bodies and brains, or is there something else that’s greater and somehow inhabits our bodies and brains?  Another way of putting it is, “nature versus nurture:”  are we born with a certain nature, an essence that existed before our birth, or are we simply whatever we learn as we go along in life, whatever we learn by being nurtured by our culture?

Aristotle came down firmly on the nurture side of the equation, saying that we are born as a, “tabula rasa,” a blank slate that life and culture writes upon.  There is no soul, no pre-existing essence. The idea was later picked up by the English philosopher John Locke and thus made its way into modern psychology.

New Thought writers, of course, are advocates of nature, of the idea of our having a Soul that, “arrives,” in this world using the vehicle of our bodies.  What’s more, they see the Soul as being pretty cool when it dances into the physical world.  To quote Esther Hicks/ Abraham in Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires

“You are eternal beings who have chosen to participate in this specific physical life experience for many wonderful reasons . . . You are eternal Consciousness, currently in this wonderful physical body for the thrill and exhilaration of specific focus and creation.”

In other words, when we first get here we are beautiful, spiritual beings, full of joy, who have come here on a mission that INCLUDES having a lot of fun.  To use a phrase from AA, we are happy, joyous, and free.  We would feel a lot like The Sun Tarot card looks.

We arrive as beautiful, innocent, children, full of elation and radiating the euphoria of being alive in this enchanted garden that we call the Earth.  We are naked and unadorned, and our original nature, our essence, our, “uncarved block,” is love.  Pure love.

But then something happens.  Perhaps we forget our original nature in the process of transitioning from being Spirits to existing in physical bodies.  Perhaps, as some children do, we remember our original nature and still see the angels and the fairies, but our families and society soon beat that magic out of us.  As Don Miguel Ruiz put it in The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)

“We are born with the capacity to learn how to dream, and the humans who live before us teach how to dream the way society dreams . . . we learned a whole new reality, a whole new dream.  We never had the opportunity to choose what to believe or what not to believe.”

And we find ourselves wandering in Paradise, lost in the collective dream of our existence, with no memory that we are something far, far greater than our mere physical bodies.  As the bible expressed it – in a phrase that christians never, never, never EVER quote – because then we wouldn’t need preachers:  “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” 

 Or to use Joni Mitchel’s riff on it, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

That’s the rub, that’s the rough part for most of us: just remembering that we ARE spiritual beings and getting back to that garden.  It’s not as if society exactly encourages us to act like we’ve all got Souls.  If we really believed that we’re all part of the Divine, we’d treat each other with a shade more respect, wouldn’t we?  If we actually looked at killing as killing a part of the Divine, we’d have a lot fewer wars, doncha think?

It’s actually become quite fashionable to laugh at the idea of a Soul.  Many people view it as an anachronistic belief on a par with the idea that god is an old man sitting on a golden throne.  Just silly crap that’s left over from our primitive religious views.

Can we PROVE that there’s a Soul?  Of course not.  Can materialists or atheists prove that there ISN’T a Soul?  Of course not.  What we CAN do is to intuit that there is a something that lies beyond and beneath our ordinary consciousness and reality.

In discussing the difference between the ego and what we really are in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Oprah’s Book Club, Selection 61) Eckhart Tolle says:

“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am.  Who am I then?  The one who sees that.  The awareness that is prior to thought, the space in which the thought happens.”

In a similar vein, Jeffrey Schwartz, who is a neuropsychiatrist and uses very strict scientific standards of proof,  argues in You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life that there is something beyond the mere thoughts that our physical brains generate, something that directs our focus and can override our thoughts.  He calls it, “The Wise Advocate,” and it sounds very much like the description of a Soul.

“The Wise Advocate knows what is best for you, it loves and cares for you, so it encourages you to make decisions in a rational way based on what’s in your overall best interest in the long term.”

That Wise Advocate, that space that exists between our thoughts, is where our Soul lives.  It’s where our Soul is still naked, beautiful, innocent, and playing.  It’s our original nature, our uncarved block.  

All we have to do is find it again. Or at least try to be a chip off the old block.

The Fool, Wu Wei, and Touching Your Woo Hoo

Exploring the concept of Wu Wei and the work ethic of drifting.

We all know how to be a success in life, right?  We set our alarms so that we can get up before the sun rises and we work our asses off all day.  We do twice as much as everyone else, put in lots of overtime, and keep working right up until we go to bed.  And some of us actually keep working in our dreams, mulling over the day while we sleep, running through scenarios for when we go back to work tomorrow.  We even have lots of inspirational sayings to reinforce our work-a-holic thinking.

“The early bird catches the worm.”

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

“Stay positive, work hard, and make it happen.”

Yay!  Let’s get out there and WORK!

But what if all of that is wrong?  In fact, what if most of it is bullshit?

The Taoists have an interesting concept called Wu Wei, which can be loosely translated as, “doing nothing,” and they say that it’s a major key to success.  A more accurate translation might be, “purposeful inaction,” and the basic idea is that the harder we work, the behinder we get. Taoists love to use rivers and lakes and water in general as metaphors, so we can do that to explain Wu Wei.

Suppose that you’re floating down a beautiful, green river in your little Rowboat of Life.  There’s a gentle current that’s carrying you along nicely and you’re making good forward progress.  It’s so quiet and peaceful and you can feel the sun warming your face and body.  Perhaps you let one hand trail behind you in the crystal clear water and for just a moment it feels like everything is absolutely perfect.  

BUT . . . you suddenly decide that you want to go faster, because faster must be better, so you grab your oars and you row like hell until you’re exhausted.  And you really haven’t gotten much further down the river.  All you’ve accomplished is to wear yourself out when you could have been just drifting along, enjoying the ride.

But WAIT!  You remind yourself that drifting is wrong!  Drifting is bad!  We need to be GOAL ORIENTED and MOVING FORWARD with MAXIMUM ENERGY AND MOTIVATION at all times.  By now, you know that rowing forward didn’t accomplish much, so you start paddling your Rowboat of Life from one side of the river to the other, just to be doing SOMETHING.  After all, you’re the Captain of your Rowboat!  YOU determine where you’re going and YOU’RE in charge of your destiny!  

 Eventually you realize that you’re making even less forward progress and after a while you get discouraged and put your paddles back in the boat.  You drift along thinking about it and beating yourself up for not making more effort.  Maybe a dragonfly lands on your nose while you’re cogitating.  “Am I lazy?” you ask the dragonfly.  “Do I just not have what it takes to be a winner?”

As you work it all out in your head, you realize that WINNERS KEEP GOING, no matter what the odds are against them.  Real winners are willing to work as hard as they can and then DIG DEEP to find that last reserve of energy to carry them across the finish line!  The harder you work, the more it proves that you’ve GOT WHAT IT TAKES, by god!

So just to prove how hard you work and how inspired you are, you turn your Rowboat of Life around and start paddling AGAINST the current.  You struggle and you strain and at a certain point you have a massive coronary and die, but at least you died a winner, right?

The whole point of this, of course, is that there are underlying currents of energy in the Universe.  They actually help us get to our goals if we just surrender to them and go with the flow.  Life isn’t an enemy.  Life isn’t something we have to fight.  Nature isn’t something we’re supposed to conquer.  We are meant to float as gently on the currents of life as a blossom drifting down a broad, quiet river.

Most of the New Thought writers and speakers have this concept as a central pillar of their philosophy.  In Choose Them Wisely: Thoughts Become Things! Mike Dooley talks about visualizing your goal in general terms and then moving toward it.  BUT he emphasizes very strongly that we don’t need to sweat the details about how we’re going to get there.  The Universe will provide the means and the ways and the paths once we get in harmony with the flow.

Louise Hay, in You Can Heal Your Life writes, “I believe in a power far greater than I am that flows through me every moment of every day . . . Out of this One Intelligence comes all the answers, all the solutions, all the healings, all the new creations.”

In Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires Esther Hicks/Abraham, says, “Well-Being is the basis of the Universe.  Well-Being is the basis of All-That-Is.  It flows to you and through you.  You have only to allow it.  Like the air you breathe, you have only to open, relax, and draw it into your being.”

In other words, there is a current of energy, of love, that underlies the entire Universe and our, “job,” our only true, “work,” is to align ourselves with that energy current and drift along on it, knowing that it will take us where we want to go.

The Fool Tarot card is the perfect illustration of this.  She dances along on the edge of a cliff, filled with the energy of love, totally unconcerned about where she’s going or how.  She’s in the flow.  She’s dancing with the energy and if she walks off of the cliff, she’ll just walk on air.

So . . . how do we get to the Flow and how do we know when we’re out of it?  How do we know when we’re paddling up the river, instead of riding the current?

According to Esther Hicks/Abraham, we actually have a compass in our little Rowboat of Life.  It’s called emotions.  And we can check that compass anytime that we want to.  HOW DO YOU FEEL?  If you feel crappy, angry, sad, or resentful, you’re paddling upstream.  If you feel happy, joyous, free, and content, then you’re floating down the river with a dragonfly perched on your nose.  If you’re not feeling anything at all, if you’re emotionally flat and apathetic, then your Rowboat is stuck on a freaking sandbar.  So the key is to get up every morning and say, “Woo Hoo!  I’m alive and I love it!”

We all need to stay in touch with our Woo Hoos a lot more than we are.  We can do that.

Of course, all of this is totally un-American.  Hard work and a lot of sweat are the answers.  Anyone who says different is plain Fool-ish.

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