A few weeks ago, a friend suggested we set a special intention for the victims of a horrific act of violence. (Which one, you ask? The list grows daily. Real people died in each one.)
I thought my friend had a good idea; I was on-board with it. But before I could follow through, I heard about another violent tragedy. Somehow it was able to shock me even though I was already reeling. The death toll in the second circumstance was even higher than the first. (Which means what, exactly? If every life is an infinity, is 100 times infinity more than 50 times infinity?)
Suddenly it felt odd to honor one set of victims in light of this news about the others. Yet in smearing the particular into the generic–“we’ll pray for everybody, all at once”–I started to lose focus. Too many faces to visualize, too many names to read. I started to feel the overwhelm that has hit many of us lately. New shocks are coming too fast, I can’t/don’t wish to numb them out but something inside has broken loose and I’m feeling adrift.
(While writing this, I was reminded of a chat I had with some New Orleans friends, about a year after Hurricane Katrina took out the 9th Ward of that city. A million people were evacuated; 80% of the city was flooded. My friends had had a miraculous time of it–the water came up to the bottom of their front steps, while the next block and beyond was totally washed away. But they talked about how it was afterward–the constant reminders of loss everywhere, the diminished population, the government restrictions that were put into place–and they tried to explain how even lucky people like them could feel raw inside. So now I am the comfortable, privileged, alive person blogging about my overwhelm and yes, I’m aware of the equivocal nature of my angst. But I press on, because after all, I’m me and who else’s experience can I live?)
In the midst my confusion, a question started gently drifting into my mind: Who is my brother? Forgive the quasi-Biblical language and gender-specificity; I think when things strike us deep we are flung back on our origins. Anyway, that’s how it came, and it has continued to quietly percolate. Of course, the short answer is: Everyone. Here’s what the cards said, when I put the question to them:
Who is my brother?
Right now “my brother” is howling, dredging up ancient memories, thirsting for Justice–that which is necessary to create the world of hope that he/we dream of.
And what of my feeling of being overwhelmed? The internet is peppered with opinions, some actually helpful, about what practical actions we can take, to dig ourselves out of that deep mire La Lune’s sea creature emerges from. Most of the advice tends to be big stuff, outward in focus: march, resist, vote, bear arms, send “them” away–all depending on the advisor, of course. I plan to follow some of this type of advice myself. But still, as the Breton fisherman prayed, Dear God, the sea is so big and my boat is so small. I’m that small boat, with little agency in the wide sea. Yet it’s a curious paradox. I can’t do much, but it’s imperative that I do what’s mine to do. How do I tease out the small strand that’s mine to clutch and to weave?
What is up to me?
La Force-La Lune-Temperance
Oh-ho! The cards won’t let me wring my hands helplessly. You are a force, despite your size. A force to tame the mass hysteria through moderation, regulating the energies that are within your domain. What is up to you is to contain the chaos, surrounding it with strength and temperance.
Not something I can “do” once and for all. This is a talisman for the road.
But my boat is so small…
Again, smarter folks than I have many practical suggestions for you. Do all that you can. But as an antidote to overwhelm, you could pull a card from time to time and let it guide you to specific actions. I offer a few thoughts on the 22 Trumps to get you started.
1 Magician: Have a yard sale to raise money for a worthy cause. Leave a gift where someone who needs it will find it by magic.
2. Papess: Teach an underprivileged child to read.
3. Empress and 4. Emperor: Be a role model. Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Remember you have power. Use it well.
5. Pope: Pray. If you happen to be a teacher, bring your healing spirit into your classroom–but don’t preach about it.
6. Lovers: Decide on one thing you can do to bring passion back into the world. Do that thing.
7. Chariot: Organize the troops. Start a neighborhood action group. Rein in the wild horses.
8. Justice: Work to make laws work for all. Work to make yourself love justice for all (it’s not as easy as you think, see the next card and also 18, Moon).
9. Hermit: Get quiet and meditate. Look at your own stuff before you open your mouth. Be a light for good.
10. Wheel of Fortune: If you’re up today, you could be down tomorrow. Try to walk in someone else’s shoes (psychologically of course). Join or start a group to dialog with those who are on the other side of an issue.
11. Force, Strength: Bring healing through working with animals. Maybe shut up some.
12. The Hanged Man: Give up. You are not who you think you are and neither is your enemy. Surrender so something new can appear.
13. Death: Cut the crap. You don’t have much time; spend it on what is essential (like growing a new world out of the old).
14. Temperance: Be the one to take it down a notch when things get heated. Keep energy moving.
15. Devil: Call people out on their stuff. Be in their face if need be.
16. Tower: Dismantle a structure that needs to go (psychological, political, physical). Tip: use legal means if possible.
17. Star: Bring hope to those around you–as far around you as possible. Give your clothes to the needy (keep a few for yourself though).
18. Moon: Recognize how much you are driven by primal urges, fears, ancient prejudices. (Note: Other people are similar.) Now that you know, you have a choice in how you respond.
19. Sun: People in warm countries need your benevolence. Also, smile more.
20. Judgment: Write, speak, sing, and otherwise vocalize your healing intent.
21. World: Protect the earth. Envision a new world. Emerge from your fences and boundaries. Talk to a neighbor you’ve never spoken to.
The Fool: Your boat is small, but you still get in it every day and go out onto the open sea.
Cards: Tarot de Marseille of Pierre Madenie, 1709. Reproduction © Yves Renaud
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