Archive for October, 2015

Life lessons learned from Dr. Seuss

Like many of my contemporaries, I was an avid reader of Dr. Seuss books as a child. The simple rhyming structure and compactness of the volumes belied it’s deep and life-long influence. Theodore Geisel hid profound life lessons within the pages of his short works; lessons that I am only beginning to realize are still with me today.

I’ll start with the first of his books I can recall – Green Eggs and Ham. C’mon, say it with me, you know you know the line “I do not like them Sam I Am, I do not like green eggs and ham.” Throughout the pages of this brief masterpiece we are regaled with increasingly bizarre places to try eating this titular dish. Yet the protagonist resists. The idea of eating eggs in an unfamiliar color seems to be anathema to him. When he finally capitulates and tries the eggs he finds them delicious. He is suddenly willing to eat them anywhere and at anytime. The lesson I learned from this was that I should be willing to try new things, even if they seem weird and scary at first. I’m still working hard to embrace this message but being aware of it is a good first step (for me at least).

Another Dr. Seuss work that still resonates for me today is The Sneetches. In this tale there are two tribes of sneetches – one group has stars on their bellies and the other doesn’t. Naturally the star-bearing sneetches feel they are superior to their barren bellied brethren. Eventually a scammer offers a solution – a machine that will put stars on the Plain-Bellied Sneetches (for a fee of course). Naturally this outrages the Star-Bellied Sneetches who decided that perhaps barren bellies are the way to go. After numerous ridiculous interactions, both groups finally realize that this prejudice is ridiculous and they are truly all equal – with or without stars. I can’t say I fully grasped this concept as a child but as I matured I began to realize what a simple yet profound concept this was. It was reinforced over the years by various other studies and life lessons (such as the classroom activity when a teacher divided children up according to eye-color and proceeded to treat one eye-color group as superior to the other – the results were not quite so funny or charming in real life).

Another hugely influential Dr. Seuss tale was The Lorax. “I speak for the trees!” – I can still hear him protesting. This book had such impact on me as a child that I am still amazed that humanity hasn’t learned it’s simple lesson. If we run through our resources like locusts, we will be left with nothing. We justify our behaviors with a very “everybody needs a thneed” approach and don’t realize that some things are irreplaceable and some things, once broken, are unfixable. Children seem to understand this concept better than adults. Unfortunately many also seem to forget it as they grow older. Maybe we should make it mandatory for every adult to read this book at least once a year. I don’t see how it could be put in more simple, profound yet easy to understand terms.

A final Dr. Seuss tale that stuck with me through the years is The Zax, a tale of stubbornness taken to ridiculous levels. When the north-going Zax and the south-going Zax cross paths (or rather collide head-on), their refusal to compromise reaches epic proportions. I wish I could say reading this book kept me from becoming overly stubborn but that would be inaccurate. However I can say that it at least kept me honest about my ridiculous moments of monumentally stupid stubbornness. Once again, this is a life lesson I’m still trying to fully embrace but at least I realize the need.

Other Dr. Seuss classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat certainly stayed with me but didn’t have quite the same impact as the ones I mentioned above. I think I may need to re-read these books soon. It occurs to me that growing old is forgetting the joy and magic of childhood. In my opinion Dr. Seuss books help keep that spirit alive.

Blue Rose Devil

Blue Rose Devil

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: Yes, we create our own Devils. We, ourselves. Without any help from anyone else. We can do this trick with no hands. All we have to do is experience a willingness, no matter how fleeting, to give up. To abdicate responsibility. To refrain from thinking. That desire to offer up those gifts that are our most magical and filled with light (our Inner Power and Free Will) creates the vacuum for the Darkness to come in. An invited guest that, once firmly and comfortably ensconced, is very difficult to oust. These days we call it “selling your Soul to the Devil”. And nothing could be more true. Many a rational mind will repel from such a notion. The idea that we each create our own personal Devils or Dark Spaces, is an unattractive idea. It is far more comforting to entertain the notion that Darkness/Evil/The Devil exists as a separate Entity that wreaks havoc upon innocent travelers who have the misfortune to fall victim to him or his followers. But as much as we may like this to be so, it is not. This does not mean that we cannot fall victim to the Darkness of another being, another traveler who has forfeited himself to his darker nature. We certainly can. However, no matter what we may suffer at the hands of another Fool’s “Devil”, it is nothing compared to what we suffer when we succumb to a Devil of our own making. In the first case, we can lose much. We can lose life, limb, a loved one, our sexual innocence, our property. We can lose little or we can lose much. But what we do not lose is ourselves. We do not lose our own Souls. We know this because spiritual “forward progress” can still be made. The Journey may become more difficult or the path may divert into a harsh terrain not previously envisioned or anticipated, but the Soul can continue forward. If it wants to. And that is the key. For even if you think you have observed an innocent Soul succumb to the ultimate Darkness because of the pain or evil inflicted by the Devil of a fellow traveler, this is not the case. Think again. For what has in actuality occurred is that, as a result of that victimization, the innocent Soul experiences a loss, translating to an emptiness, translating to a fear, translating to a need of such proportions that he now creates his own Devil.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card is one of attraction that seduces and imprisons, losing yourself in the false enchantment and false promises of an illusion. The masked man is the dream lover who seduces us from reality and promises a happily ever after that will never arrive.  He is the male counterpart to the Spider Woman we saw in last week’s Transformational Tarot Devil.   It is a trap into which we fall.

The image of this Devil reminds me of Charles Boyer in Gaslight – a seductive, sociopathic husband who tries to drive his wife insane. This is the abusive lover who undermines our self-esteem and cuts us off from our friends so we are isolated, vulnerable and dependent upon him. It is the parent who cuts away at our sense of self-worth and confidence so that we feel unable to break away and create our own life. This Devil is everyone in our lives who is supposed to love and nurture us but who undermines us and creates a sense of helplessness and dependence.

The key to liberating ourselves is realizing that we allow ourselves to remain in this trap. We accept the false illusion and give up our power. We allow ourselves to become or to remain weak, convincing ourselves that we will be happier this way. Anyone who has ever given up their dream to maintain the status quo or who has forced themselves to conform when they have wanted to rebel has been trapped by this Devil.

What is important to remember that we can climb that fence, break down that barrier and reclaim our power if we so desire. We have all seen or heard of amazing stories about people who have overcome amazing obstacles to achieve happiness in their lives. One example who always stayed with me is Liz Murray, the young woman whose parents were drug abusers, one (or possibly both) died of AIDS, she and her sister were homeless and yet she still managed to stay in school, get good grades and get accepted to Harvard. What a tribute to the human spirit and our ability to overcome anything.

For every abused child who becomes a child abuser there are hundreds who do not fall into this trap. For every child raised in poverty who becomes a life-long welfare recipient, there are hundreds who manage to get decent jobs and live productive lives. So while poverty and hardship are indeed major obstacles, they are only permanent traps if we allow them to become so.  It is our choice.  In the words of Sarah Connor in The Terminator movies “no fate but what we make”.  We can only remain imprisoned if we allow it.

Transformational Tarot Devil

Transformational Devil

Transformational Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games (2006) ISBN:1572815396

The Book says: Passion at it’s most primal level. Erotica and sensual pleasure. A tendency towards mischievousness. Obsession, temptation, blind impulse. Feeling out of control. Dependence upon another that can lead to misery. Self-destructive tendencies. Ignoring one’s inborn code of ethics. Lack of Balance. It may indicate an inability to trust. The seeker may be experiencing limitation in a current situation which narrow the perception of options. On the other hand this card can imply an attempt to break the chains of psychological bondage. Separation, divorce. It could also indicate pleasure in the subjugation of others: sadomasochistic tendencies.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This is the Spider Woman, the dark lady who lures you into her web and traps you before you even realize what has happened. She seduces, entices, attracts and repels. Her confidence and aura of self-control and power is a powerful bait. She is the Black Lady of whom Cher sings (“Black Lady sang and danced and lit the candles one by one”) She is attractive and soulless. able to capture you in her web and suck all your energy, all your life force. She is the eternal vampire who takes and never gives. As Billy Joel sang “she’s so fascinating that you stand there waiting while she comes in for the kill”. If she doesn’t direct the demon’s actions then at a minimum she approves and possibly enjoys them.

She could just as easily be male. Think of the lonely hearts con man – a sociopathic charmer who can smile as he empties the bank account. This Devil is the dominatrix who teaches you to beg for her abuse; the addiction which holds you in its thrall; or the lack of self-esteem that keeps you captive in a lousy situation. But the key to overcoming this Devil is being willing to say “Stop”. We only become her victims if that is what we want. If we are finally able to wake up and see how we have become trapped then we have the potential to break free. It may no be easy or fun but it can be done. But first you have to take the initiative

Have you ever held a passionate conviction? You know the type – a Knight of Wands, I am furiously, powerfully convinced that my position on this topic is correct kind of belief? A conviction that you hold so firmly and unshakably that it divides people into “us” (those who share your belief) and “them” (those who hold an opposite opinion. The most visible example of this kind of belief is the pro- and anti-abortion camps. The anti-abortion activists demonize reproductive health care providers sometimes even to the extreme of advocating the assassination of doctors who provide abortions in order to save the “unborn”

Original RWS Knight of Wands

I still have a few hot button issues which I will defend vehemently and passionately with no attempt at objectivity, open-mindedness or thoughtfulness. When defending these beliefs I would charge forth like a Knight of Wands, beating all foes into submission. There was no attempt at reasoned debate or peaceful negotiations. I was confident in my beliefs and held the courage of my convictions. I was in the right and was morally obligated to defeat those who disagreed. Thank goodness that I’m reaching a point in my life where this passionate conviction is giving way (slowly, oh so slowly) to tempered thoughtfulness.

Original RWS King of Swords

I am reaching a place where I am more open to hearing the other side’s arguments. I don’t feel such a strong need to beat down foes as much as open a dialogue with people who hold differing opinions. I a able to hear their viewpoints with objectivity and genuinely hear what is being said rather than listening and merely waiting for my turn to speak. It has helped me understand that intelligent, passionate people who hold different perspectives from my own are not delusional and wrong. They simply have different priorities and have reached different conclusions after examining the information presented. I’m moving away from my Knightly passion towards a more Kingly consideration and thoughtfulness.

Secret Forest Knight of Wands

There is something very comforting in having a Knight of Wands approach to things. There is little room or doubt or second-guessing. Instead we act from a place of moral certainty and superiority. We are wrapped in a cloak of self-righteousness and confidence. Of course I’m right and as a result I must sally forth and correct the mistaken viewpoints held by others. It is my duty to carry the message of rightness to them! This viewpoint leaves very little room for debate or discussion. We don’t really care why they believe what they do, we merely want to correct their wrong-headed beliefs.

Druid Animal Oracle Owl

Thanks goodness most of us move passed this phase. We eventually learn that we are not always right. Even when we do believe we are right, we often lose the need to proselytize and convert others to our viewpoint. We learn and embrace the fact that we learn more by being open and listening to the views and reasoning of others who hold different perceptions and opinions. This often allows us to expand our horizons and our world view. Respectful debate and open-minded discussions can lead to less parochial, entrenched mindset. Perhaps if we can moved beyond this attitude in our own lives we can eventually learn to expand it to encompass national matters too. I can always hope.

Mansions of the Moon Devil

Mansions of the Moon Devil

Traditional Meaning:  The Devil represents being bound by our own desires and shadow.  We could easily free ourselves from these bonds if only we stopped and thought about it.  It’s almost like the novelty toy called Chinese handcuffs – two people put one finger in each side of the object and the harder they pull away from each other the tighter the bond grows.  It is only when they work together and move towards each other that they are able to break free.  The Devil reminds us that is we don’t work with our shadow side, we are doomed to remained chained helplessly chained to it.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card speaks of facing your shadow side, that dark, “evil”, primitive side of ourselves which we would prefer to deny even exists. Psychology has many terms for this side of human nature – the id, the anima/animus, etc. At first glance this card seems somewhat dark. The presence of the winged woman, reversed pentagram, the goat-headed female and the green demon all suggest the struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong, between heaven and hell. But if we look closer we see signs that all is not quite so gloomy. Yes, there is a darkness inherent in this card. But there is also a sign of hope.

The flaming torch may be the gift of the shadow side – enlightenment and illumination. Once we have faced the darkest side of our nature we are freed. We acquire knowledge and wisdom about ourselves and about the world. In many ways it reminds me of growing up and realizing that the world is not all sunshine and rainbows. That our parents are not perfect and don’t have all the answers. The Devil is a reminder that the challenge is not in being able to face this dark side, it is in being able to incorporate it into our being without becoming lost in it. Losing ourselves in addiction or mental illness or unhappiness means the shadow has taken over. We have the ability to face the evil in humanity without losing sight of hope and the good things. ‘

Sometimes when watching the news there is such a focus on negativity that it’s easy to forget about the positive things. This card reminds me that there are millions of ordinary, every-day people who face this darkness each day and are still able to emerge hopeful and triumphant. They can embrace, accept and forgive this darkness and not lose themselves within it.  This is something we should all aspire to achieve in our lives.

Do the ends truly justify the means?

The ends justify the means. I’ve heard this statement presented as unshakeable, unalterable fact. It seems to get used when the person speaking is justifying some behavior h/she knows is probably wrong. I’ve seen it used to excuse military actions (usually cloaked in some “we’re bringing democracy to this backwards nation” rhetoric). I’ve seen it used to justify cheating in school in order to get better grades or pass tests. It sounds reasonable, but I’ve never been able to buy into this concept.

I don’t understand how we can consider something a moral victory if, in order to achieve it, we need to become as “bad” as the people we’re fighting. For example the “war on terror” has caused the United States, land of the free and home of the brave, to violate a number of personal freedoms and infringe on our liberties in order to ensure safety. When you ask many average Americans how they feel about airport security and strip searching, their responses tend to be of the “well as long as it keeps us safe” variety. Reality is that no matter what steps we take to prevent “terrorists”, they figure more creative ways to circumvent these measures. We willingly give up our rights for the illusion of safety and believe the ends (keeping us safe) justifies the means (the violation of our personal freedoms and Constitutional rights)

Another aspect of the “war on terror” that many people don’t like but view as a necessary evil is torture. We may cloak it in more politically appropriate terms but basically that’s what it is. The United States is allowing military and intelligence personnel to torture certain individuals in the belief that it will reveal crucial information that will enable our government to defeat terrorists. In reality all that is accomplished is that the individual tortured will say anything, absolutely anything, to make it stop. Cessation of pain is a powerful motivator. I’m not claiming that useful information may not be gained in this way but if we resort to torture and violation of civil and human rights then how are we any better than those we profess are terrorists?

How often have we heard law enforcement personnel makes statements about “knowing” the suspect was guilty of something, even if it was not the specific crime for which he was arrested. In other words, it doesn’t matter if he is wrongfully convicted because in the long run he will commit another crime that would result in his conviction and imprisonment. Putting him away now prevents others from being hurt by his actions so the ends justifies the means. I think what bothers me most about this mindset is the inherent hypocrisy. It implies that any action taken, no matter how repugnant or heinous, is acceptable as long as the outcome is “just”. This mindset is what leads to bombings at abortion clinics and police brutality towards suspects. They may truly believe they are on the side of the righteous, so they are justified in their behaviors.

Adherents to this mindset seem oblivious to the fact that they have become as guilty as those they profess to battle. Are we truly justified in committing atrocities against others because they are “evil”? It seems to me that this battle cry is often wielded when the issue at hand is so subjective that it is impossible to reach an impartial conclusion. As has often been stated, one group’s terrorists are another people’s freedom fighters. And if, as we have so often been assured, history is written by the winners then perhaps we have been deluded in thinking there is such thing as a righteous war or justified means. Maybe there are certain behaviors that are just wrong regardless of reason. Is torture ever really justified? Is cruelty ever justified? Is rape or willfully creating situations that result in the starvation and death of others every justified?

I’m not making any claims to moral superiority. If I don’t engage in this particular form of self-delusion, there are others I seem to commit with wanton abandon. The truth is that I don’t have the answers and even if I did they can only apply to me. I’m not trying to tell others what moral choices they should make. I can only point things out and hope that it makes other folks stop and think for a minute. Maybe if we each consider these issues and lead by example, we can change some attitudes one person at time.

In the last few years, with nothing better to do than ponder such questions, I’ve begun to consider the difference between knowledge and wisdom. When I was younger I used these words interchangeably – and still do to some extent. Experience and mistakes have finally begun teaching me how different these two words are – well for me at least.

Greenwood Tarot High Priestess

I’ve decided that my definitions of knowledge and wisdom are as follows: Knowledge is the information we acquire through study, learning and life experience. Wisdom is knowing how, where and when to apply that knowledge. A great example of this is seen in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Our favorite nerds are in Leonard’s car on their way to smite one Todd Zarnecki for stealing Sheldon’s virtual treasure. On the way Leonard’s car breaks down. He asks the car filled with “geniuses” if anyone knows anything about internal combustion engines. They all respond in the affirmative. Then he asks if any of them know how to fix an internal combustion engine and they all say “No”. They have the knowledge but not the wisdom needed for this situation.

In many ways it’s part of the maturation process. I still remember 20-something me starting at my new job. I was filled with confidence (well over-confidence really) and sure that I could fix everything that was wrong at this place if they were only smart enough to listen to me. I knew it all (except how and when to keep my mouth shut – still quite a problem in fact). Thankfully I was lucky enough to have a few supervisors who took a shine to me and showed me a thing or two. They helped me become a bit more thoughtful and less cocky. Within a few years I was one of the “old-timers” who groaned at the arrogance and ignorance of the newbies – exhibiting the same cockiness I once did.

Druid Animal Oracle Owl

A poem about a owl always stuck with me since childhood “The wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?” This owl has become an object lesson and inspiration for me. I hope to some day become wise enough to shut the hell up. It’s still a work in progress but at least I’ve become more conscious of it now.

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