January 2017: Four of Cups
You may have noticed a sidebar item titled Symbolism that features an image of a tarot card. I’m a surrealist, so I like to toss out little things like that as a lure. Each month will get a symbol. The first two are from the Rider-Waite tarot deck. I might stick with that source, or I might use others from time to time. The point is to drop a thought here or there without trying to control what reactions may arise. I won’t explain the symbol until each month is over.
So, January’s symbol was the Four of Cups. The tarot card’s divinatory meanings are fairly obvious: discontent, disinterest, and weariness with the world, and at the same time, it implies novelty and new connections. The story illustrated by the card is of one unimpressed by what is being offered. It may be new and different. People may be rushing up to give it. He wants none of it and sees nothing worthwhile in any of his options.
There is an implied significance beyond the superficial interpretations, as well. The card’s image is reminiscent of the Buddha attaining Nirvana in meditation beneath the Bodhi tree. In that myth, armies of demons attack the Buddha, trying to break his meditation with violence, threats, frights, and temptations. They fail, and eventually, the kings of the four directions come and offer him gloriously crafted vessels in homage. He takes them, stacks them together, and thus creates the humble begging bowl by which he will live as an ascetic monk.
January brought a lot of changes to a lot of people. To some, it brought power, fame, and an entire new life full of overwhelming demands. To others it brought conflict, chaos, fear, and anger. It has forced millions of us to confront how we really feel about the world we’ve built and live in. Few of us can say we’re happy with the options presented to us today.
But I wonder if the Four of Cups suggests an alternative. Can we replace cynicism and disgust with open-minded detachment? Instead of receiving what life brings us as problems, can we receive it as opportunities? Can we look dispassionately at all the things happening around us and ask what can we make of this that will be useful and good?
Perhaps our discontent with the present will prompt us to envision a new future.
Next month, February: Nine of Wands. See what you make of that.