Saturday 6th April 2019: Ace of Swords

The Ace of Swords calls us to get a grip on our thoughts and start thinking straight. Coming at the end of the week it suggests the need to confront those aspects of your life that the exigencies of the week may have compromised. Above the swirling clouds of uncontrolled negative self-talk and “head trash” (as Noah St. John calls it) are the clear blue skies that are full of potential. That is where the sword is pointing. That is where the crown of life is to be found.

Spring is in the Air

Here in Hiroshima, and much of Japan this was the week in which the cherry trees blossomed and people flocked to the parks and river banks to enjoy cherry blossom viewing – hanami – and picnics and drinking parties under the cherry trees.

The Somei Yoshino cherry trees are notable for their washed-out pink blossoms that bloom for a day or two before falling petal by petal in the breeze, suggesting the intensity and brevity of life. As the breeze cuts through the blossom like the Ace of Swords let us pause to appreciate the evanescent beauty of the present moment.

This year, the cherry blossom season falls in the middle of Lent, the season of the (9) Hermit, in the week of the (3) Empress; spring has emerged from hiding and goes about in her kimono and parasol.

The Fourth Week in Lent 2019

In our quotidian progress through this week we find our way “blocked” by the (4) Emperor, the only Upper Arcana to appear, and it is by passing through the leaves of the imperial door that the significance of the week may be found. The (4) Emperor is the fourth Arcana. Four is Dalet in the Hebrew alphabet, and dalet signifies a door and also that which is low, enfeebled, melting, and still or silent. It was Delilah who in beguiling Samson enfeebled him and brought him down.

Wait a minute, isn’t the (4) Emperor supposed to be powerful as the embodiment of LAW? Actually, no. It is not power per se that the Emperor symbolizes but rather authority – the sceptre above the sword. The (4) Emperor is passive. Such an image of the (4) Emperor is similar to Lau Tzu’s imperial sage who says:

I contrive nothing,

and the people are naturally civilized;

I am fond of tranquility,

and the people are naturally upright.

I have nothing to do,

and the people are naturally enriched;

I have no desire,

and the people are naturally simple.

Tao Te Ching, translated by Thomas Cleary

Thus, what is mere lethargy or indifference in the 4 of Cups is transmuted into “wu wei” in the (4) Emperor, that is a natural emptiness in which we are at one with the flow of the natural world. The (4) Emperor then may either be blocking OR granting you access much as a door may be open or shut to you.

Clearly, this week has been full of dynamic potential, from the interplay of the Queen of Swords and the Page of Cups on Monday and Tuesday, and the Ace of Rods and Ace of Swords on Wednesday and Saturday; but that potential does not seem to have been fully realized in any materially productive sense.

My Week in Review

In my case this week, however, I seem to have been drawn to the lower hanging fruit of passivity, of afternoon naps, and then later in the week, to indulging myself in rather too many drinking parties and late nights which inevitably partake of the passivity and low lying qualities of number four during the recovery period. The mischievous Page of Cups and the callow Page of Rods.

That is not to say that I did not have a good week. My gratitude journal reminds me of the many good things that occurred through the week, whether it is the progress I made towards securing a new part time teaching contract, or having ten students turn up at my Thursday evening class; or the good times enjoying a meal or a snack either alone (Wednesday evening) or with my wife (who I hung out with on Monday afternoon, so perhaps she was the personification of the Queen of Swords for me), and or daughter (Tuesday evening).

During my afternoon naps I started listening to Graham Greene’s spy comedy, Our Man In Havana on Audible.com; here that queenly clarity of understanding was clouded by the lethargy of the 4 of Cups. I don’t know how many times I had to listen to whole chapters again as I kept dropping off while listening.

A Sense of Dissonance

I must admit I have felt a dissonance between myself and the cards since Wednesday evening when the “potential” in the Ace of Rods did not convert itself into a victory in a game of chess, even though I had achieved a small but significant advantage as black going into the middle game. However, when I returned home I felt motivated in spite of the late hour to do some post game analysis and it was there where the energy and inspiration on offer lay. I learnt a lot about the game from the half hour or so that I reviewed it.

Always keep in mind that we are not engaged in fortune telling but in a conversation with the psyche; thus “victory” is NOT foretold by the drawing of an Ace before a game.

Then I felt brought up short by the (4) Emperor on Thursday. On Friday I had a nagging hangover and read the Page of Rods as more of a retreat from the active potential of the Wednesday Ace. Even so, in the evening, my wife and I went out to a ramen restaurant and I felt gratified by her enthusiasm for an essay of mine that she had been reading in Japanese.

The week ended with a dynamic Saturday teaching a fun class in the morning, bulk buying food items from Yamaya in the afternoon and attending the cherry blossom viewing party and dinner… and drinking far too much in several bars thereafter.

[Post last updated: Tuesday 9th April 2019]

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