The 6 Pentacles today speaks of giving appropriately from our abundance, whether that be donating goods or money, or giving somebody our time and attention. In the Morgan Greer illustration, the wealthy merchant looks us directly in the eyes as he offers a gold coin. His right hand offers the coin in a gesture of blessing while his left hand holds the scales and the index finger points to his eyes as if to say, be perceptive and give wholeheartedly, blessing those who enable you to do so.
In the context of Lent, of (9) The Hermit and (6) The Lovers (the Arcana of Quinquagesima Sunday), we are giving to those whom we love, or giving as an act of love, but our giving is measured and contained and energised by our ability to withdraw – not to withdraw the gift that is given but to withdraw ourselves from the scene at the appropriate time.
The Gifts of Celebration
In my case, today I attended my students’ graduation ceremony and party. At the party I made an effort to mingle and share the happiness of as many of the students as I could, but also to give more time to those with whom I had developed a deeper relationship.
At one point I found myself standing next to a student who had contributed little in class and who hardly ever spoke a word. I had felt considerable irritation towards her and returned her silence with a silence of my own. But standing next to her then, I let go of that animosity and gave her a friendly nudge. She looked at me in surprise and we both laughed; a small exchange, but a happy and appropriate one to end on, I feel.
Towards the end of the party the teachers received bouquets of flowers, and I felt moved to see that the flowers came to me from my student with deep affection.
The Art of Appropriate Withdrawal
At such moments, we may lose ourselves in a flood of sentiment and incontinently drown the other party in a flood of inappropriate “generosity” that speaks more of our neediness than of an appropriate consideration of the other.
Part of the art of social intercourse, and of the play of giving and receiving, is the ability to discern when to disengage and to have the will to do so.
So I conclude today’s mediation with some wise words of Robert Greene on this topic:
Your presence must have a touch of coldness to it, as if you feel like you could do without others. This signals to people that you consider yourself worthy of respect, which unconsciously heightens your value in their eyes. It makes people want to chase after you. This touch of coldness is the first form of withdrawal you must practice.Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature, p. 142