Our pain for the world arises out of our interexistence with all life. When we hear the sounds of the Earth crying within us, we’re unblocking, not just feedback, but also the channels of felt connectedness that join us with our world.
~ Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone
from Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy
Like an unpleasant dash of cold water in my face, I have pulled the Three of Swords again for this week of the Full Aquarius Moon.
It has been quite a while since I got any card twice in a row, and this is certainly not one I would prefer. If you would like to read a more traditional interpretation of it, please visit last week’s post.
But sitting with it yet again, wondering what else it is needing to say to us, I can’t help but feel it is a continuation of last week’s conversation presided over by Kuan Yin.
Can’t we just take a break, watch the Olympics, and forget how the world might be going to hell in a handbasket?
Evidently, the Tarot thinks not.
With the Aquarius Full Moon and the Sun in the opposing sign of Leo this week, Annie Heese at CafeAstrology writes, “The Leo Sun is proud and intensely individual–not content with simply being just one of the team. The Aquarius Moon, while individualistic as well, values independence and the ‘team.’ The Full Moon illuminates this conflict.”
How might we now find ourselves conflicted about acting as individuals, or as a part of the group?
In 1968, Bibb Lantané and John Darley conducted what has since become a classic (and controversial) study of socialization pressures. In their work, “Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies,” they describe a lab experiment in which a group of people was asked to sit in a room and fill out a questionnaire.
While they worked on the forms, smoke started pouring into the room from a wall vent. In cases where a person was in the room alone, they unfailingly responded immediately, jumping up from their seat to leave the room and look for help.
But when there were several people in the room together, they would look around the room to see how the others were responding. If the others (who, of course, were in on the experiment) were remaining calm and continuing to fill out their questionnaires, in most cases, the subjects would pretend to ignore the smoke.
Even when they were clearly distressed, with their eyes stinging and smoke filling up the room, more than two-thirds of the subjects would persist with filling out their forms, until they were finally “rescued” by the researchers.
As Joanna Macy writes, “This experiment serves as a metaphor for our responses to planetary emergency. If the smoke represents disturbing information, filling out the questionnaire is like continuing with Business as Usual. If we are to survive as a species, we need to understand how our active responses to danger get blocked, and also how we can prevent this from happening.”
One of the blocks, of course, is the fear that if we look at things, really do see with unedited honesty where things stand right this minute, won’t we shatter into a thousand pieces? Won’t our hearts break to the point of overwhelm and paralysis?
I believe the Three of Swords, with its Airy emphasis on, not emotion, but thought, shows the way through such fears. When we are in danger, when bad things are happening, it directs us to see; to think; to speak; to ask; to hear; to understand.
It is profoundly draining to maintain the levels of insulation and denial necessary to pretend that all we need to do is shop some more, or elect our favorite Republicans or Democrats, or recycle our ink cartridges, or buy more organic food, and everything will turn out fine.
Deep down, you and I know that global disaster is looming. We are on the tipping point of the most ominous moment in human history. Yet most people around us seem to be quietly filling out their questionnaires as if nothing is happening. Or else arguing about how the deck chairs on the Titanic should be re-arranged and who should be in charge.
In the work I am doing, along with the many others who are also committed to midwifing The Great Turning, I have learned that there is enormous relief possible when we admit and own our pain.
There is no simpler image in the Tarot than the Three of Swords. In a stormy downpour, the heart is pierced through by three swords.
If our house is on fire, we must dismiss the taboo that it’s uncool to be “negative.” When we tell the simple truth, the resulting tears, anguish, and anger can free us, and others, too.
At first, yes, we may feel overwhelmed. But when we communicate from our hearts the terrible grief, fury, doubts, loss, and distress we feel, the results can be shocking and liberating.
Sometimes, only a broken heart can be persuaded to see what is and is not true. Through this admission, painful as it may be, we open with compassion to the cries of the world.
When we finally can acknowledge to each other that we are in pain, the wounds can be addressed. We now may discover we are not alone, and we empower one another to respond together to the peril we are in.