Arcana in Balance: Temperance, part 2

RWS_Tarot_14_Temperance“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein.

Which explains last week’s rambling post.

Taoism (the secular, philosophical kind, not the folk religion) is my “one thing” that makes sense out of life. Or one of the one things, anyway, along with Tarot and a few others. Balance, simplicity, moderation, yet appreciating and enjoying life are all aspects of Taoistthought. So much so, I’ve never tried to explain or articulate it before. And so I never really understood it before. There is a level of learning that just doesn’t happen until you try to communicate something. No wonder the tradition and adage in medical training is “see one, do one, teach one”…that is the most complete learning and understanding of any one given thing.  You learn things from teaching – or writing about – something that you just don’t learn any other way. For that exact reason, blogging has been invaluable to me. It’s true, as Elie Wiesel put it “I write to understand as much as to be understood”.  So let me take another run at this Temperance card thing.

This card is no more important in teaching balance than other cards in the major arcana, but rather the balance point of this major arcana card is about balance itself.

The balance that the Temperance card asks us to think about is balance vs imbalance, indulgence or excess vs over-moderation or denial.

If we are too moderate, we lose the experience of passions…we lose the experience of joy and sorrow and live in a milk-toast, luke-warm middle exclusively. On the other hand, too much of anything, even a good thing, tips over the edge into a not-good thing. That is what the opposite color dot in the middle of each ‘fish’ shape in the taijitu (yin-yang symbol) means…that anything taken to extreme contains the seed of it’s opposite.

Extreme and unrelenting joy can lead to sorrow. What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “blissed-out?  Happiness and bliss are fine things of themselves, but if it is extreme then there is a disconnect with reality that leads to problems. Or, from the opposite direction, think of the the consequences of denial. Over-indulging sorrow doesn’t lead to anything good, but neither does denying it. If you acknowledge and allow sadness and grief, then that opens the door for healing. Ignoring the sadness or grief allows it to grow instead of heal…it allows the sparrows of sorrow build nests in your hair as the proverb goes.

When Temperance comes to a reading, think about what passions you need to embrace, and which ones you might need to reign in … but not, necessarily eradicate. Nothingness is an extreme of its own. Remember Prohibition in the USA in the 1920s. Alcoholism is a destructive disease, and using it to excess causes horrible things BUT the opposite extreme of eradicating it caused horrible things too. The moderate response of teaching responsible use and treating the disease leads to better things for everyone…or at least minimizes the consequences of the extremes.

While an excess of moderation is stagnation and a not-good thing, the just right application of moderation is a powerful thing. Think of the low pressure center of a hurricane. That place of center, of middle, of calm is the engine that drives the whole thing.

And there you have the balance of balance: Know when to follow your passions and when find middle ground.

Everything in moderation…even moderation.