Order a Reading

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Wisdom Reading: What is happiness?

PCS Commemorative, 2009
What is happiness? 6 of Pentacles

Were you expecting The World? Something really BIG at least. Such a big question. WHAT IS HAPPINESS??  And then what turns up--a mundane pentacles card. A card about charity. Oh, wait. 'And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.' (That was old St Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13).  The word 'charity' here means love, the sort of love that reaches out rather than turning in. It is conventional wisdom, 'better it is to give than to receive'. We hear it, but do we do it?

Giving--though depicted here as of a very material nature--need not be about money or material wealth. Many things are more precious to us than material things. What about our attention? What about our time? How would it make someone feel if when he stands before us he becomes, in that moment, the most important person to us in the world? And perhaps more significantly, how would it make us feel to treat them that way? The next time someone talks to you, stop what you are doing, turn to face them, look them directly in the eye and think only about what they are saying. Then think beyond what they are saying (because you might not actually like what they are saying), and go to the common humanity between the two of you. Your eye contact becomes your namaste to the universe. Make them the most important person in the world for that moment. I know people who have this skill. I wish to develop it. I admire those people who seem to come by it naturally. I feel that it is one of the true keys to personal happiness, though it does not seem to be our primal, instinctive response. It is, as Abraham Lincoln called it, one of the 'better angels of our nature', and requires conscious development before it becomes a habit.

On reflection, maybe it is our primal, instinctive response. I was just thinking of the way a baby pays attention to someone. Complete honed-in eye contact and full attention. Have you ever locked eye with an infant? There's some serious connecting going on there!

PCS Commemorative, 2009
What creates it? The Lovers

Well, what commentary is necessary on this card? The Lovers stands for love in all its guises: eros, philos, agape. That is, the love between sexual partners, the love between family members, and selfless, unconditional, perfect love.  Eros is the expression of an individual's desires. Philos is another earthly love, which is the bonding through marriage, family ties, and friendships, often called 'brotherly love'. Agape is the perfection of selfless love that is thought to originate from God (or the Universe) and is characteristic of God.

The Lovers card represents all three of these love bonds.

Involvement seems to create happiness. Feeling engaged and productive, feeling that we have something to offer to others and the world.

PCS, US Games 2009
What sustains it? 3 of Wands

Happiness would appear to be sustained by keeping the focus on a larger perspective than oneself.

I find this card so extremely profound in this position that I don't have much to say on it.

PCS, US Games 2009
What destroys it? 10 of Pentacles

Are you surprised to see this card of legacy and domestic contentment turn up as the destroyer of happiness? To be honest, I am not.

It's another bit of conventional wisdom, and there have even been songs about it. 'Money can't buy me love' and so on. Still it is quite obvious that the world needs constant reminding. All our working, stressing, straining, scraping, saving, competing, and comparing will not lead to happiness. Never has and never will.

Think of all the many woeful tales of the self-destructiveness and misery of rich people.

Happiness is destroyed by the illusion that we can create it through  building a comfortable nest for ourselves, whatever that nest may be. We're just painting ourselves into a tight little corner of grief, with the focus all turned inward on ourselves. How have you been guilty of doing this to yourself? How has it manifested in decreasing your happiness?

This reading has been very helpful to me. It's given a lot to think about and reflect on. Please share your insights as well.


  1. Excellent example of using the tarot for "the bigger questions."

    The Three of Wands could mean a number of things, all equally true (all the cards could). For instance, it could mean that being still and attentive--as opposed to actively grasping and fighting for charity/love/happiness--is the way to sustain the latter virtues. It could mean viewing each interaction with someone as a new enterprise, starting over afresh each time.

    I might do a reading like this; thanks for the example.

  2. Yep! I like all those interpretations!