I´ve been more than negligent in moving through the steps of the Unbroken Path lately. Partly because, after the tragic death of my beloved friend Pip and the de-materialization of my marriage, I have been focusing much of my energy on working through the step of meeting my Belongingness and Love needs by establishing community ties through the Common Wealth Time Bank. And partly because this next step is the Lovers of the Tarot, and I am still trying to work this out for myself.
You see, while I am trying to address each of these steps as universal principles, I am also trying to actualize them in my own life and come to some sort of personal revelation as to how they apply to me. It´s not always an easy task to incorporate the world´s understanding into ones own life, especially when it something as misunderstood as the Lovers.
¨This card is divided into a top and bottom. On the bottom half stand a man and a woman. They are naked before the world. A tree of flames stands behind the man, while a fruit tree with a snake around it is behind the woman. The ground is a bright spring green and a mountain rises in the distance between them under a blue sky. In the middle of the card, aligned with their heads, is a billowing cloud, upon which rests the top half of an angel. The angel wears a purple cloak and lifts its hands in the air, but not as high as its crimson wings. The flames that make up its hair light its face a golden yellow to match the endless rays of sunlight encircling it from above.¨
Most interpretations of the card view the man and woman, the lovers, as Adam and Eve. Standing naked in front of what appears to be the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life, that seems like a pretty appropriate explanation. And if we draw from that story, I think it helps to get a little clearer picture.
The Lovers card is about choice, and as it is number 6 in the Fool´s Journey, it is also related to the card of the Devil, number 15 (1+5=6), in that it bears a striking resemblance in both design and meaning. I´ll get more into the Devil when he shows his face again, but I think that the choice we face with the Lovers is largely one between attachment and autonomy. While our connection to those that we love, whether it be a person of the opposite sex, a group, a mission, or some other object, can help us feel as if we are more fully whole, there is also the danger of losing ourselves in the relationship and being thrown off of our own personal course.
In the story of Adam and Eve, Adam seemed to be faring pretty well in the Garden of Eden, tending to the stuff God made and hanging out with the animals, when God slipped him a roofie and formed a woman out of one of his ribs (ok, so I´m modernizing it a bit). So then the woman decides to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the one tree God said that they shouldn´t eat from, and the dopey, old lovelorn man joins her in the feast, and what was once perfect becomes a whole lot less than. Now, seeing that this book was written by men, who tend to always want to blame somebody else when they screw something up, I can´t account for the actual accuracy of this story, but suffice it to say that if Adam had just held is ground and kept on doing what he was called to do instead of attaching himself to her plan, he probably would have been a lot better off and humankind would still be living in eternal bliss.
Nevertheless, as humans, we always seem to want something more. Now, being raised in this Judeo/Christian heritage, I was always taught that there was one woman for every man, an idea perpetuated by our adoration of the romantic idea of true love. In many ways, this made me very selective of the women I´ve shared time and intimacy with, and in many ways it made me very screwed up in that I was always looking for someone to ¨complete me.¨ However, as I´ve gotten older, and seemingly wiser, learning from the relationships that I have nurtured, I´ve realized that I am a complete person in my own right and don´t need to look to any other person to fulfill me. It seems that when we spend our energy trying to find that one special person to fit into the hole we have in our hearts like some kind of socio-emotional jigsaw puzzle, we tend to distract ourselves from just loving ourselves as we are and get drawn into attaching ourselves to an often unrealistic notion of creating something that doesn´t necessarily need to be.
From what I´ve come to understand, there are a few different kinds of love. Just like eskimos have several different words to describe different kinds of snow, so did the Greeks have different words for love. There is a brotherly love called phileo, the open love of God called agape, and a romantic love called eros, which we´ve become accustomed to attributing to life-mates. Personally, I´ve been more focused on developing my phileo and agape love since my divorce, and considering how that particular expedition into eros love turned out, I´ve become what some refer to as polyamorous in my more intimate relationships.
That doesn´t mean that I´m into orgies or anything, but for the first time in my life, I´ve become much more accepting of the idea that I can be intimate with more than one person. Again, my religious tradition has historically judged this type of operation in the world as evil. However, just as I´m not looking to attach myself to any single person to complete myself, I also no longer look to my attachment to religious beliefs for fulfillment either. Whether it´s a woman who wants me to partake of the knowledge of good and evil or a religion, I´d rather not eat of that fruit and simply love honestly while walking my own path.
That may someday change as I still really like the idea of investing myself in one person and cultivating that type of relationship. Nevertheless, as this particular fool reaches this stage of the journey, I am opting to embrace what comes to me without clinging to it and move forward without attachment.
Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.