We might be willing to put our neck on the line for justice or love or to protect our community, but are we able to accept when we are susceptible to exposure or just plain tender when it comes to certain subjects? We all engage with fantasies in which we arrive just in time to save the day, but rarely do we crave the opportunity to feel defenseless. The nature of this truth reveals something sinister about our cultural fixation with savior scenarios. If we listen now, we can hear the fast and rhythmic approach of the Knight of Swords as she arrives atop her trusted steed. She is a genuine hero, this is true; and should she sense the slightest posturing from the likes of any one of us, we will find ourselves swiftly reprimanded by the sharp tip of her sword pressed into that soft spot just behind our chin bone. She will not harm us, only warn us of the danger in our hubris. To know how to process fear, she tells us, is the difference between the humbled adept and a dangerous braggart.

The Knight of Swords is the bravest of all the knights ever known and she arrives to drop the Seven of Swords at our feet with a clatter. Should you abandon what makes you human, she says—the need you have to be known, to be held by friend and lover and community alike—should you forget what makes you complex and immaculate, there would be no point to any show of ego you might make. Retaliations delivered on booming footfalls and the sound of shattering glass are sure to feel quite good, but contempt bred today is the medium of all tomorrow’s horrors. Besides, she says, there is always a willing cadre of those who will diminish your greatest efforts. Each of you must choose which of these seven swords you will wield and which you will forgo. Select your tools carefully based on who you actually are rather than the self you too often perform, because what you choose now writes the song of your name as it will be archived in the history of you that forever remains.

The Knight of Swords looks us each in the eye one by one and teaches us that the most formidable courage is born in our soft underbelly, fathered by our wild and dangerous vulnerability. In silence she turns from us, mounts her horse, and continues on her way, leaving us to those decisions we must make on our own. The Two of Swords represents the difficult stance we hold in weighing our need for control with our need to belong. Our most basic desire to give and receive love is pitted, it seems, against a strange compulsion to be known as an invulnerable force. The secret of the Two of Swords is that it is actually an opening, a portal to the willingness we require to accept the more supple, less guarded sides of ourselves. It is the discomfort that builds our core strength, our fortitude, and offers us insight into those we most cherish. May we choose our words and other weapons as carefully as our strategies.

illustration by Karla Rosas

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