Make a truce with the fundamental what is because the road ahead is long and full of bumps and ruts and ne’er-do-wells of powerful disposition. The Four of Swords offers a break from the frantic dance of our self-judgement attempting to cover over (or prop up) our faults and weaknesses with what we see as our strength or the value of given attributes. Those born with a clever mind may use it to conceal a lack of creativity or as an excuse for their need to bully others. In time, cleverness will fail; it always does. In time physical strength dwindles as is the design of nature. The belief that all weakness is something to be overcome is a product of propaganda; it is dishonest and destructive. It takes the courage of flexibility to utilize a weakness as a means to stylize and buoy a strength. 

When we have processed our latest self-understanding we will be ready to meet with the King of Pentacles. This is a man of few words who gives his respect and time only to the grounded, the honest, and those willing to strategize in this very long—indeed infinite—game of souls. The King of Pentacles waves us into his lab. He is a scientist who wants to show us something remarkable. We are allowed to peek into his microscope as he explains that  the strong force is what holds the nucleus of an atom together; but it is the decay of weak particles that make it possible for atoms to exist at all. You, he tells us, are made of the matter that behaves thusly. You, he says, are this process and nothing more. Without yielding, you can not be strong. Without meaningful and cyclical decay, you do not have life. Without the processes of matter you are nothing at all. You cannot fight the never-ending theory of stardust and survive, much less thrive. With this he bows and leaves us to consider the great mystery of ourselves. 

Matter itself is a process. A tabletop or a stone appears unmoving, yet it is made of squirming atoms and tightly-knit sound waves. The Five of Pentacles offers a choice we may find disconcerting but it follows the laws of physics, as it must. Breakdown of what was could mean we lose a standing we did not necessarily earn but that we were sure we could count on or even wield. We may lose a position as one who grants equity to our lessors and even come to see how that work recreated the very systems we sought to dismantle. Grieve what you must and use the decay to form the kind of strength it takes to hold a much better world together from within the very core of its atoms. It takes greatness to go down hard and get up again and get on with all. The Five of Pentacles offers us the choice between the alienation inherent in insisting on keeping what we feel entitled to hold, or to enter the pulsing, invigorating warmth of the great whole that is life here on this rock of moss and stone. May we choose the processes of thriving.

illustration by Karla Rosas