At face value, what is the meaning of the number “ten” in tarot? …It is completion, fulfillment. But what comes after ten?
“Nine” is more obviously a card number of anticipation towards a goal, precipitation, the penultimate, or the “verge.” But if we think of the tarot as “active”—or always flowing—just like water or life or a circle, then “tens” have to move somewhere. Even though we like to think of fairy tales and an ideal life as “ending happily-ever-after,” there really is no plateau upon which life becomes static. Nirvana is not a glass-encased and frozen place or thing that we reach or attain, and then just become immutable with no place to go. Such concepts themselves are “fairy tales” …and false.
The cartoon image of the guru sitting on the mountaintop in his ultimate enlightenment sitting in a lotus position as other searchers-of-truth try desperately to climb the rocky precipice to be able to ask the guru his secrets… it’s not realistic. That’s why one most often comes across that image in joke cartoons in The New Yorker—it’s a completely mock-able scenario.
At a minimum, the guru eventually becomes hungry and has to descend the mountain to find or beg for food. Or he gets a cramp in his left buttock from sitting on a hard rock in the same position too long. More drastically the dude dies from exposure, buzzards tear his body to shreds, and consume his fleshy parts… eventually even the mountaintop crumbles, crushing the guru’s bones beneath millennia of rock and fluvium.
A perfect ten with any kind of immutability is a fantasy.
So “ten” is just a landmark, a by-way on the road or journey, the pinnacle of the mountain on your hike where you get to appreciate the views of your labors of climbing… But gosh darn it, now you have another journey… You gotta do that whole hiking trail route in reverse before you can stop at the Mexican restaurant in that little town on the long drive home out of the National Park, where you can gorge yourself and sate your hunger. And, oops, you notice on that long drive back to the city that your car’s odometer has hit the next 4,000-mile mark and you’re due to get an oil change at the garage, so you better remember to schedule that and remember to ask the mechanic to check out that “rattle” that your car’s been making recently. Ooof… this might cost you a pretty penny. Maybe you should stop eating out at Mexican restaurants every time you go hiking so you can save money to pay for important things like car maintenance. Oh, and you know what? Your legs are gonna be sore for two days because of how strenuous this particular hike has been. That’s gonna suck. They say eating cherries makes you recover faster—from the bromelein in the cherries. And turmeric will help with the inflammation. So I should stop at the grocery store and buy cherries—if they’re in season. Maybe I can make cherry-almond muffins… except when the heck am I gonna find time to make those? Maybe I’ll just take a bunch of Advil. Except that’s supposed to be bad for one’s liver function…
I’m being ridiculous here and wasting precious journal paper [or screen pixels]… But my point is, life goes on; it doesn’t stop at the mountaintop. There are a million questions and options every moment afterwards. And they all require weighing outcomes and ethics and trying to determine the best path to right relationship for the next leg of the journey.
No one simply decides to forget the second-half of the hike in order to just sit there on the mountaintop forever. Unless a person really does want to not have to deal with the journey anymore, or any of the decisions that need to be made that follow… but that is a CHOICE, a DECISION in-and-of itself—a choice that is certainly not nirvana; it’s simply an end, resignation, and a residual ache and hardship and pain for the unfulfilled decisions that one leaves behind.
The “ten”-card philosophy I am trying to define here can be illustrated with my own situation…
When I arrived in Seattle so many years ago, it was truly at that time my Shangri-la. My catch-phrase was literally: “I am so lucky to live here!” And I was lucky. And now, having been blessed by this place, it feels like the time to continue with my journey after having enjoyed the expansive view. I’ve been sitting here enjoying the view for quite a while. However, I’m a little afraid that—metaphorically—briar bushes will have taken over parts of the trail, or that some of the storms that have blown through will have actually washed-out parts of the trail, making the second leg of my hike, or the next part of my journey, a bit difficult. But the journey has to go on. It’s time. This is what the “ten” cards might be telling me…
[endnote: That journal entry was written several years before I started my “next leg of the journey.” But the journey was ultimately embarked upon… Now there’s a whole new set of adventures and foibles to encounter!]