Four of Cups — Spiritual Message of the Day
The Four of Cups is sometimes interpreted as meaning “apathy,” and in that guise, it reminds me of a misconception that I sometimes encounter when I talk about cultivating non-attachment. “But isn’t that just apathy?” some people ask. The answer is that non-attachment to things and to the results of our actions is very different from being apathetic about the events and circumstances around us.
For one thing, apathy avoids doing anything to improve the world and our circumstances, and (contrary to what some may assume) non-attachment does not. We should totally engage in life and work to make the world a better place (after all, we’re here, so we might as well participate, right?) since doing so exercises and manifests our divine compassionate nature. However, we can do this without having our happiness depend upon (i.e., without attaching to) the results of our actions. Practicing non-attachment means that if we fail we don’t suffer as a result. Instead, we pick ourselves up and say, “Okay. Well, that didn’t work, so let me try something else.” With apathy, we just say, “I don’t give a rat’s ass and I’m not going to even try.”
Another difference arises from the fact that apathy is associated with a retreat from the problems that we face out of a sense of hopelessness and fear of failure. Non-attachment, however, comes from a sense of trust in the Divine as we release our need to control how things turn out. In addition, then, non-attachment can help us overcome apathy since the fear and disappointment that causes it will dissolve when we are not attached to the results of our endeavors.
In short, then, apathy and non-attachment may seem similar, but they are very different. Superficially, they both seem to mean not caring about something. But non-attachment means that we don’t allow our happiness to depend on things and results, whereas apathy only uses “I don’t care” as a cover for “I’m afraid to try.” The former comes from a place of deep, abiding strength; the latter from weakness.
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