grab the tiger by the tail

01Jan10

It’s 2010, and the Year of the Tiger has begun.  The tiger is associated with ferocity, courage, and all of those other things that you’d most likely associate with tigers whether or not you knew anything about their symbolic significance within the Chinese zodiac.  The tiger is also, apparently, closely affiliated with wealth.  The two cats above are decorating a prayer plaque (絵馬 or ‘ema ‘) from Kurama-dera temple (鞍馬寺) in Kyoto and are represented here as the Nio guardians, Ungyō (吽形)and Agyō (阿形).  Agyō is the tiger on the right and is uttering the sound “ah,” which means birth (“ah” — あ — is also the first sound in the Japanese alphabet), while Ungyō is on the left and uttering the sound “un” or “om,” which means death (and it also sounds like “n” — ん — the final letter of the Japanese alphabet).  Of course, Japanese readers usually begin on the right side of the page and read toward the left, so the proper way to ‘read’ these tigers is from right to left; i.e., from birth to death.  Or perhaps it’s just as fine to read these tigers from left to right — life emerges from death.  In any case, the cycle of life and death seems an appropriate symbol for the start of a new year.

Though I don’t believe at all that our date and time of birth has anything to do with our inherently slippery personalities, I do love reading Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology.   Although Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology horoscope doesn’t cavort directly with the Chinese zodiac, I think the 2010 New Year horoscope for Pisces (that’s my sign, ladies and gentlemen) resonates mightily with the idea of ‘tigerness.’

The philosopher Nietzsche said there was no middle ground: You either said “yes” to life or you said “no.” You either celebrated your vitality, enjoyed your power, and thrived on challenges, or else you practiced constant self-denial, hemmed yourself in with deluded rationalizations, and tormented yourself with indecision. I’m not so sure it’s always as clear-cut as that. While I’m usually in the “yes to life” camp,” I’ve gone through “no to life” phases, as well as some extended “maybe to life” times. What about you, Pisces? Whatever you’ve done in the past, I hope that in 2010 you will take maximum advantage of the cosmic rhythms, which will be encouraging you to give life a big, resounding, ongoing YES.

I, for one, am ready to take maximum advantage of the cosmic rhythms that 2010 has to offer.  In fact, I think a good way to start this new year will be to rethink the assumed wisdom behind the phrase “to have a tiger by the tail.”  “To have a tiger by the tail” generally means to take something on that you can’t control — to take on something that’s too big for you and that is inevitably going to turn back and bite you.  But in my mind, having a tiger by the tail is much better thought of as holding onto something that may initially be too much to handle, but that eventually takes you to a place you never expected to end up, as long as you hang on.  In 2010 it’s time to grab the tiger by the tail, and see where it leads.

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