Be it over a project, an idea, or a cause, we are often presented with the opportunity to join forces with those around us. It seems natural that, as we labor so tirelessly, we attract others who share our passions and merge together in collaboration. It all sounds so great: distributing workloads and delegating tasks, contributing individual skills to a joint outcome, and celebrating achievements with those who value our work. Why wouldn’t we embrace the opportunity to endeavor together with people who see our vision?
Probably because, more often than not, collaboration doesn’t feel great. Often, collaboration feels like conflict and concessions and compromises. Often, collaboration leaves us feeling weary, frustrated, and discouraged. And the worst part is, even when collaboration doesn’t feel good, goals still need to be accomplished, the most imperative of which require more than one to be successful.
The Five of Wands forces us to reflect on our collaborative discomfort. While using the fiery energy of wands for progress and action, we are also confronted with the struggles and crises of a five. The happy culmination of our initial, individual effort is tested by the addition of other people. Joining together ideas, efforts, and personalities can result in power struggles, contests, and matches of will or pride. When required to incorporate multiple perspectives, we fear our ideas will go unacknowledged, our desires left unfulfilled, our plans derailed. The need for our ideas to be most right, our opinions to be most heard, our way to be the only way, often leads to the stagnation of a goal. Locked in stalemate, animosities increase and nothing gets done.
While possible to advance beyond this standoff, the Five of Wands instructs that progress will only be earned through conscious movement from all partners. In order to save a goal from the perils of teamwork, all contributors must shift their perspectives, feelings, and behaviors towards a neutral ground. This shift requires an active decision at every juncture to collaborate.
Even with this shift, some concessions still feel like losses and some compromises don’t really feel like victories at all. We still come away frustrated or worn. We face the unpleasant truth that, actually, it doesn’t always matter whether or not we feel good about working with others. We keep trying to find neutral ground with our collaborators, not because “unity,” but because we know stagnation is simply not an option. We know, especially as we strive to confront and dismantle systems that oppress and brutalize so many, we can’t let having our way get in the way. Decidedly, we move towards the middle, to meet our collaborators, because we know our goal is too significant, the stakes too high, to rest inert.