Transcendence, humility, compassion
Tree: Fir (Abies spp.) or Elm (Ulmus spp.)
Ailm represents the enlightenment that comes of perspective. Its symbol looks like a cross post-resurrection. “He is risen”, meaning He has transcended suffering and has forgiven His persecutors and all mankind to boot. In Iolo Morganwg’s Druid prayer, Ailm is the “love of all existences” that transcends the karmic cycle. Drawing Ailm in any form is a call to look at one’s own personality and to ask “What am I here to learn?” Ailm is a perspective that comes from eons and many, many lives worth of experience. Only lived experience gives us compassion and detachment in balance. Ailm is also the divine aspect of humor. When you laugh an honest laugh rooted in humility, the gods laugh with you.
Though our culture tends to devalue anyone above the age of 40, we can acknowledge wisdom that comes with age, not in every case but reliably enough that it’s a valid stereotype that a person gets “older and wiser.” Having a bunch of lived experience can be quite helpful when it comes to solving life’s problems and making peace with its predicaments. The truly wise neither rush forward with unbalanced optimism nor shrink away with unbalanced pessimism; their information is better than that. They have the ability to read the winds before hoisting sails and attempting to journey across the sea.
Questions when you draw Ailm:
-What were you put here to learn?
-What is the latest nastiness you were presented with that you managed to rise above, even if it meant you did nothing?
-What have you learned from not getting the love of someone you wanted to love you?
-Name three things you would tell your younger self if you could write them a short paragraph and send them a message in a bottle.
Ailm ill-dignified excess: False transcendence
The lasting curse of the Positivity Movement has been the perversion of optimism and a legacy of passive-aggression and despair in its wake. Barbara Ehrenreich writes poignantly about this phenomenon in her book Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America. When you don’t want to honestly look at a problem, let alone address it, a common fallacy is to resort to positive thinking. The resulting oversimplification — that thinking happy thoughts will magically take care of everything — is a poisonous lie that will act like a Trojan horse. Sooner or later, the overly-optimistic house of cards collapses because it has no foundation. Depression and manic depression are close cousins of false transcendence.
Ailm ill-dignified dearth: Frustration
The disappointing realization that someone or something will not change no matter what advice you throw at them. You may be wasting time trying to force change in the world around you. To get results, instead you must change yourself.
Perhaps you have no choice but to work with the difficult person or thing, or around them, or a combination of both. Find a way to transcend it/them. What are they here to learn that you’ve been given insight about because perhaps you’ve perceived their failure to learn it? Is there any way of going forward with compassion without being trampled upon? How can you react in a way that helps you become a better person instead of a worse one?
“I couldn’t help noticing that the existential space in which a friend had earnestly advised me to ‘confront [my] mortality’ bore a striking resemblance to the mall.”
“God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.”
“Grant us, O Holy Ones, thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of Earth our mother, and of all goodness.”
-Druid Prayer by Iolo Morganwg