For a long time, Economics was one of the last things I could think of that could interest me. In part because it was a family thing (my father was majored in Economics, my mother, an accountant, and my older brother was already following on their footsteps by enrolling in the Economics course at the local university), but mostly because completely different from what really caught my attention: science. So it was with some surprise (and concern) that I found out, upon enrollment. that although I had signed for a Chemistry course, I would be minoring in Economics.
Those classes were quite the revelation to me. More than an endless discussion of numbers and abstract notions, I found a discipline with a surprisingly awful number of ideas and concepts that were deeply anchored in constant day to day observations.
One of the ideas that grabbed my attention almost from the start was the Law of Diminuishing Returns, which says that when every other variant stays the same, the increase in one unit of a production factor will, at some point, result in a lesser output for each additional input unit.
Now my economics teacher, bless his heart, decided to illustrate this concept by resorting to orange juice. However, I’m much more of a chocolate cake man myself, so I figured I’d use chocolate cake instead. Because, you know… everything is better with a nice chocolate cake.
Imagine, if you will, that you have a slice of a great, wonderful chocolate cake in front of you and you get to eat it. This will bring you some satisfaction. In fact, it might bring you enough satisfaction that you decide to order a second slice of that sumptuous chocolate cake. Now this second slice might leave you so satisfied that you resolve to stop eating chocolate cake. Or, it might still leave you wanting for more. And so you order a third slice of that palatable chocolate cake. And so it goes until you decide no more. Because, inevitably, there comes a point where you’re satisfied with what you’ve ate; or perhaps you’re starting to feel its sweetness to much and it’s conflicting with that idea of satisfaction that you initially had. Or maybe, you just stuffed yourself too much with it, you feel like you ate too much and your belly just wants to burst.
So, while your overall level of satisfaction grew with each additional slice of chocolate cake, thus bringing you a step closer to that feeling of having eaten all that you could, which would be your maximum level of satisfaction, the increase in satisfaction was always less than the one you experienced with the previous slice. So, for example, you’d go from 0% to 50 % satisfaction with one slice, and maybe to 80% with two slices and 91% with three slices and so on.
Now I’ve always found this idea fascinating because it tells me, in a simple way, that the more we crave something, the easier it is to indulge it in, but also, by continuously indulging in it, we become increasingly unsatisfied with what we get from it.
And well… you know where this is going next, right?
Yes! It’s love!!! How could it not be? The number one question in tarot.
In particular, this is about that wonderful card that is the 5 of cups. The Waite Smith 5 of cups, with its 3 tumbled 2 standing cups, which is so often seen as “it was not meant to be” or the focus on loss, instead of valuing what there still exists” or the need to move further down the road and other ideas about disappointment, loss and heartbreak.
What I find most interesting in the card is applying the concept of satisfaction to the ideas brought by the suit of cups in the tarot. If you relate to the above story about chocolate cake, it’s easy to understand how we might want to go for those 5 cups. It’s love. The more the better, or so the story goes. And specially when coming out of a period of loneliness or bad relationships, when the desire for love is at its peak, it’s very easy to take that big first cup of love, and the second one and even the third one.
But there will come a point where we start to think twice about what is being offered. We see that in the 4 of cups, with the guy seated down looking at those 3 cups at his feet and a fourth cup already hovering by, tempting him. One cup, which might be about how self love is such a wonderful thing. Two is even better, since we have someone to share this with. Three, is also pleasant: the intimacy with others is different, but there’s still laughter and good times all around.
What to make of the 5 of Cups, then?
To the Waite Smith deck, 5 cups is overkill. You will go beyond your satisfaction limit and become nauseated / fed up / just not satisfied at all. We look at the five and we see that two cups are enough, since they still stand. Referencing back to the 2 of Cups, we can have a glimpse of what those two cups can bring to us, in terms of satisfaction. And here they are again, in the card of the 5 cups, telling us that they have practically the same value as 5, the difference being the additional three empty cups. Which raises the question, “why go for 5 when 2 can be equally as good?”
Sure, overall satisfaction is higher. Until it collapses. And love is intoxicating: it’s easy to get carried away and overindulge ourselves. But that feeling of having had too much chocolate cake, the nauseas, the bloatedness, and overall discomfort of having taken too much for ourselves quickly brings us back to reality and the awareness of it all.
Love can take us much higher than chocolate cake, but it can also send us crashing down into reality quite violently. That these 2 standing cups were able to fill us up as if they were 5 is a wonderful thing. And that is the lesson: more cups does not equal more satisfaction. Especially if one knows how to use what little one has.