Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Not-So-Fond Fare-Thee-Well to February: Musings on Getting Personal in My Posts, Rembrandt, and Some Poetry if You Read Till the End (or Just Scroll Down)

T. S. Eliot wrote that "April is the cruellest month." Though the poet was on to something there, as two-thirds of that month is ruled by Mars (the god of war) -- and if you suffer from spring allergies to boot, as I do, it's nothing to sneeze at -- I believe the true Waste Land, especially this year, is February. Here is an unfunny joke: "Why is February so short?" "Because if it were any longer, nobody would make it to March."

I already complained about the Siberian Express in my last post, which received so few hits it made me wonder if I should keep weather talk out of my astrologizing. Which further made me ponder my entire philosophy of discussing on this site pretty much everything except what most astro-curious souls trawling the web are searching for: their horoscopes. Writing horoscopes is the one thing I pointedly refuse to do, because I think sun-sign astrology is the equivalent of knowing what country someone is from: it can be helpful in terms of understanding what language that someone speaks (though that actually has more to do with Mercury's placement than the Sun), but it only gives the tip of the iceberg, to use a cliche apropos for this brutally cold month.

So I wind up ranting about various components of my own natal chart and major-league transits (in the case of the born-in-2012, still-very-much-with-us Uranus-Pluto square, so frequently I feel like a recording) and how they seem to tie in to various political, economic, and social injustices. A few years ago, an irate reader put the smackdown on me for getting "too political" in my posts, which pissed me off, but at least someone cared enough to try to pin back my ears. Around the same time, I received from another reader some very encouraging comments that I should write a book about Pluto, since I seemed to know so much about all matters Plutonian.

Now, despite the fact that I have nearly 800 followers on Twitter, I mostly feel like a forgotten child on this site...a drop in the bucket of astrology blogs. There are just so many of them out there. Some of them are truly inspired (hello, Donna Cunningham!). It's too daunting to try to "keep up." (Gee, should I try to write about Leonard Nimoy's chart while everyone is still talking about his death? #LiveLongAndProsper, indeed!) It's hard to feel "original" writing about aspects, signs, etc. when it's all been written before, countless times, sometimes brilliantly. It's the kind of feeling I sometimes have as a writer in other genres, that all the stories have already been told, that there are a set number of themes 'n' variations, that all the archetypes have already been explored to the nth degree. Then I snap out of it and write anyway.

Sometimes I wonder why someone with my particular chart would get not just political but personal on this site. Then I think about Rembrandt, one of the greatest artists who ever lived. Like me, he was a Cancer Sun with a Scorpio Moon, and he was known for his endless self-portraits. I wonder if anyone ever said to him, "Hey, Van Rijn, what's up with all the selfies? It's not as if you're pretty enough to be on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or nothin'." I wonder if he was confident enough not to reply at all but instead ask aloud where he'd put that fly-swatter, or if he got embarrassed (and then promptly made a self-portrait of himself blushing) or defensive. I cannot, of course, answer for the master -- that would be beyond presumptuous, and this is not a blue-book midterm essay for an art history class.

But I know how looking at Rembrandt's self-portraits makes me feel. It's as if I'm peering into his private peep show; I see the unmistakable intensity and resolve in his eyes, yet cannot say for sure what color they are due his love of chiaroscuro, the interplay of light and shadow. (Rembrandt would have made one hell of a film noir director.) I doubt he was "just" lazy or self-centered to be his own go-to model; and as much as he showed, he kept plenty about his visage (as a portal to his whole self) a mystery. (In that vein, readers of this blog and of my fiction and poetry may see me as an open book, but I have more than one book, so to speak.) I have no idea how confident Rembrandt truly was in his abilities, but he believed in himself enough to stay in Holland instead of going to Italy, and he wound up immortalizing himself in paint. If getting so personal in his art enabled him know himself better -- in a time when psychotherapy did not yet exist -- so much the better, yet who knows how self-aware Rembrandt really was. He might have painted like a god, but he was, in the end, just human.

Sometimes I like to think that by painting myself on this site as a highly fallible human being filled with various worries, crotchets, and obsessions that go into living as a non-hermit in a town without pity in the early 21st century, I might be helping someone who lives halfway across the world, or down the street, feel less alone in his or her pain...maybe even help more by not posing as a one-way mirror, as some mystical astrology oracle preaching from a place far removed from all the noise and mess of living. There are more astrology blogs out there than ever, and with people buying online chart interpretations for much less money than a face-to-face reading would cost, all I can do is keep on being myself, warts and all. I may never enter the astrology pantheon the way Rembrandt did with his art, but oh well -- at least I have a cute button nose and good teeth.

But this was supposed to be a post about bidding adieu to the coldest damn month in NYC since 1934 (not too coincidentally, the last Uranus-Pluto square era). To that end, I will therefore share with you this poem I wrote on the subway last week. (I am thinking of compiling a collection of poems I wrote while in transit, to be titled When I Get a Seat on the Subway.)

February Lunation

In the darkest part
of the dark of the moon,
the subway whines
a death's-head tune.
My phone then rings
like a drowning loon;
it's HR from LA--
rejection's a goon.

Good riddance
to Aquarius!
My mind's a mess,
my soul can't dance.
In subzero stress
there is no success;
I haven't a chance.

Now the moon is new
though it's still 4 degrees
and I'm still on a train,
cut off at the knees.

Crossing the bridge,
I spot the Statue of Liberty
and pray to her icy greenness
at the mouth of the cold city.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

From Dark of the Moon to New Moon: The Siberian Express; or, Come On, Baby, Let the Hard Times Roll

New Moons frequently occur in the final degree of a sign. The one this past Wednesday at 6:47 p.m. EST, however, was so cuspy at 29 degrees, 54 minutes, and 54 seconds of Aquarius that by 6:50 p.m., both the Sun and Moon were in Pisces. This effectively gave us a New Moon across two signs.

Emotionally, things did seem to ease a bit once the Sun and Moon entered Pisces (and at the time, Mars and Venus were still in Pisces). That's just on a personal level -- water signs tend to breathe better with transiting planets in water, whereas fire signs may feel extinguished. However, much of the U.S. is still dealing with the so-called Siberian Express, many people at my temp gig are still wheezing and sneezing, and despite all the vitamins I am taking and hand sanitizer I am using, I am currently dealing with my fourth cold in six weeks (or maybe it's the same cold that I'm just not getting over).

We are now solidly into the New Moon period -- and I was honored to catch sight of the Moon-Venus conjunction this past frigid Friday evening as I walked west from my subway stop to home, as it was a truly beautiful sight, and I was jonesin' for beauty -- yet not much feels different. This is partly because Mercury, though direct now, still has a ways to go through Aquarius, where it was retrograde for a very long three weeks (and perhaps tied into the Siberian Express).

Another part of the lingering dark-of-the-moon feeling is due to the approaching Sun-Saturn square (exact Mon. 2/23, 8:56 a.m., followed just one minute later by another square, between the Moon and Mercury). This is the very first Sun-Saturn square to occur since Saturn entered Sagittarius at the end of 2014. The Sun squaring Saturn is a classic authority-clash aspect between man and The Man. Unfortunately, this aspect, especially given the signs involved (Pisces and Sagittarius) favors the type of bully of either gender who represents Law and Order, the status quo, or just looks good on paper while engaging in such cowardly, underhanded tactics as backbiting, trolling, and stalking while also being territorial and greedy. If you symbolize the Sun in Pisces (creative, intuitive, mystical, true to yourself), wait this one out. If you personify the worst side of Saturn in Sagittarius (cold, rigid, hypocritical, avaricious) go for it....

....with the caveat that just like you, karma's a bitch.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Astrology of the "Anti-Vaxxer" Movement

As an astrologer, I am very accustomed to be considered a non-scientific flake along the lines of readers of tea leaves, 900-number psychics, UFO cultists, and Creationists who believe in Intelligent Design. When I was a youngin in my twenties, flush with the enthusiasm of How Astrology Really Works, I spent a lot of energy trying to persuade skeptics that there was Really Something to This, that it went Way Beyond Nationally Syndicated Horoscope Columns, et cetera. Now, in early middle age, with a limited amount of energy at my disposal, I content myself with preaching to the converted. To those who refuse to let me do their charts, I sometimes mention a late twentieth-century French statistician named Michel Gauquelin who tried to disprove astrology but in the process wound up proving its validity, and published his findings. I can speak of Gauquelin in one breath, a reasonable amount of time to waste considering that most skeptics would never bother to read him or even Google him. (After all, the man was French, and therefore probably pro-butter and God knows what else.)

I do not have children of my own, but if I did, I would 1.) have them vaccinated per their pediatrician's recommendations and 2.) be incredibly worried that due to the narcissistic, non-scientific, borderline-child-abuse whims of a subset of affluent, so-called highly educated parents, my little darlings would be at much higher risk throughout their lives for contracting measles, polio, and various other diseases that were until recently eradicated, due to loss of "herd immunity" (that ensures the 5% percentage of individuals for whom vaccines do not "take" will be protected due to the immunity of 95% of everyone else). And in case you don't know what can happen when a woman contracts measles during pregnancy, let me assure you that it is not pretty. And how about traveling to distant (and not-so-distant) lands even beyond the Magic Kingdom without proper inoculation?

In the age of the Internet, people acquire "facts" via all sorts of sources: some highly rigorous and scientific, others not. Celebrities and charismatic charlatans often come off more humane and believable than nerds in white coats whose idea of a good time involves isotopes and leptons. Therefore, a long-since-debunked article by a long-since-discredited doctor not worthy of mentioning by name, a highly un-scientific study that linked vaccines to the increase of autism, matters not to the legions of "anti-vaxxers" who would apparently rather see their children, or their children's classmates, fall ill and possibly die or be scarred for life by contracting measles, polio, and so on. Anything to avoid autism! Their motto seems to be: "Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up."

Babies being born at the time of this writing (indeed, since 2012) all have the Uranus-Pluto square in their natal charts. I am sorry to make this prediction, but given the current climate, a certain number of these babies and toddlers will wind up dying or being left deaf, brain damaged, or crippled from their New Age parents' refusal to protect them against diseases that had taken so many lives and ruined countless others prior to the 1960s. Perhaps this is part of what lies behind the saying "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it": parents of my generation (post-Uranus-Pluto conjunction, i.e., born post-1966) do not remember seeing kids our age in iron lungs or buried in little coffins. We were all inoculated, with the possible exception of those who were raised in hippie communes. Many of our parents of the late silent and early baby boom generation were also inoculated against polio et al. as soon as these vaccinations became obtainable. Apparently, in a country like Mexico, most children are vaccinated -- yet are less likely than U.S. children to land on the autism spectrum.

I was shocked to learn that children without medical conditions like cancer were allowed to enter public school sans vaccinations. Perhaps the "politically correct" movement has gone too far -- you can't send little Sophie to school with a PB&J sandwich just in case her classmate who is fatally allergic to peanuts decided to take a bite, and you can't give little Taylor 30 cupcakes to share with his classmates to celebrate his birthday because cupcakes contain such evil toxins as sugar, chocolate, and flour, yet it is perfectly okay not to send your Precious Snowflakes to school unvaccinated. Why? Because some grade-B actor said so on a segment of Celebrities Without Cerebellums Sound Off. It is time for doctors throughout the U.S. to take a stand on vaccinations and say that yes, in this case, they do know better; that the uninformed opinion of nutjob parents is not, in fact, factually valid.

I wanted to bitch-slap the woman I read about the other day in a New York Times article who refused to let her sixteen-year-old daughter receive a rubella vaccination even if it meant her missing a semester of AP-level classes, and do worse damage to the mother who refused to take her young son for a tetanus shot after he cut himself on a metal fence because according to her, he had such a strong immune system (and she knows this how, exactly...?) and she didn't want to expose his body to unnecessary toxins (even though vaccines are not toxic). If you let your ten-year-old child walk home from school or ride a bike by himself, you may have to deal with a visit from Child Protective Services, but if you let your ten-year-old child heal himself from a cut on a metal fence, that's okay because it's "organic." Never mind that plenty of people died from tetanus and so on for decades before the U.S. government sanctioned the spraying of carcinogenic pesticides on apple crops.

In the same way I was embarrassed to learn that I shared the same sun sign as Bush the Younger and the same moon sign as Mitt Romney, I am embarrassed that a particular subset of my generation (which used to be called "X" but now seems to be called nothing at all) cannot seem to marry education and affluence with reason. Way-ass back in time, baby boomers accused my generation of being apathetic morons. We simply didn't care the way they did in the '60s. To which we replied, "Yeah, whatever." I remember at that time, as a know-it-all, overprivileged grad student dropout, thinking that if only my generation was collectively getting the same "starter" opportunities as our parents sans the ridiculous debt, recession, outsourcing, and wage freeze combined with escalating cost of living that ensured that only the strongest, best-connected, and luckiest of us would survive (if you were just average, too bad for you), we would face life approximating a fair fight. Now, to my mortification, it is the best and brightest of us -- and mostly "liberal" to boot -- who embrace anti-scientific anti-intellectualism when it comes to vaccinating one's kids. No better than the pro-gun nuts who will keep voting Republican, against their own best interests, until their homeless status renders them ineligible to vote.

Autism may very well be on the rise, but there are possibilities other than vaccines to consider: more diagnoses, for starters (whereas in prior generations a child might be labeled retarded or simply "difficult"). Environmental conditions. (We wrecked the weather, after all.) Addiction to electronic devices at a tender age. The increasing age of parents bearing children. The increasing surveillance children are under: forget "helicopter parents," we are now in an era in which chidren appear to need to be bubble-wrapped in order to make it through their day. There is little or no freedom, experimentation, recess, fun, art, daydreaming, or boo-boos allowed -- but plenty of pressure to succeed right out of the gate. To fail at anything is not an option. To be bored is not an option. It is the inalienable right of every child to be continously entertained, preferably at great expense, and also be given the message that they are the center of the universe. This may not be a recipe for autism, but neither is this rigid, smothering, consumer-oriented attitude a recipe for optimal mental health. And I hate to say it, but my Pluto-in-Virgo and slightly younger Pluto-in-Libra contemporaries are to blame for this attitude. Despite the inarguable, scientific proof that U.S. children are much less likely these days to be abducted, molested, or killed than in the 1970s and '80s, today's generation of parents have a different perception, refusing point-blank to allow their children anywhere near the same amount of collective freedom (which admittedly shaded into wholesale neglect at times) that they had (and mostly survived). Except, of course, freedom from inoculation.

The final Uranus-Pluto square of this era is fast approaching (March 17), which could indicate a health epidemic as well as more global violence and brutality. Yet I fear that it will not be until the Saturn-Neptune square of 2016, with Saturn in Sagittarius (international law) and Neptune in Pisces (mass infection), which will create the awareness necessary for mass vaccinations -- due to avoidable tragedy.