Friday, November 30, 2018

The Frenetic Yearnings of December

Days of high wind have blown all the leaves off the trees.  Autumn seemed short to me this year:  just a glimpse of bright red and yellow before it was gone.

And now we’re moving into the most manic season, when people have long lists of emotionally-freighted ritualistic tasks to do.  We are pretty minimal about this in our household.  But, every year, I do haul some ornaments down from the attic and decorate a table-top tree.   I feel compelled to do it because the little figurines are so weighted down with bits of our shared history.  I can’t leave them to languish up there in the attic.

Ritual binds us to our families and our community, and religious ritual does this most of all.  Religion gives us permission to move completely out of our logical minds, and to imagine something greater, wiser and more beautiful than ourselves.  We need this more than ever now, because we’ve been living through a cold, tough year.   

Things are heating up, though.  Jupiter is now moving through Sagittarius, the most zealous and passionate sign in the zodiac, the sign of shared beliefs, of organized religion, of wider philosophies.  The sun is always here at this time of year (until the winter solstice), and Mercury will be here most of the month as well.  And so this year, I expect everyone to celebrate a little more intensely, to believe more earnestly than ever. 

At the same time, the astrological backdrop is still very conservative.  Pluto and Saturn are still moving through Capricorn, the sign of time and structure, a sign that tends towards formality, hierarchy, seriousness, and caution.    

Yes, the Democrats took the House back, and this is something to cheer long and hard about.  But we’ve scrambled up this cliff before.  And conditions are not exactly hospitable up on top, with Trump talking gibberish in the presidency, McConnell squashing progress in the Senate, and a Supreme Court tilting towards the right.  What we’ve won is a little more power to confront this hard wall of established privilege. 

The coming month is very mutable, and mutable signs are sensitive, changeable, and impulsive.  The strongest influence at the new moon (December 7) is a mutable square between sun/moon in Sagittarius and Mars/Neptune in Pisces.  So this is not an easy month to make progress.  The passion and excitement of Sagittarius can easily dissipate in the emotional swamps of Pisces. 

And the Mars/Neptune conjunction is not an easy pairing, since these planets are so different.  Mars is active while Neptune floats aimlessly.  Mars is about individual effort, while Neptune is generational and transpersonal.  Mars is about identifying a desire and doing something about it, while Neptune is about picking up cosmic currents and aligning yourself with them.  When these planets come together, there’s often a little frustration (for Mars), and a little passive resistance (from Neptune). 

Neptune can lift you up, though, and Mars is ever eager to move in some direction or another, so this could be a month full of magical experiences.  People may be more aligned with their intuition, more graceful and responsive, more spiritually aware.  But Neptune is also the planet of fantasy and illusion, so some people could completely check out of reality.  They could go around in circles, chasing lovely chimera. They could find themselves dizzy with celestial longings that never coalesce into anything real. 

There’s a strong current of unreality moving through our body politic here in the US.  Of course, all these elaborate conspiracy theories show some creativity.  I used to laugh admiringly at the crazy stories printed in the Weekly World News -  “Alien baby is implanted in potato!  Nose falls off its owner’s face and walks!” (I may have made those up, but they could easily have been printed there.)  

But the recent trend towards public deception is more sobering.  It’s a shadowy art that feeds on people’s fears.  It’s a vampire.   It’s always been around, but the global communications network has vitalized it, given it lots of new blood to feed on.  And to drain this metaphor further, it has to be killed with the stake of truth. 

Neptune is also a planet that relates to addiction, and that’s always a problem at this time of year, especially combined with Sagittarian impulsiveness.  There are people reaching for opium or alcohol, looking for that crystalline joy that they once felt during the holidays, looking for an end to pain so that they can just enjoy the season.  There are people playing long odds, gambling away whatever they have, hoping to win enough to buy great presents for their kids. 

Some people won’t be able to satisfy their addictions;  they just won’t have the means.  And depression is always a danger, whenever escape is impossible -  especially after the sun moves into Capricorn on the solstice. 

Capricorn is a sign that focuses on the long game.  And even though it tends to support existing hierarchies, it’s also a practical sign.  When something doesn’t work, it dies, sometimes slowly, but inevitably.  There are many things in our society that aren’t really working – national borders, monolithic corporate control, gas and coal addiction, the rule of old white men in America -  and these things are slowly passing away.  It’s a tedious process, and we all sometimes wonder whether our species will still be around by the time it’s over. 

Patience isn’t a word that gets used much at this time of year, with the rush and tumble of the holidays.  I balk at it myself.  But one thing about electing a Democratic House is that they will all now have to work on strategy.  They have power, but only a certain amount of it.  They will have to navigate through a complicated and often stuffy system. They’ll be given great privilege, but asked to beg for money every day.  It’s up to us, the public, to urge, to support, to clamor, to make noise.     

This is where we can combine the passion of Sagittarius and the practicality of Capricorn.  There is no external magic that will save us, but we still have voices to speak up, and our lives and bodies make a statement.  We are the people, the passing generations.  We learn slowly, and we try and fail often.  Sometimes we rest, sometimes we stop to tell each other stories, and then we begin to move forward again.  We know where we’re going.  We know how it will feel.  We recognize how kindness and peace feel in our hearts, and we want that for our world.

Monday, November 5, 2018

On the Verge

I’m writing this on the day before Election Day, so I still don’t know how things will turn out.  After a couple of bright, warm autumn days, today is cold and dark and wet.  Leaves are stuck to the edges of the street, and puddles are growing into small brown lakes.   

And later today, I’m flying to Vienna, to watch my wife give a speech in front of a thousand people at the Council of International Schools’ Global Forum.  I just have a few last-minute things to stuff in my suitcase, and then I’m ready.   

I used to leave the country a lot, and I was almost never here on Election Day.  I always voted by absentee ballot, though, and I did that again this year.  Still, the geographic distance used to give me a kind of psychic distance.  Being an ex-pat is like hovering over a landscape, admiring the lovely colors and the way they blend into each other, but never getting a close-up on the dirt. 

We moved to the U.S. six years ago, a heady time in the Age of Obama.  Marisol and I acquired a panoply of rights we hadn’t had before, culminating in getting married and me being able to sponsor her for a green card. I still had my trust issues with the U.S., but they were fading.  I felt like I could live here.  I saw important social movements – Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter – gain influence and point out a new direction. 

Then came the election of 2016.  There has been an even stronger burst of activism since then, especially relating to feminism and anti-racism.  But we’ve been dealing with retrograde movement at the highest level of government, combined with an official attitude of hostility towards women, Black people, gay people, transgender people, and all ethnic and religious minorities. 

In fact, practically all of us are now in the category of Trump’s chumps, and many of the white people who aren’t in the roll-call are hell-bent on staying out of it, even if it involves a lot of cognitive dissonance.  Like any classic bully, like any typical dictator, Trump keeps himself insulated with a barrier of sycophants, now (but hopefully not for too much longer) comprising the Congressional majority. 

I know that I’m not objective enough to predict tomorrow’s election.  Since I won’t be here in the U.S., I won’t be tempted to glue myself to the television.  I’ll just wait till the next morning to hear the good or bad news, whichever it is.   

But it does look like a time of change.  Jupiter is just on the verge of moving into Sagittarius, where it will stay for a year and a month.  It changes sign on November 8.   

What will Jupiter in Sagittarius bring us?  It’s more optimistic, and more international in scope.  Sagittarius is the sign of world travel.  This xenophobia we see everywhere – could it be a very temporary withdrawal, born of fear?  After all, our world view is constantly widening, since we all communicate with each other (and with strangers) so easily.  Whether we like it or not, we are becoming global citizens – and there are many who don’t like it, and who feel threatened by it.  But this doesn’t change the trajectory.

Meanwhile, however, Pluto and Saturn are still moving through Capricorn, the sign of structure and formality.  This is the sign that is most well-adapted to the status quo, favoring large corporations and capitalism in general.  One of the dangerous trends we see is that, as we become more global in scope, we are sucked up by these large money-making entities.  It’s easier to control people when we’re all exposed to the same influences.  And this could increase with Jupiter in Sagittarius. 

We can hope that, like bees and ants and other social creatures, we’ll have enough sense to break away before these structures become even more unwieldy and monolithic.  But so far we don’t seem to have the same ecological good sense as insects.  We have a tendency to keep growing, using all available resources till they’re gone, generating waste that disfigures our landscapes.  And since Sagittarius is a sign of expansion, I’m not necessarily seeing an end to this.

Polarization could increase with Jupiter in Sagittarius, as well.  Sagittarius is hopeful, in a kind of puppy dog way, while Capricorn tends towards a more cynical and restrained approach.  We already see this division between people who are still expecting positive change, and those who prefer the familiarity of the existing arrangements.  So the hopeful and the hopeless could get into a lot of dogfights over the coming year, each convinced that their viewpoint is right.  Charge ahead, or hunker down?  It’s an existential choice. 

Most states begin Election Day at 6 or 7 am, and on the east coast, the moon will still be void-of-course then.   The void-of-course moon is famous for leading to dead ends.  This could mean that some early voters could have trouble getting to the polls, and some early votes may not be counted (or counted correctly).  After 8:02 am EST, the moon is no longer void-of-course. 

However, another erratic factor shows up as soon as the moon enters the following sign, Scorpio (at 8:02 am).  It’s forming a very tight fixed cross with Uranus and the lunar nodes.  Uranus, the planet of change, is just on the verge of changing signs.  The lunar nodes, which have to do with karmic factors, are also just about to change signs.  It looks to me like the forces of change are much stronger than the force of stasis – and this makes me hopeful that we can change the look and stance of Congress.    

I don’t like to predict, though, as I said.  All that rather unstable energy could go in other ways, such as disrupted voting procedures.  These planets and nodes are on the verge of changing, but they won’t have entered their new signs when people cast their ballots.  Will people vote for a change that they can’t quite see?  A reality that looms in the future, a trade-off where the gains are not clear?  It all may boil down to how afraid people are.  And this administration has been working mightily to instill as much fear of the unknown as possible.

Meanwhile, I’m taking off, for now.  I’ll enjoy being a tourist, someone who roams the streets and marvels at the things she sees.  For a little while, I’ll taste the air outside this country.  But then I’ll be back – impassioned, accountable, daunted one minute and hopeful the next.