8.31.2004

Surreal Shots II

"So did you look?" she asked him.

He did not want to nod, but he did. Once. His hesitation was not lost on her.

"Bad?" she asked worriedly, and he sighed.

"There's a reason I choose to look at people, rather than ahead," he told her after a moment. "Everytime I do, I wish I had not. It is usually so much better to take things as they come."

"But you can be prepared," she countered.

"Or you can be stuck, watching and knowing the outcome," he replied. "There are few things as difficult as the loss of hope."

Her brow furrowed.

"So there's no hope?" she prodded him.

He chuckled, and the sound drifted away upon dancing shadows.

"I don't usually look ahead, so I'm not very good at it. No practice, you see. You can hardly count me an expert in this part of the field."

"I believe in you," she asserted.

"Even when you should not?" he asked her curtly.

The birds had gone on ahead. The world was wind, and a touch of red lined the distant clouds.

"What, then?" she asked him finally.

"The storm is coming," he murmured. "A meteorologist could have told you that."

To that she said nothing, and he walked away.

8.30.2004

I Do Know I Don't Know

I have a couple questions to ponder: how could gravity have existed before Newton made scientific laws to explain it? And how could people have ever worked with it, lacking a good physics lesson?

Astrology seems farfetched to many people, and many of the cautiously curious find the idea of planets affecting personality or events Way Out There. It just does not seem to make much sense, and so the natural response is typically to ask the self-proclaimed professionals (astrologers) how it is possible that huge chunks of rock and gas billions of miles away could affect the personal character of a biological lifeform on Earth.

It's a good question. A fair one, and worth answering. But I don't know the answer. Theories abound, and given the varied degrees of ego out there, those theories range from serious and possible (or even probable) all the way down to the pit of fantasies which serve mostly as self-aggrandizement. However, a truly concrete answer that can be widely understood in scientific terms has yet to surface. Such an answer would do a lot to validate astrology, but unanswered questions do not automatically invalidate a study.

After all, astrology can be used even without knowing why it works. A lot of things are like that.

Perhaps, if you are a master computer design expert, you know how each part of your computer interacts with the rest to enable the entire machine to work. And maybe you think in binary code, understanding the software even as you use it. For the rest of us simpletons, lacking all that information has not stopped us from being able to operate a computer. Sure, we may not know everything about it and may make mistakes or do something wrong from time to time, but we more or less know how to run it once we've had some practice.

The same thing goes for using astrology without having the answers many of us would like to have. The difference is that humans did not create whatever forces lay behind astrology; they created the mathematical tools and mental translations by which to operate it. It's hardly the first time that has happened in human history, where observation has led to use long before we knew what the heck was going on.

Personally, I remember a card trick I learned when I was in my mid-teens. It involved no sleight of hand, just a specific method, and it worked every time, no matter who did it, as long as it was done according to instruction. I was very curious about how the trick worked, because it involved random card placements but achieved a rather difficult outcome, and - unlike the other tricks I knew - it did not require me to deceive perception. When I showed it to a science teacher it surprised him, and out of the same curiosity he helped me examine it step by step. Finally figuring it out required a mathematical algorithm, but there was an actual mathematical reason it kept coming to the correct outcome. But the process made so many hidden mathematical moves that it confounded logic when simply seen.

And that was the trick of it. It did not fool the eyes, and it didn't even fool the mind. Visual logic simply could not follow the complicated process that was going on mathematically.

It happens.

8.25.2004

Precession of the Equinoxes

Fancy name, huh? I think so, anyway.

It is what they call the fact that the constellations move slowly around in relation to Earth. For example, the constellation of Pisces is where Aries was 2,000 years ago. Astronomers refer to this movement as sidereal time. Skeptics refer to it as proof that astrologers don't know anything about actual science, because that means if you were born in what astrologers call Pisces now, the Sun would actually be in front of Aquarius.

"So which is it? Huh? Huh? Pisces or Aquarius? 'Cause you can't refute this, this is scientific fact!" (so sayeth my Platonic ideal of an immature, ignorant skeptic who is eager to prove just how little he knows about astrology by laying his mind at the altar of scientific arrogance).

It's Pisces. Yes, the sun was in front of the constellation of Aquarius. Too bad for the entire precession argument that the constellations have absolutely zero bearing on astrology. Want to know why it's Pisces and not Aquarius? Because a few millenia ago it was an obvious way to name the segments of the circle.

Maybe you're wondering what circle that is. Maybe not, but I'm going to tell you anyways. It's the circle that once was thought to be the sun moving around the earth, but which is now known to be the earth moving around the sun. Geometrically, either one is 360 degrees. Each of the 12 signs takes up a 30 degree segment. Twelve 30-degree segments make up a full circle, or one complete revolution of the earth around the sun. Known in the vernacular as a year.

The sun, the earth, degrees in a circle and yearly revolutions...well, how about that? No constellations in sight.

Ever wonder why the signs started on some weird day in the middle of the month rather than starting nice and neat on the first of each month? Well, there is another phenomenon that is timed in the exact same way, although it divides the year into 4 segments instead of 12.

(Here's a not-much-fun fact: Western astrology is also called Tropical astrology, and also called seasonal astrology.)

Aries is the first sign (not January 1st's Capricorn). Aries starts right along with spring, and so far the "first day of spring" has defiantly refused to get with the program and conveniently start on the 1st of April instead of a week and half earlier in late March.

Astrology uses those same natural cycles. Back in the day, if you woke up on the first day of spring and looked at the sun...well, you could go blind. But before you went blind you'd be sure the sun was in front of the constellation of Aries. Now it's in Pisces on the first day of spring, but astrologers never changed the names to keep up with constellations that didn't have much to do with the study in the first place. Is that rude or what?

Don't get me wrong. I like the stars. They just don't tell me anything.

8.19.2004

Surreal Shots I

"Guess what I am," she said playfully.

"A woman," he said.

"No..." she objected, "That isn't what I mean."

"A verbal artist," he offered. He pronounced it arteest.

"I mean..." she began.

"Always faithful." And he smiled.

"Oh, forget it," she said, and the world kept turning.

Then, for no apparent reason, he said:

"Somewhere around March 19th."

A moment of silence followed.

"Do you know how often people want me to guess their sign?" he asked. "And I hate the game. What it demands is outrageous and yet it seems to matter so much if I am wrong."

She stayed quiet.

"May I ask you something?" he inquired of her.

"Yes," she permitted.

"Would it really matter if I were right?" he asked.

To that she said nothing, and walked away.

8.18.2004

I Hear Things...

Well, perhaps it is not hearing, exactly.

More like empathy on steroids, but strangely emotionless at the same time. Unless there is good cause for emotion, of course. But for those who have allowed me to peruse their charts in full, it is difficult to forget what I learn. And so when those people speak I realize what they are saying instead of the countless ways it could be (mis)taken. Even - or especially - when they say it wrong, what they are trying to express slips through, and Why as well. Even without words, the moving body can be like a perfectly defined phrase, for all that it is trying to tell.

Many people have this gift, I think. It is a form of astute observation, and little more. But fewer, though, have the chance to know with conviction when they are correct.

Of course, I typically limit the amount of charts I actually do to those few people that are close to me. Not always, but I am not interested in plying this trade, as such. I suspect that if I did charts more frequently, the pure quantity of it all would muddle things in my brain. And regarding those individuals I have not seen for some time: I have forgotten much of their charts, except for vague and ghostlike memories.

But this is an important truth about astrology: you have to look in order to see. People tend to imagine that astrologers should instantly know things. I am not always looking, or listening, and so there is no absolute prescience or instant comprehension. I must focus, and remember what I know.

I have noticed the way my friends and loved ones respond to my reactions, or my actions, when I am thinking about who they are. Most often, I get an odd look...not quite furtive because they trust me, but something similar...like they are wondering if I am doing "that astrology thing" again. But then a creeping doubt follows swiftly through their eyes. As though they think they are mistaken. Perhaps it is merely coincidence, or maybe I made a lucky guess. After all, no matter what I may have deduced from their charts I cannot truly understand them with the dead-on intimacy I seem to show.

Right?

8.12.2004

Understanding

I can't claim any honorable intentions when it comes to why I got into astrology. I was too skeptical to give it a fair evaluation. When I began looking into it, I was hoping to could be used as a kind of practical marketing ploy. Or to put it more bluntly: I was hoping to manipulate people who wanted to believe in it.

Skepticism and practicality have often worked well for my personal concerns, but at times those same traits bring out a detached attitude that is not concerned with morality as much as ruthless actuality. Dog-eat-dog and all that.

But I did secretly hope astrology could do more (not that I would admit that, even to myself). I have always found myself placing little emphasis on superficial human interaction...while I don't devalue casual relationships, I tend to consider them expendable. But the desire to actually know another human being has always been a focus of mine. I have long wanted to break past misunderstanding and confusion and truly understand what it was like to see through someone else's eyes.

You could also charge me with being an idealist and a egoist, and you'd probably be right on both counts. I have not lived a sheltered life, nor one bereft of terrible displays of tragedy, loss, and anguish. But I can't shake the feeling that a people do desire love and grace and goodness in life, and that the majority of individuals would not define themselves as evil for evil's sake, although they may do bad things, and willfully, and even often. But so much of that seems to come from responding to negatives: desperation, loneliness, fear, and the like. Those same people, I believe, would just as likely show the greatest evidence of human brilliance if they felt they had the real freedom to shine.

Or maybe that's just me.

Either way, I would not have gotten into astrology for idealism. Such a pursuit had to serve a pragmatic purpose, first and foremost, and hence my initial interest in using astrology as a psychological ploy. It was safer and wiser, too, to deny astrology outright on the grounds of sensibility and science. That is, until it I realized it did make sense.

I remember the turning point clearly. That may be a story for another time, but for now I'll just say that, after four years of calculating how it could be used to make money off the ego and convictions of others, every thought I had of using astrology for selfish and financial gain vanished in a few moments. The change came hand-in-hand with the realization that I actually did hold some knowledge...and not just any knowledge, but a profound tool capable of giving me a wealth of insight into another person's character, with or without their blessing. Though more capable of manipulation than I had ever imagined, it was something to be handled with care, responsibility, respect, and honor.

How ironic.

8.10.2004

Numbers

I doubt that anybody in their right mind is going to believe that there are only twelve personality types, one for each sign of the Zodiac. It is ridiculous, given the huge variety of people out there. But the concept of a personality being governed by one of 12 signs is a bare fragment of natal astrology. I mean, it's not even the tip of the iceberg...it's an ice shaving.

This seems to be one of the more damaging misconceptions about astrology. Simplifying a person's nature by throwing them into a broad category is not very helpful (and it's kind of insulting besides). But the main Sun Sign people think of when they think of their sign is only one of over 20 major aspects that an astrologer will look at.

Despite the common reference to "star signs," the only star typically used in Western (aka Tropical) astrology is the sun itself. Besides the sun, every planet out to Pluto except for Earth is taken into account, as well as the Earth's moon. As for Earth itself, it is divided into 12 Houses based on the eastern horizon and adjusted for latitude and longitude, and each of those act as additional insights into different character aspects. Many astrologers use other planetary factors as well, but these are the ones that are used most of the time. So, total them up and you've got 22 places to put any one of the 12 signs.

But that's only going from "ice shaving" to "ice cube."

(Side Note: Because each sign is actually a 30 degree segment of a 360 degree circle, astrologers with a true taste for refinement - also known as "an obsession with detail" - can go as far as looking at individual degrees. So , that would mean 22 parts of the personality with up to 360 distinctions that can be made in any one of them. To keep it simple, though, I'll stick to the twelve signs rather than the degrees.)

Each of those 22 places may or may not have a different sign, but they are all working together in a constant rhythm. Looking at any of those 22 signs without looking at how it relates to each of the others means you are perceiving human nature in isolated chunks: like noting that something is "gray" or "rough" or "hard" but not recognizing it as a rock. Although not all of those personality aspects are actively in use at any given moment (and fewer still are conscious thought processes), each works with the others, and all of them together act as one mind reacting to whatever is happening in the unique environment around an individual.

Every possible combination creates a different psychology. That means the 1-in-12 chance grows exponentially, because the each of the other 22 aspects also have the same chance of being in any given sign or at a specific degree. And each of those combinations interact with one another in a unique manner.

So how many potential kinds of personalities might be found with astrology? Here's a hint: it's not twelve.

The first time I ran the math on this, it seemed like the number was actually too large. I thought I had done something wrong (math was never my strong suit). But it was verified for me recently. The possible number of combinations is 12 to 22nd power, or 12 times 12 times 12 times 12 (and keep on multiplying, 18 more times).

So the next time you see a horoscope column, you might consider that this is the conservative estimate of how many entries there could be: 552,061,438,912,436,417,593,344.

8.06.2004

Fate Versus Free Will

Astrology often brings up this subject, and I have found that there are many people who are passionate about their belief in fate or free will, as passionate as they might be about their political party, or their faith in God (or lack thereof). So, because this tends to be a touchy subject, I was tempted to approach it cautiously.

Then I decided: 'nah, forget that.'

Our universe is one of balances and polarities, positives and negatives. Any given force in existence has an anti-version of itself. I would submit that fate and free will both exist, and that they are polarized aspects of the same temporal flow.

Or, in Plain English: fate is what happens when you're not using your free will.

Consider how often every day you make a willful choice. Not just any choice, but one that specifically allows you to purposefully influence the course of future events. If you have an apple, let's say, you may make a choice to eat it or not eat it. Even if you are hungry, you may override your biological impulses and deny yourself that food. This can be considered an act of free will; maybe not an impressive act, but one that uses free will nevertheless.

Now consider how often in the day you are not purposefully using free will. If your car stops at a red light - and you have your foot near the pedals as well as a working car - then you also have the choice to hit the gas and burn right through the light, laws be damned, because you have the free will to make it happen. You have the free will to choose not to do it as well, but let's face it: the fact that you have that choice may not even occur to you. You hit a red light, so you stop for a moment, and that's just the way it is. How can you be using your free will if you're not even thinking about the fact that you have a choice?

Well, you aren't using your free will. Fate is what is in control there, in this case because you have trained yourself to allow destiny to take control of your life under certain learned conditions (red lights). Your free will isn't absent, just dormant, and a constant series of events are occurring around you without you choosing to influence them in any way. If those things affect you, it is fate. This also includes events you would not be able to influence even if you had known of a choice...for example, if your computer suddenly died because someone wired it poorly at a factory. No real choice for you there, just an event you had no control over. Horary astrology (that is, prediction astrology) presents the idea that fate follows predictable patterns, similar to the ebb and flow of tides, and by recognizing what these patterns represent they can see how fate is operating at a given place and time.

But if I told you that you were fated to get in a horrible accident while driving tomorrow (and be 100% right in that prediction), and because of that you chose not to get into any car the following day, you have essentially overpowered fate with free will.

But that does not mean fate cannot be stronger than free will. Fate has inertia, especially when it is built off of powerful, collective events, such as war. It is difficult for a single man or woman to use their will to overcome a massive amount of events leaning all in the same direction. Sometimes a person can even end up representing a course of destiny, caught in an undertow of fate from which there is no easy escape. Simply choosing action out of a sense of your own free will, while potentially very powerful, has its limits as well.

But I still don't think that means one person can't change the world.