Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh no! Who am I? Help!!!

I can't help but laugh at all the hubbub going on right now about the 'surprise' discovery that traditional astrology charts are wrong. Bear in mind, I first started casting charts by hand, on paper, with a calculator, in the late 1970s, so I have a clue. Since that time I've watched people perform all sorts of mental acrobatics regarding astrology. We do take ourselves terribly seriously, don't we? Maybe the whole human race should just take a deep breath.

The big flap is all because someone realized that tropical astrology (the kind most people are familiar with) doesn't place the constellations in the sky where they actually are these days. That's due to a phenomenon called Precession of the Equinoxes. I hate to break it to you, but this is old news. It's not some conspiracy in which occult information has been held, hidden, for centuries by some secret organization in order to mislead the people. It's simply due to the fact that tropical astrology is based on the sky as charted in Babylonian astrology from about 2000 years ago, give or take, and sidereal astrology isn't.

Now, we could spend all day debating which one is better, more accurate, more in keeping with what the ancient astrologers meant when they set up the system. But to me, that's beside the point. What really bothers me is the extent to which people have wrapped up their egos and identities in these bits of celestial information. This goes way beyond the cheesy pick-up line, "What's your sign?"

I can't tell you how many people I know have decided who they are and how their psyches work based on astrology. Many of them don't even bother with a full chart; they live for those little horoscope tidbits in the newspaper, which often turn out to be self-fulfilling prophecies, like the med school students who come down with the symptoms of every new disease they study.

Maybe it's a comfort to have someone else tell you who you are, so you don't have to do any self-reflection. It's certainly easier to say, "I'm not capable of [action] because I'm a [zodiac sign]." Or, "You'll just have to put up with [annoying trait] because my [planet] is in [constellation] and I can't change that."

I once had to fire a woman who refused to do anything that could be construed as 'starting a new project' when the moon was void of course. The moon is void of course about every third day. Guess how helpful she was, as an employee? But she was dead sure that any new project started during such times would be a dismal failure, so she wouldn't even try and I had to fire her. Perhaps she started the job when the moon was void of course, and that explains her lack of success at it? Yes, that's sarcasm.

People also seem to forget that astrology was invented for the purpose of helping the kings of Babylonia make governing decisions. The old-time astrologers figured the stars were only interested in the bigwigs, not the ordinary people. Kind of like how Egyptians, in the early days, believed that only the king got to hang out in the afterlife. Sure, later on these beliefs trickled down, first to the aristocracy and eventually to the common people (that's you and me, by the way). But that's not how it started.

So take a deep breath. The universe didn't suddenly tilt sideways without warning. We're still the same people we were day before yesterday, and no amount of calculation or re-calculation will change that. What can change, however, is that we can try paying more attention to our inner selves, to identifying who we are and what our life purpose really is, without relying on any external system of any sort.

If what you seek you find not within you, you will never find it without you. So it is and so we let it be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Brave New Year

I was recently asked to come up with a short list of adjectives to describe myself, and to my surprise one of the words that popped into my mind was ‘courageous.’ That’s not how I usually see myself, and I wondered how that particular term managed to weasel its way to the top of my thoughts. I began by attempting to define the word.

First of all, courage isn’t the absence of fear. As the old saying goes, only a fool is never afraid. Courage is simply this: The ability to do whatever needs to be done, regardless of fear. Just do it, as the commercial says, no matter how many knots your gut is tied in, no matter how shrill the voice of terror that shrieks in your head, no matter how hard you shake.

Well, I certainly experience my share of fear, all the usual mother/wife/businessperson/member-of-the-modern-world type stuff. So I’ve got that part sewn up. But what about the other bit, the doing-it-anyway part?

When I was a child and someone asked me to define bravery, I would describe a firefighter or police officer doing their job, facing daily peril, knowing this call could very well be their last. That’s courage embodied, no doubt about it. But what about us ordinary folk, the ones whose daily lives don’t involve the risk of grievous bodily harm or imminent death?

I thought back to the first award my daughter ever earned in Girl Scouts, when she was a Daisy: the Courage petal. She earned it the same way the other timid, fidgety 5-year-olds in her troop did: by reciting, by heart, the Girl Scout Law, in front of a room full of adults. Courage indeed. Just do it.

I suspect we’re all a good bit braver than we give ourselves credit for. Just thinking back through my own life, I can count off many instances of courage: Telling my first husband I wanted a divorce. Fighting for the medical care my disabled daughter needed. Running my first big natural health workshop. Sending my manuscripts off to publishers and agents, again and again, in spite of a pile of rejection notices. And of course, the big one: Admitting I’m wrong.

So yeah, maybe I am courageous. Maybe you are, too. How many times have you gritted your teeth and done whatever needed to be done, regardless of the butterflies in your stomach? How many times have you faced a person or situation that scared you, right to your bones? A lot, I’ll bet. More than you think.

In the end, I added the word ‘courageous’ to the list of adjectives I used to describe myself. I hope you’ll do the same. Sometimes, just facing life every morning is an act of courage. Give yourself credit for it, and have a brave new year.