An open letter to my old friends (and new)

My desk in Paris in early 2006, after completing Parallel Worlds, the 8th annual edition of Planet Waves. You may see that here. All photos by Eric Francis.

Dear Friend and Reader:

Greetings from a beautiful winter day in Kingston, New York. It’s your old friend Eric Francis saying hello. A few minutes ago, finished my 25th annual readings, a project I did the first time the same week I published the first Planet Waves website in 1998.

A quarter century: what a notion. A genuine tradition. Something I come back to every year through all the ups and downs of, well, everything (including astrology).

I’m here to check in, say hello, and find out if there’s some way my friends and I may be of service in these times of confusion, misunderstanding and uncertainty. If I haven’t heard from you in a while, please let me know how you’re doing and what you’re up to, by replying or posting a comment (depending on where you’re reading; I will reply as possible).

Today people reading this letter include those who found me in Australian or British newspapers, or the New York Daily News, or a Canadian decorating magazine, or through Jonathan Cainer or in The Mountain Astrologer or by way of any of the local or national magazines I’ve written for, or the UAC or NorWAC conferences, or those who happened along last week by way of Substack. Welcome.

Shakespeare & Co. Books in Paris, c. 2006. Most of these people lived in the store at the time. Many thousands have done so over the years.

The Movable Village

Hemingway called Paris “a movable feast” because, he said, if you stay there for a while as a young person, you bring it with you wherever you go the rest of your life. He was right about that, and there’s a bit of Paris infused into every word I write and photograph that I make.

I also move around the world with this little village surrounding me, the one that’s loosely formed around the well of my astrology. This is a space that’s always welcoming newcomers, and which supports the continuing adventure of astrology and journalism that is Planet Waves.

Lately I’m feeling somewhat out of touch with much of the Planet Waves community, which I attribute to three things despite my phone numbers remaining published.

One is that the digital world has scrambled up everything, including our priorities and our relationships. For many, the internet exists as a place of drudgery, grind and necessity rather than a place where curiosity and learning have some value. The propagandists and marketers have largely taken over, and their goal is to alienate you from yourself.

This in turn is making one thing like another, and one place like another, and strives to reduce us to data sets — within our own minds. Finally, the third element is that recent events have waged an assault on all that is human, sensitive, beautiful and meaningful (that was the whole point). My work in any form speaks to the inner life, which I aspire to liberate from its seizure by the digital environment.

Planet Waves still cares about what is beautiful and relevant in human terms. We care about feeling and the inner sense of life, as much as ‘making sense’ of it intellectually. We — all of us here — do what we can to provide a soft space to think, feel and be. We may not be able to change the world, but we aspire to create one.

Paris 5th, corner of Blvd. St Germain and Cardinal Lemoin, taken on my first digital camera, winter 2005. It was a famous gathering spot during the 1968 protests.

Softness in the Midst of Chaos

It’s a little strange writing astrology in a time when that one-word search beings up more than 400 million Google returns. In such an environment, how is anyone or anything relevant? We are all struggling to stay in contact with ourselves, even if we don’t know it.

My intent as a writer and artist is to offer a space of softness and receptiveness in the midst of this overwhelming chaos. We see the increasing meanness of the world, and do what we can to address its human impact: that is to say, to help you deal with the influence of the world on you. Part of that includes inviting to participate and contribute anyone who sincerely feels some similar way.

The world has changed radically since we met. I haven’t changed much; I’m a bit older and more reflective; I’ll write about anything interesting. Astrology remains so. I draw my charts by hand and look things up in books.

My friends and I here put ongoing, devoted emphasis and resources into adapting and reinventing what we do in small ways as the world and digital arena shift, the better to meet you where you are, in the moment that you are in. I know it’s not necessarily an easy place to be

My modus operandi is the same as ever: learn, study, inquire, investigate — and then tell you what I discover, and what I think it means in human terms. I prefer to leave the word “truth” out, because lately it’s lost all of its practical meaning and spiritual nuance. The ideas sincere learning and teaching serve much better.

My neighborhood in St Gilles, Brussels, summer 2006.

Is There Time to Be Human?

The theme of my 25th annual, called Inner Space, is preserving your humanity as we enter the next stage of the digital age, described by Pluto in Aquarius.

The feeling I keep getting is that people think they don’t have time to be human. Yet something else is going on. We are under the spell of full digital conditions, have one main property: they are not human. And it may seem easier to go with the flow and give up all those annoying inconsistencies and yearnings and curiosity and hunger.

Artificial intelligence has none of those issues, though is by definition not natural. And it is teaching us to be robots faster than we could ever teach it to be human. It is not merging with us. We are merging with it. And I am profoundly concerned about this, because I’m witnessing what it’s doing to us. The fear level is just astonishing. There is a corresponding loss of potential and sense of the possibilities. I dare say, to some people this comes as a relief. There are fewer opportunities to fail.

Humans often seem to have difficulty feeling, though we are now being pushed into a state that could best be described as deep freeze. That is the relationship between us and a server farm in Utah where your memories now seem to live.

Paris, ancient street, circa 2006.

The Aries Point

In astrology, the Aries Point is a spot in the chart where the collective intersects with the individual. It’s the first degree of the zodiac, where the Sun arrives on the spring equinox. To one side is the vast ocean of humanity (Pisces); to the other is you (represented by Aries, the sign of I Am).

In other times, one could actually spot events that had that signature. Something would stand out, with the feeling, “this makes a difference.”

Now it’s everything, all the time. Therefore, nothing really matters — except how you feel. Notice the sensation of sitting in a folding chair along the George Washington Bridge with half a cup of coffee. We live moment to moment where we face all the cares and traumas of the world crashing into the kitchen, stalking you in your car, or vibrating your night stand at 3:45 am.

The question is, where are the backstreets, the hidden passageways and the quiet spaces? Where is the place you can go to be yourself, or take a moment to remember?

Where in the world is there someone not telling you who you are and what you want?

I often think of Planet Waves as the last art-deco hotel on the Miami Beach strip — the one that didn’t sell out to a high-rise developer laundering money. We remain advertising-free. I write all of my own copy, including the same weekly and monthly horoscopes you remember from the turn of the century.

And I’m happy you’re still in the neighborhood.

With love,

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