Are You Curious About Mars?

Dear Friend and Reader:

This week’s astrology felt like the lid being lifted off of a steaming pot. The fourth inner planet retrograde of 2012 ended Wednesday morning when Mercury stationed direct. The odd kind of pressure you felt involved an aspect to Neptune. The feeling of Neptune is like something in the environment that you can’t see and can barely feel, but which has manifestations that start to appear in the corner of your eyes, that seep through your dreams or that you notice when they are gone.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Seven months of nearly continuous retrogrades has been exhausting, yet has offered an ongoing opportunity for a careful review in all the most personal areas of life. When compared to the slow-moving outer planets, the faster-moving inner planets — Mercury, Venus and Mars — are not retrograde often. They’re also more emotionally palpable, so their sensation is more distinct. They can arrive with different dimensions of personal drama, introspection, new or unusual experiences, a review of the past, or past issues coming up for resolution.

All of these retrogrades have involved either Mercury or signs ruled by Mercury; Venus was retrograde in Gemini and Mars was retrograde in Virgo. This has inevitably brought up material about thought patterns and how we communicate what we’re thinking. It’s also been good fodder for more than a little confusion, flaky behavior and a sluggish economy. And if you remember the primary elections earlier this year, the debates seemed like talent night at the County Home for the Intellectually Compromised. The astrology was perfect.

I’ve seen an unusual level of sharing around sex and relationships, and if you don’t count the whole Chick-fil-A fiasco, I am noticing an unusual level of transparency in the air: a willingness to admit what’s true, if only a little. In other areas in the news, a common theme is a bold nakedness of motive and a refusal to even throw a veil over one’s conduct. The assumption is that nobody cares, and that anyone who does care is helpless to do anything. I know this wasn’t the 2012 that 150 different books predicted, though I’ve written many times that this opportunity is up for grabs — and it’s not over yet.

We’re still in the era of so many wars we forget which one we were concerned about. Domestic terrorism has re-surfaced as an issue the past three weeks. There are serious issues with the environment. I wish we didn’t have to pay attention to this mess; everything happening in the news has such personal impact that not paying attention to world events is like pretending that you won’t get wet in the rain if you ignore the weather report. I believe that making politics repugnant and making you seem powerless is done specifically to alienate you, and thus to get you to give up your power.

There is no way to be alive now and not be impacted by the events of the wider world. I know that a lot of people are news-averse. It would seem, however, that one of our missions at this time in history is to take care of ourselves and reach for happiness, at the same time we maintain awareness of the state of the world. This is a tense, seeming contradiction; paying attention comes at a cost to peace of mind, and is a real test of faith. If ignorance leads to anything resembling bliss, it will be fragile and disingenuous.

News reports of the past four weeks have been particularly harsh. There were two mass murders in the United States, with people being shot going to the movies or gathering for Sunday religious services. While some have argued that the relatively few people killed in these incidents doesn’t affect the murder rate, events like this influence our psychology, reaffirming the message — true or not — that there is no safe place. That extends to the notion that there is no such thing as civil life, that is, if you have to go out wearing a Kevlar vest.

Photo by Eric Francis.

The other day someone sent me a video about how to survive a mall shooting. I hardly ever go to malls and I was cynical about the idea, though after I watched the video I felt better because it passed on some important skills and concepts. Talk about a sign of the times.

Neptune was involved in the Mercury retrograde we’ve just experienced, which can create some confusion about what is real — another sign of the times. One of the strangest things I heard was that people in that movie theater in Aurora, CO thought that the guy who came in to kill them was part of the show. He was dressed for the part and had all the right gear, and he came in right on cue.

One of the witnesses said something like, “We thought he was there for our enjoyment.” Then followed the biggest mass shooting in American history. Her comment is telling because so many people do watch shootings for ‘pleasure’, though we don’t seem quite up to recognizing that there’s a relationship between fantasy and reality. If nothing else, constant exposure to the discharging of weapons makes it difficult to tell whether something is pretend or not.

As for the shooting at the Sikh temple, or gurdwara, that might seem senseless (the word most often used to describe it). To me it’s perfectly logical. Remember that we’ve spent the past 11 years and about $1.36 trillion (debt financed — that’s the figure before interest is paid) killing people in the Middle East, many of whom have beards and wear turbans. I dread to think how many people have believed even for a day that “Arab terrorists” are really our problem; the Sikh temple shooter just took that distorted logic a bit further, and like many people was basing his assessment on appearances. This is about the war coming home.

The gun debate surfaces for a few days every time one of these things happens. People are wondering how it’s possible that a psychopath can buy an arsenal. There are good questions being raised about why we all need guns to defend ourselves, because there are so many other people with guns. Anyone who thinks they feel safer with everyone armed is insane, though there’s an obvious exception to that rule — guns are outright banned in Washington DC. Apparently they are not allowed where members of Congress hang out a lot, even though they like them so much, but they’re OK everyplace else.

Photo by Eric Francis.

What is the most outrageous is the lack of leadership on the issue throughout the rest of the country. Nearly all politicians on every side of any fence treat the gun issue like the political third rail — if they touch it, they think they’ll fry.

We all hear how powerful the NRA is. Whose interests are they advancing? Their own membership is far more moderate than their guns-for-everyone theory; these people represent an industry that makes money every time one of these killings happens, because there is a rush to the gun stores. The most common thing all these crime scenes have in common is a weapon made by Gaston Glock, whose Glock 19 has been a hot seller lately.

In climate news, July was the hottest month for as long as records have been kept. There has been a drought across the United States that’s killed two-thirds of the corn crop. As we read last week, a former ardent climate change denier admitted that human CO2 emissions are in fact the problem, then recommended fracking as the solution. Fracking for its part destroys groundwater sources, pollutes the air and causes earthquakes — and it’s likely to be coming to someplace near you.

In other matters, there has emerged a kind of nakedness of motives coming out into the open. The presidential campaign has been reduced to how much money the candidates can raise (I’ve read that Romney raised $125 million last month, while Obama came up with $75 million). This money will all be spent brainwashing anyone who is not both blind and deaf. Well, to say brainwashing is a bit too kind. The war chests of these politicians will be used to wage war in our minds.

Meanwhile, certain voters (elderly, black, poor, students) are being blocked from participating in three key states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which will skew the remaining voters toward the Republicans. There may not be much difference between the political parties, though there sure does seem to be a push to eliminate those who might vote for Democratic candidates. If you want a clue what Mercury stationing retrograde on Election Day is about, let’s start with this. Blocking voters who tend to be Democrats has been going on in ever-bolder ways since 2000, and it’s astonishing that hardly anyone is speaking up about this.

One political story that’s gotten a lot of attention the past few weeks is the issue of Mitt Romney’s taxes. He’s only released one year of his tax returns. ABC News asked him whether there were any years in the past 10 that he paid less than his rich-man’s rate of 13.9%; he refused to answer. Had he paid more, he certainly would have said so. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has proposed that Romney paid no taxes at all for 10 years, which is actually possible if you have enough money, if you’re willing to push or break the rules, and if you can afford lawyers to defend your tax returns.

Photo by Eric Francis.

What’s amazing is that anyone thinks this is trivial. One of the core issues of our day is tax policy: who pays how much in taxes, and who pays no taxes. Who bears the burden of society, and who benefits? One version of the story is that relatively poor people seem content to allow rich people to pay less because who knows, they too might be rich some day. Yet there are many reasons that people have to support those who would harm them, and you could analyze it simply as an abuse dynamic.

One of the more interesting things that happened this week was that yet another robot was dropped onto Mars — the Curiosity rover. This was the super-fancy version of the Mars iPod, with loads of on-board experiments, cameras and even a little oven, I guess to bake dirt and see what happens. Mars is the planet associated with war and violence, as well as with motivation, drive and desire. It’s the planet to look at when you want to understand why something is happening, in terms of the intent involved.

Curiosity arrived on Mars within hours of the shooting at the Sikh temple; they are strikingly similar charts. The synchronicity here is that we need to examine, experiment with and understand our propensity to violence. We need to find out what Mars is all about and that will indeed involve curiosity. It will also involve admitting that we live in a society that’s ruled by violence and money, and it may involve admitting that on the meta-structural level there is little we can do about that; however, whether we can or cannot influence this is something we’ll have to find out for ourselves.

It’s impressive that as we explore Mars, we get more and more pictures of a landscape devoid of trees, of lakes, of oceans and of any apparently living critters. Part of the fascination is with the barren landscape, as we watch our own forests burn and our glaciers melt. The investigation of Mars that we really need is to gain an understanding of what all this violence is about; what the fear is about; why we find it necessary to execute mentally retarded people — and why we put up with it.

Photo by Eric Francis.

This may seem like too much to handle. It’s easy to shut down, and I have my moments regularly when I wish it would all go away, particularly when I tune into the unmitigated evil that’s now operating in plain view. I think that silence and denial will only make matters worse. Pretending in any way will only make things worse.

One of the central spiritual necessities of our times is maintaining awareness of the world at the same time we appreciate life, and this is not easy. The fact that there seems to be little we can do to effect change doesn’t help. But this isn’t about saving the world; responding with clarity is about something different — dharma: acting as if to hold the world together.

There was one other telling incident during this Mercury retrograde — New York Times photographer Robert Stolarik being beat up and arrested by the NYPD. Most of our problems in society right now are either rooted in or exacerbated by most people lacking access to actual sources of information, having no knowledge that such exists or confusing it with entertainment. Hearing that a New York Times photographer was beat up and had his cameras taken only makes it worse, scaring both independent and establishment reporters away from the very things they should be covering.

“My camera hitting anybody is an untruth,” Stolarik said, responding to the police assertion that he bumped or hit one of them with the lens of his camera. “They just get to say whatever they feel like saying and then charging me with whatever they feel like charging me with to justify their actions. They were violent toward me, and they were violent toward the media.”

“I always try to be reasonable,” said Stolarik, who was hassled by an officer on camera while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall, when the campaign of violence against journalists began. “But there’s going to be a next generation [of journalists] to come up, and if we accept this type of behavior, what happens to that next group of people?’

This is what we need to be asking — about everything.


Friday, August 10, 2012. Weekly Horoscope #913 | Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Leo Birthdays this week

This is the year to study up on nonviolent communication and conflict resolution. This is so strong in your charts that it could become your vocation or an important aspect of what you do professionally — though its first application is going to be more in your ‘everyday’ life — with your family, around your neighborhood, and at work. Mars and Saturn are conjunct in your house of language and communications, which is the sign Libra. There is something here about balance and fairness, and hearing all sides of the issue — especially when you or others have grievances. You seem to be breaking free of some old thought patterns, and they may be resisting; violent struggle is not the way. You will spend some time this year addressing the theme of attachment versus liberation; whether jealousy is a good idea, or something to resolve; and you have the chance to bring mature emotional intelligence into your thought process.

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Whatever else you may have in mind, be careful to avoid a showdown. There are many ways to handle your present situation, and that would be the worst option. The best option is some form of diplomacy, which requires a healthy respect for authority. Part of that includes staying within your authority in any partnership or relationship matter, and not assuming privileges that you don’t have. Therefore, make sure you err on the side of humility for the next week or so; be deferential but not patronizing. You may start to get the feeling that the pressure is mounting during that time, and that’s your cue to take a breath, observe, and make sure that you’re taking things one conscious step at a time. Whoever you’re dealing with is feeling more vulnerable than you may be aware, and your gentleness and conscious choice not to push or bring matters to a head will be greatly appreciated.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You may be getting the message that the time has come to focus your mind. One peculiar property of Taurus is that your intellectual talents often find themselves under the water of your powerful emotions. Resolving this is more a matter of maturity than it is of having (or not having) some innate gift. Over the next few days, you may feel what it’s like to be a mature thinker. It’s different from the usual tidal flow of your mind, or the cyclical ebb and flood of your ideas that you live with. Many factors over the past few years have guided you in the direction of the skills necessary to steer your mind a bit like how someone can use the wind and currents to guide a sailboat almost effortlessly. Remember that you actually possess the abilities that seem to manifest over the next few days, and you can access them at any time. The one thing you have to remember is that this doesn’t work as long as you let your emotions overwhelm your mind — and your mind being in charge is the point of maturity for which nothing else can substitute.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Mercury has finally stationed direct. I experienced it like the lid being lifted off a boiling pot; the drop in pressure and temperature was palpable. I trust that the transition has given you the opportunity to take notice of some basic facts that you may have been denying. You will now have the ability over the next three weeks to revisit your observations, and reconsider some of your decisions, as Mercury will make several aspects for the third (and last) time of this cycle. You may not reverse yourself, though one way to know if you’re paying attention is that you start to see things differently. Your perspective is different from what it was even two or three months ago, and as Mercury makes aspects to Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, if you’re really looking, the world around you will look and feel different. This is because you are making deeper contact with yourself. Be especially mindful, however, if you find yourself trying to convince yourself of anything.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — There is creativity and there is mature creativity; the difference is akin to that between infatuation and solid friendship. While you cannot fake or force maturity, you can access the parts of yourself that are the most centered, and where you’ve learned the most from experience. One clue that you’re there is that you will feel a focused sense of authority over yourself, rather than a push or quest to be someone or something. Another is that you will respond with sensitivity to the circumstances of others, no matter how difficult or painful they may be. That’s usually natural for you, though you might not want anything or anyone to harsh your mellow. The best way to do that is to transcend the source of drama within yourself. Returning to the theme of creativity: in a similar way, I suggest you draw from a deep spot, and resist any temptation to be casual or glib. The result will be something truly authentic that will change you and — perhaps just a little — change the world.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Mercury just stationed direct in your sign, so you may feel like you’re coming to some conclusions about the many things you’ve had on your mind the past month or so. I suggest you think of them more as observations and studies-in-progress, because over the next three weeks, Mercury repeats for the third time a series of aspects that it’s already made twice since late June. The difference now is that you will feel less tentative about taking action in the places you know are calling for your attention — and there are a few. The difference is that you are likely to discover that your decisions actually take hold and move along the story line of your life. It’s also a lot easier to do, decide and breathe when your anxiety level is at low tide, and at the moment this is something you have in perspective. Everything you feel is energy; everything is an opportunity to make a decision.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — It’s now safe to trust your intuition again. It may have felt like a defective product recently, though really it’s neither. However, Mercury and Neptune have not been able to agree about what is true, though they seem to be getting along a little better. As for intuition: in truth, this is your ability to be in harmony with yourself. Yet as some studies have pointed out, it’s also based on sensory clues and common sense. That doesn’t make it any less useful, or rare, and for you a key attribute of this gift is what some call ‘women’s wisdom’. This is a mix of what your body tells you, what has been traditionally time-honored, and knowledge of the natural world. The thing about intuitive messages is that it’s okay to sit with them for a while. You don’t have to act on them immediately, though some come with a recommendation for when it’s necessary to get busy. Take a little while to feel your choice — then proceed with gentle confidence.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Venus, your ruling planet, has changed signs for the first time since April; this week, it ingressed the career, reputation and life mission angle of your chart, which is the sign Cancer. This is likely to be stoking up your ambitions, though I suggest that your boldest quest is going to be doing what you do with total commitment to creativity and passion. Remember that you have a professional life that runs in cycles: of interest, of dedication, of emotional contact with what you’re doing. Yet everything you want, reach for and accomplish has one thing in common: that would be you. I suggest that you get clear that your calling in life, and the work that you do, are not things separate from you; they are expressions of who you are — whatever you happen to be doing, or whatever you want to do. Over the next few days you may get some ideas how to take that journey deeper, and a clue about what you can accomplish using the miracle of collaboration.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Monitor your anxiety level carefully this weekend and for a week or so beyond. ‘Monitor’ means be aware of, and I say that because it may have a tendency to be operating in the background, where you are not noticing it. Fear that you experience may be projected onto a topic having nothing to do with your actual concerns. In light of this, I suggest you sort out what you’re really concerned about. When in doubt, apply the Course in Miracles lesson, “I am never upset for the reason I think.” This will be especially helpful if any anxiety reaches the level of paranoia. Whatever is showing up on the monitor display known as ‘consciousness’, behind the scenes, you are under some psychic pressure. It’s as if part of your mind is being squeezed, or perhaps more accurately, you’re trying to pass something through your psyche, and it’s encountering resistance. That resistance may feel like fear, which can show up in a diversity of forms. This process has two transition dates — Aug. 15, when Mars makes its conjunction to Saturn; and Aug. 23, when Mars enters your birth sign. Please remember those dates.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Be mindful of expecting others to make sacrifices for you — or for any inclination you may have to make a sacrifice for the sake of a relationship. I am not suggesting that you refrain from being generous, but rather that you notice when you have to give something up rather than offer it as a gift. You’re in a phase of your life when you’re exploring not just actual human encounters but also your concept of what a relationship is. I think that for you, the first question to ask is, “What is a friend?” This is not the kind of thing you ask yourself once and be satisfied with the answer you get. It’s something I suggest you ask yourself all day, every day for a while, and see how your answer evolves.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You’re at a critical juncture right now, and more is at stake than you may realize. I don’t mean for this to stir up any anxiety. I suggest you relax and loosen up enough to take your situation — and your potential — seriously. One thing that you must be mindful of is honoring the chain of command in any corporate or professional system. Without breaking ranks, you can work politically to build a consensus and get your way, and you do seem focused on a particular outcome. While you may not be in a position to take authority from others, you are certainly in a position to persuade them to use their authority. You just have to go about accomplishing that goal in a way that is savvy and which accesses your deepest professionalism. That said, you have more official power in this situation than you may recognize, and even if you are acting within the bounds of your jurisdiction, I suggest you work the territory smoothly and never for a moment seem to act like the boss.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Do your best to shift the circumstances of your life onto level ground. If you cannot do that, notice the ways in which the field is tilted, though when you respond to that, you must do so with a sense of fairness. There really is a question of ethics at stake, and your longterm reputation may hinge on your choices during the next week or so. The issue may surround your career plans, such as your intention to embark in a new direction. You’re likely to be feeling some pressure here — and that is the thing to be mindful of. Taking some form of radical action would likely be premature, particularly if it means severing a tie. When considering the right thing to do, the idea to work with is that less is more. Once Saturn reaches Scorpio in early October, you will have a lot better sense of where you’re headed, and that’s less likely to be infused with conflict or tension.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Much hinges on what you believe, in particular, whether you believe you’re successful. But there’s something deeper, which is whether you believe that your success — that is, your full expression in the world — is a good thing. You need to come up with at least that much confidence, though don’t spend your time rationalizing. Rather, feel what you do and who you are, and pay attention to evidence of the positive influence that you have on others. Feel the point of contact when some element of your creativity reaches someone, and ask yourself whether you and the world would benefit from that being multiplied. I recognize there is a question of the financial aspect and how that’s supposed to happen; for a number of reasons you may have the sensation of walking through a bog, then having to scale a wall. Stick to the human element: the contact point, or the element of your work that is relational. From there, the way forward will be clear.

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