Count Yourself In

Thousands of people gathered on the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia on Aug. 16 for a peaceful candlelight vigil in response to last weekend’s violence. Photo by Jason Lappa.

Dear Friend and Reader:

It’s tempting, in times of pain, chaos and transformation, to think there are no opportunities for you to participate, or feel like life is so insane that nothing matters, and besides, the world is ending anyway. Plenty of people are caught in the meme that nothing makes a difference, especially them.

I know it can seem that way. We’re moving at the compressed speed of events between eclipses, and our minds are warped into the light-speed movement of electric communication that delivers the latest crisis to our purse or pocket in mere seconds. Everything is accelerated, magnified and thrown into a mash-up with everything else streaming across your news feed and beleaguered brain.

It’s easy to imagine there’s no place for you in the world at this time, or that there’s no use trying. You might be so disgusted, shocked or scared, that you cannot figure out what to do. I’m here with another idea. But first, let’s review the recent past.

Just think, last week at this time, I was writing to you about the not-so-real threat of nuclear war with North Korea. Remember that? Trump’s threat of hellfire and brimstone, and all the angles of the “announcement” chart going into the mutable signs, saying the whole thing was insubstantial?

Remember the Nuclear Axis chart? And Kim Jong-un and The Donald, throwing adolescent tantrums as people in Seoul and Tokyo wondered if they were in the line of fire?

That was just seven days ago; I know that’s a long time, and it’s hard to remember so far back in ancient history.

Threatening nuclear war was a ruse to scramble coverage of a story that broke earlier in the week, the one about how the home of Paul Manafort, the presidential campaign manager for the guy who is now president, was raided by the FBI.

That was part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian connection and a labyrinth of financial crimes. I consider Manafort to be the pin in the pinwheel of this whole Russia business. Mueller has impaneled a grand jury. He now has subpoena power. We may not know what’s in Trump’s tax returns, but now Mueller has the power to get them right from the IRS, and may have already done so.

This got under the skin of the commander-in-chief sufficiently for him to go nuclear, which distracted everyone from the whole Russia bit for about 48 hours.

When that got boring, it was time to threaten the invasion, or perhaps just bombing, of Venezuela. Everyone was saying the same thing. Venezuela? Uh, why? It was like that scene in Wag the Dog. A war with Albania? Seriously? In the old days, that would have been more than enough.

Attendee of Wednesday’s vigil in Charlottesville. Photo by Jason Lappa.

That’s when things got really interesting: it was time for a race riot. For our weekend diversion, we got a kind of Civil War reenactment — or what the New York Daily News editorial writers called (who were being witty, but not kidding) “the Civil War’s Battle of Fifth Ave.”

In Charlottesville, VA, the city had decided to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who commanded the army of northern Virginia. White supremacists took to the road like Phish fans and gathered with their body armor, Glocks and assault rifles. Others, wearing chinos and polo shirts, staged a midnight tiki-torch march on the University of Virginia campus.

In the midst of this, violence erupted various places, and then a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. Two police officers were also killed when their helicopter went down.

Trump then held a couple of press conferences, blaming “both sides” of the issue, praising the fine people protesting for white rights, and comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. White nationalist leaders praised Trump for refusing to condemn the whole thing, which he then did briefly; then to the feigned shock of his communications team, walked it back at a patently insane press conference held at Trump Tower on Monday afternoon.

As of Thursday afternoon, this story is still developing — Trump was tweeting about how foolish it is to remove statues of Civil War “heroes” from public spaces; his lawyer repeated that there’s “no difference” between Robert E. Lee and George Washington and that Black Lives Matter is infiltrated by terrorists. The phrase “alt left” was born, but the word of the week is antifa, meaning antifascist.

Thursday The New York Times was reporting that communities in the South were quietly removing their confederate statues. Nearly all of these were put in place in the 1950s and 1960s in response to the Civil Rights movement. Personally, I am eager to see slave memorials built in their place.

Peter Cvjetanovic (R) along with Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists encircle and chant at counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 11, 2017.

The Onion chimed in with the headline, “Trump Warns Removing Confederate Statues Could Be Slippery Slope To Eliminating Racism Entirely.”

As of this writing, here’s how the Times (which I consider a baseline for mainstream viewpoints) was calling the plays: “WASHINGTON — President Trump found himself increasingly isolated in a racial crisis of his own making on Wednesday, abandoned by the nation’s top business executives, contradicted by military leaders and shunned by Republicans outraged by his defense of white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, Va.”

This all went down in ten days. Ten days! And the eclipse hasn’t even happened yet.

Did you really think it was going to be any different from this?

And what have you been up to?

I’m aware some people are hiding in bed waiting for this to all be over. Others are expecting the worst. It is worth pondering how much of a problem the racial thing really is. Troublesome though it may be, it’s not such a huge problem if cities respond by taking down statues of Civil War heroes while this is all going on.

All politics is local. Many Republicans are speaking out against this. Their constituents may fancy themselves conservative, but white supremacy is taking things a little too far for them; maybe that will get them to start questioning their whole viewpoint, that is, the one where the logical conclusion is white supremacy.

If eclipses set patterns, this is a pretty good one: reaction followed by response, issue after issue. None of this stupidity has been met by silence. Every one of these issues has caused a rumble through society. Many people know it’s all a distraction from Russia having seized control of the U.S. government through its asset and operative Donald Trump.

Kristin Chapron and Paula Bakerian in Watertown, MA, show their solidarity for the protesters against the White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA. Photo by Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin.

And then there’s you.

I’m here to tell you that all this chaos is opportunity knocking on your door. It’s an opportunity to participate, whether that means stepping up to your desire to work on the issues you care about, or to step into your chosen role as whatever it is you want to do or become.

You may think that the seeming chaos is blocking you, or that the uncertainty is scrambling your plans. I suggest you think otherwise.

First of all, things are not that chaotic at the moment. What we have now is about average for a transitional time in American history.

However, there’s a quickening going on; a loosening up of the structure of society, of expectations, and a corresponding movement of energy. This is the ideal time to insert yourself and your ideas into the equation of society. If you look back at history, you’ll see that many of the most enduring (and useful) ideas, institutions and achievements came through in times of total mayhem. There are many examples, but one is how The Lord of the Rings was written in the author’s garage between Nazi bombing runs on his area in England. To include yourself indeed, you would just need to do one thing: make yourself available.

That’s the thing. And to do that, you’ll have to drop some of your character armor. You cannot hug a child with nuclear arms, and you can’t be available if you’ve packed all kinds of defenses around your personality.

Character armor is all that ‘no’ you may have packed around yourself: no to experimenting, no to life, no to relationships, no to sex, no to taking chances, no to doing what you want.

It shows up in various pseudo forms of integrity, purity, uprightness, prudishness and many related affects and artifacts. It comes in the form of withholding. It comes in the form of wanting people to know what a good person you are, therefore, you would never do that. Never be seen with that person. Never think that thought.

At a candlelight vigil in Kingston, NY, in response to the violence in Charlottesville. Photo by Phyllis McCabe.

To participate and to be available, you’ll need to get over any fear you may have of being seen, being heard, standing out, standing up, being outstanding, being too much or not enough. These are just hang-ups, which is like hanging up on yourself.

The paradox of participating, of counting yourself in, is that you would have to open up and be vulnerable somewhere other than a “safe zone” — to the contrary, you would be exposing yourself to, uh, something — really, to your own feelings, and to change — right when everything seems so dangerous.

Yet to the extent things seem dangerous, that’s likely to be a direct function of any armoring that you’re carrying around. The more you defend against something, the realer it seems; but what exactly are you defending, and against what?

One other thing. It’s vital to live in a bigger world of more important priorities than what you may currently inhabit. There is a world, and it’s larger than your world. To live, it’s urgently necessary to give up pettiness: such as the obsession with small transgressions, being perpetually offended, or being riveted to what’s familiar.

It’s necessary to be flexible, lest you break. The less you flex and bend, the more stiff the wind feels.

People are figuring out that this all comes down to sex. To some, that’s the scariest news of all, to some it’s the best news of all, and to others, it’s just not news: in particular, to purists who make attacking and undermining sex their primary agenda. Contaminating sex is the very most important tool of fascists, of tyrants, of priests and other cops.

Sex is the ultimate anarchy, because you just have to go with it: no choreography, no expectations, and all that planning and control just fall apart. That’s just how it is. Then something else comes out: your voice, your love, your sweat, your tears, your music, your art, your desire to be alive, and your gratitude for being so.

Count yourself in. Do it now.

Have a great eclipse. Catch you on the other side.

With love,

Planet Waves Weekly Horoscope for Aug. 17, 2017, #1163 | By Amy Elliott

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You are gradually receiving the understanding that meeting your life goals, or fulfilling your ambitions, is about personal growth. Truly accepting this concept flies in the face of the dominant cultural doctrine — that success is measured primarily by wealth — but it’s necessary if you wish to do what you love. With the eclipse coming in your zone of creativity, embrace your passion in all its unique glory, and ignore those who would fit you into one of their neatly boxed categories. Be yourself and express yourself as hard as you can. — By Amy Elliott.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Many of us spend years working to escape the confining boundaries that all too often appear as a result of early experiences. Yet history can also be of considerable benefit. After all, we can and often do inherit gifts as well as burdens. You may find that something from your past, or your roots, is helping to inspire current creative projects. Alternatively, your present achievements could be helping you to see the past in a new light. The discovery will most likely be affirming. Let it spur you onward. — By Amy Elliott.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Often, when we encounter a situation that’s arisen many times before, we respond automatically as we have done in the past. This can save effort, and help us get through challenging times. Yet when those times are over, it can be hard to move on from the learned response. This, however, is what you are now being called on to attempt. If you say or do something out of habit and are no longer sure why, or how it serves you, consider that question, and whether it might not be better to change things up. — By Amy Elliott.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Someone close to you is likely to give you a welcome confidence boost this week. That said, it’s important that you participate in the process of solidifying your own sense of wellbeing. Counterintuitive as this may seem, that can require planning and effort. Catch and correct any unfairness in your self-management, which means silence any domineering voice from your past. Get involved in the life of your community. Finally, every day, make a point of performing at least one activity you love. — By Amy Elliott.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — For some time now you’ve been getting used to being at the center of astrological events, in a way that’s unusual even for the sign of the zodiac ruled by the Sun. You’re dealing with questions relating to the very heart of your identity. One theme that’s emerging in this moment is the fact that only you can determine who you are. True freedom and independence are predicated on you learning to break free from any earlier habits that make you feel stifled. Look within yourself and trust your resources. — By Amy Elliott.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You’re on the threshold of a major change, and you’ve likely already begun to feel the tension and the anticipatory sensations congruent with the approaching eclipse on the threshold of your sign. Try to let go of any anxiety due to not having all the information. That will probably be revealed to your satisfaction over the next few weeks. Until then, all you really need to do is take things as they come; discharge what duties you might have, and engage in your life as fully as possible. Try to let things flow. — By Amy Elliott. 

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — The extraordinary changes you’ve been experiencing lately are about to reach a point of culmination. It may be that only now will you begin to see the fruits of your endeavors as concrete and lasting alterations to your life, and to your self-perception. You might need to dial back the pace just a little over the next few weeks, but don’t lose the momentum. Both at home and in the public sphere, which is where Monday’s eclipse will fall in your chart, you’re finally coming into your power. Keep your grip on the reins. — By Amy Elliott. 

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You might well be making strides in your career, or have an ambition you’d like to pursue. What’s stopping you? One answer to that question could be if your chosen path runs against what a certain authority figure might consider appropriate, useful, or perhaps simply in line with their own wishes. But they’re not in charge, are they? You don’t need to take into account whatever Catch-22 scenario someone else may devise. Rather, trust in your own powers and in the essential justness of your vision. — By Amy Elliott.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Your sign is well known for its independence and adventurousness. You can often be found deep in uncharted territory while the rest of us are still scratching our heads and trying to decipher the map. Yet occasionally it’s handy to slow down and let other people catch up, if only so you can check in about your route options. This week, there might be at least one person — particularly in the position of teacher, or similar — who has a bit of wisdom you may benefit from hearing. Be prepared to listen. — By Amy Elliott.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — This would seem to be a time in which you need to muster some courage and emerge into the open. This can be a difficult task, especially when several factors appear so uncertain. Yet to some extent this will always be the case in human life. It’s not possible to organize everything into neat pigeonholes. The sooner you put the kibosh to that idea, the sooner you can start to relax. Get out into the world and merge with its delightful randomness. Chances are, you’ll enjoy it a lot more than you think. — By Amy Elliott.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — One way to gauge whether you benefit from a close relationship is to comprehend how it makes you feel about yourself. This includes noticing whether the other person brings your best side uppermost. That is linked to self-fulfillment, which should not really be mutually exclusive with fulfillment in love or friendship, or even business interactions. Monday’s eclipse is likely to help make that clear. Many people stick together because they fear change or seek security. If that is no longer sufficient for you, you’re likely heading in the right direction. — By Amy Elliott.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — The thing about perseverance is that it’s not so much about keeping up a similar pace every day, as getting back into your stride after you’ve been waylaid or distracted. That said, doing the former as far as you can will likely help ensure the latter. You’re already on a creative roll. Chances are, you know what you’re doing; though it’s always handy to double-check the details, especially for the next few weeks. All the routine maintenance you do now will likely be useful preparation for when you’re called to raise the bar. — By Amy Elliott.

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