Those Little Gaps of Silence

Dear Friend and Reader:

Within the past year or two, I received a comment from a listener to Planet Waves FM, who complained that I pause too much when I’m speaking. He said that he would be running my program through a “truncate silence” filter, in order to condense my language. He wanted to speed up the pacing of my thought process. Apparently I think too slowly for him; if he only knew.

This is the perfect example of how electric media affects people: we come to expect being overwhelmed. By electric media, I mean the whole story arc of an electrically powered environment, from telegraph to electric light to digital. They all have one thing in common, which is electricity. (Technically, the word electronic refers to the presence of transistors, which are little electric switches.)

Telegraph operator works the closest thing to Twitter.

The telegraph made it possible for information to reach from the White House to Buckingham Palace at the speed of light (it used to take a month), or for people to play chess in real time, between New York and Baltimore. It was equally good for both purposes.

The electric light blended night and day, which in turn messes with our natural rhythms and our relationship to the natural world, and to the cosmos.

Radio, television and digital overwhelm us with information, opinions, options and images, to the point where it’s nearly impossible to breathe. They scramble sensory balance to the point where it’s difficult to perceive one’s relationship to one’s body.

So let’s see: this week, “the news” included the following, in no special order (it all seemed to happen simultaneously, which is reasonably accurate):

Someone opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon on a group of U.S. representatives and senators who were practicing for a charity baseball game, critically wounding one; the attorney general of the United States had to deny publicly that he was involved in espionage and treason, and on live television refused to answer many questions from senators; a 24-story affordable housing tower burned down in London, killing many people.

The president of the United States is under investigation by the special counsel (an independent federal prosecutor) for obstruction of justice; he is also considering firing the guy who is investigating him; the jurors in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial appear to be deadlocked; the president is trying to roll back normalization of relations with Cuba (apparently Russia is OK, when Cuba being friends with Russia was our original excuse for blockading Cuba). A woman in Maine drowned a rabid raccoon in a puddle. Donald Trump turned 71 years old on Wednesday.

Early electric street light, probably late 19th-century. Incredibly, we still drape our streets with wires more than 150 years later.

We have not heard much from Mike Pence lately. I suspect he’s already president, doing the job quietly, while his boss takes the country for a ride on a train wreck.

Does anyone really want things to go faster?

Where do we think we’re going? Lakota Shaman Lame Deer wrote many years ago that Americans are on “the road to nowhere — a paved highway which they themselves bulldoze and make smooth so that [humans] can get faster to the big empty hole which they’ll find at the end, waiting to swallow them up.” He may as well have been referring to the “information superhighway,” which is an early term for the internet. It’s definitely starting to feel like a road to nowhere.

What all these news events that ripped through consciousness this week have in common is that not only did we hear about them via internet or digital cable news, they are all emerging from a society dominated by that environment. The hyperbolic speed of events, and their rapid delivery, are all properties of electric media.

Mercury Square Neptune: Crisis of Reason

When you get a week of events like this, it’s natural for both astrologers and astrology fans to wonder what the heck was going on in the sky. While there are always many little things going on, the main event of the week was Mercury square Neptune. That was exact at 11:29 pm EDT on Tuesday night. Mercury is, on one level, about mind and communications. Let’s start there. Mercury square Neptune has some difficulty discerning the truth. It blurs the differences between “true” and “untrue” in a kind of irrational haze.

At this stage of its development, the phone system was run by operators, who would manually make connections. There was no ability to dial, and many families would share what’s called a “party line,” leading to the rapid spread of gossip, including by the operators, who could listen in on any local call. The private telephone number, reached automatically, came later.

People who have this aspect in their natal chart must work for intellectual integrity. It does not come naturally or as a birthright. If they don’t do the work of cultivating that integrity, they will remain in that fog, and typically pay for it somehow. That’s where our whole society stands at the moment.

One thing about Mercury is that it can represent the mentality of young people, such as children and adolescents. And you might say that society is in the thrall of immature thinking and behavior. Neptune in this equation is the influence of fantasy, delusion and the media haze. Mercury is mind and mentality.

I would add that these days some people are seeking justice, but what they really need is maturity and the ability to discuss issues with people with whom they might vehemently disagree.

We got a little taste of that potential, at least in astrological theory, with the Sun’s opposition to Saturn on Thursday. Normally this would be a cool-down, sober-up, and get-some-work-done kind of aspect. It also describes a face-to-face meeting between two important facets of consciousness that are alternatives to the child-mind: adult (the Sun) and parent (Saturn).

The out-of-control child aspect of self will try to lure others into coming from parent mode. This is not productive. What we really need are people who can relate to one another from adult mode. Yet at the moment, there are very few people who can do that. We live in what Robert Bly described as a “sibling society.” I recently heard the word “kidult” for the first time, used by a “millennial” to describe herself and, presumably, her generation.

“I use the phrase ‘sibling society’ to suggest a culture fundamentally without fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, or ancestors. The thinking is horizontal,” Bly writes in his 1996 book by that title.

At the dawn of radio, Orson Welles directs the broadcast of War of the Worlds on Oct. 30, 1938. This incident, covered recently in Planet Waves, gave the world a taste of the power of radio.

He later comments, “The distance between the adolescent and the true adult is about five thousand miles, but the distance between the adult and the elder is almost as large,” adding later, “In the sibling society, both the adult and the elder get lost, and no one knows where they are.”

There’s one other quote from this work that’s worth publishing here, related to politics and democracy. “All of those on the left, as I am, have always vastly preferred the democratic society over the hierarchical society and still do, but the democratic culture doesn’t exist without highly informed citizens capable of thinking well, and if you have schools in which 40 percent of the people coming out of them cannot make change for a dollar, you don’t have a democracy. You have a sibling society.”

Note, this was first published 21 years ago, long before the internet had even become a mainstream thing.

Of Reason and Rationality

Mercury square Neptune also describes a loss of reason and rationality, which you could describe as the inner kid losing its bearings and taking over the whole psyche. This is one of the roots of the integrity issue that surrounds this aspect. If there’s no reasoning process, or if reasoning is distorted, there’s no objective way to establish right and wrong.

In Pennsylvania, the Bill Cosby jury is trying to sort out the issues in the midst of this convoluted mental and emotional environment. Are you following that story? He’s accused of drugging his victims with three Quaaludes, which is enough sedative to perform a hip replacement.

Early Fairchild planar transistor, one of the first renditions of the device and a breakthrough in the history of semiconductors; circa 1959. Now millions of these go on a chip a fraction of the size of a dime. Photo from the Computer History Museum.

Looking for some fresh ideas today, I called up Andrew McLuhan, my media studies study-buddy and the grandson of my favorite philosopher, Marshall McLuhan.

I mentioned the guy who wanted me to talk faster, and who was filtering out the silence in my broadcasts. He recognized this as part of the overwhelm effect of electric media, which leaves you no time to think — the very time I’m taking in those interminable three-second pauses in my spoken word presentations.

The electric media onslaught has supplanted the thoughtful reasoning process that was cultivated over long centuries by print media, especially by books. Particularly under digital conditions, everyone seems triggered, all the time. There’s no ‘safe space’ in the world that will protect anyone from this. The safe space is something that we as individuals cultivate in our minds, and much of how we do that is through reading books, and learning how to think and reason for ourselves.

Under current conditions, Andrew said, “There is too much to process. With print, you have the luxury of taking your time and weighing things. With electric media, there is less and less time to take.”

What we’re experiencing is a society that desperately needs objectivity and rationality. The problems we have are not going to be solved in the continuous state of being triggered. One irrational thought or action leads to the next, and we keep waiting for something to change.

Andrew continued, “Objectivity and rationality by their nature call for distance. If you’re letting emotions run the day, you’re not giving yourself room to think and consider.”

The WITCH computer, short for the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell. The WITCH was also known as The Harwell Dekatron Computer. It was slow (a multiplication took 5-10 seconds, slower than many brains), but this was justified by its ability to run for long periods of time unattended.

So where does that leave us? In a PS, Andrew suggested that we could recover the loss of interior space, and thus, of rationality, that’s been taken from us — if we want to, as a society. His father Eric McLuhan said in another conversation that this would take several generations of people who learn how to read.

The teachings of Lame Deer suggest that people need to remember “the secret knowledge of their bodies, their senses, or their dreams.” We need to use “the knowledge the spirit has put into every one of them.”

What we are experiencing is ultimately a spiritual problem, not one of rationality and reason. There is no going back. Even if we learn how to reason in a way taught by true literacy, we will still be doing so in this light-speed mash-up of digital conditions. We have experienced what I call an induced ascension.

We are on another level, though it’s not a particularly enlightened one, and it’s extremely unstable — most people did not work to get here, as we can see. They were pushed out of their bodies by electric technology.

Learning how to read, patiently, from a book, and how to write, patiently, in pencil or pen, are necessary as initial steps. Learning how to get back into our bodies is even more important. That will help guide us to some other form of awareness that supersedes what has been done to us by electric and digital conditions.

Different spiritual traditions have given this many names. Seen one way, the whole problem we face exists on the level of the ego. There’s a lot more to awareness, and to life, than that.

With love,

Weekly Horoscope for June 15, 2017 #1155 | By Amy Elliott

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You may be determined that the emotional issue you’re now tackling will be fixed independently of anyone’s help and in short order, thank you very much. Yet, while some introspection is necessary, others in your life stand ready to offer whatever support you need; and it’s likely they have something important to contribute. Open your heart and your ears, and let them in. You don’t need to accept their ideas uncritically, but simply listening would almost certainly be worth your while. — By Amy Elliott.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Venus in your sign is lending you extra grace, which for you is saying something. You also seem to be receiving a consignment of patience and perseverance, which should support you through any changes in your social or creative life. The key to navigating these changes may be careful planning and organization. If you feel as if everything is happening at once, take some time to relax and unwind, then get back on the case. You have an opportunity to take a leap forward. The last thing you need is to stand still. — By Amy Elliott.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Privileged information, whether insider or intuitive, can be a mixed blessing — especially if you don’t know whether to share it, or with whom. It may help to favor honesty over concealment, or to check that the facts are in good order before you speak. Regardless of what you do with what you know, your chart suggests you consider carefully your motivation. That is, make sure you use your understanding for the benefit of everyone involved, and avoid any temptation to prioritize personal gain. — By Amy Elliott.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You seem to be plowing a lot of effort into your work, yet you may feel a sort of restlessness. Here’s a question: is what you do fulfilling, or are you starting to get bored? This might have particular relevance to your spiritual ambitions, if you’re feeling the need for greater meaning in your work-life and elsewhere. I would suggest you think over your various daily tasks, and consider whether any seem to be leading down a rabbit hole. Once you have a grip on this, you can then begin to make adjustments. — By Amy Elliott.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — This week you might go through phases of being utterly inspired on the one hand, and a little confused on the other, as if you’re not quite sure what to do with all this enthusiasm. Don’t let the confusion part lead you to doubt yourself: you’re drawing from a good source. At the same time, keep your head on straight, and take the next steps in a logical order. You have plenty of emotional energy in your chart, and it’s up to you to direct its flow. Invest in your creative process, and use your powers of perseverance. — By Amy Elliott.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Some situations just need a voice of reason; and more often than not, said voice turns out to be you. In part, this is because of your grasp of facts and details, which is a crucial skill in this era of inaccuracy. Should you be required to act as den mother, the first thing is to take in all the information you can. Next, give your opinion succinctly and honestly. Don’t worry too much how that will be received, though an open heart and sincere good intentions will speak volumes. Simply do what you can. — By Amy Elliott.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — It can be tempting to sweep inconvenient feelings or desires under the rug, in hopes they will remain there. For you, just now, that’s not an option liable to work. Whatever you’re trying to suppress, the chances are it will find a way to get your attention. Your best course is to find out whatever is nagging at you, bring it into the light and address it thoroughly. There’s a lot of potential for healing here, both for you and within your relationships. Take courage. You have the right to acknowledge your needs. — By Amy Elliott.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — The love of those closest to you appears to offer a welcome creative and spiritual boost. Don’t be afraid to accept this support, which is warranted, reliable and a vital aid on your present mission. Your relationships are providing you with a surprising new perspective on who you are and the nature of your gifts, which could transform the way you feel about yourself. This might have something to do with understanding and appreciating your inner feminine. In any case, let it inspire you. — By Amy Elliott.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Listen out for an idea that could help you change the way you see the past, and potentially break free from a tendency to judge yourself too harshly. To a great extent, especially when it comes to interacting with others, you have the blessing of a level head. It would be as well to draw on that now, especially in the cause of finding the most productive way forward. So long as you recognize that this is about being fair to yourself, not about blaming anyone else, you’re thinking along the right lines. — By Amy Elliott.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Be patient with yourself. While you might be frustrated at an apparent lack of progress, it’s almost certainly because you can’t see what you’ve already achieved, and the ways in which you’ve changed and grown as a result. One thing you definitely have on your side presently is at least one ally with serious clout. You can safely draw on their support; try to take on board the advice they offer, and put it into practice if you can. Soon enough, you’ll understand where all this was heading, and what to do next. — By Amy Elliott.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Just at present you have an opportunity to work on your self-esteem, to a point at which you’ve rarely felt more confident. There’s been a seismic shift in the landscape of your mind, and you appear to feel more open as a result. It might help you to build up your social network (the in-person kind), and to experiment with letting people in. If that feels like going a bit wild, so much the better: you could do with stepping out of your comfort zone, and in all probability will find it easier than you might think. — By Amy Elliott.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You may have been feeling a little out of step recently with your personal development or career aims. That looks like it’s about to correct itself, as you discover a natural solution for whatever hindrance or distraction was lurking at the edges of your mind. With any luck, this breakthrough will come as a pleasant relief. Take whatever time you need to address decisively any lingering self-doubt, and tend to your emotional health — which might mean getting some support, or simply prioritizing your feelings and processing them. Then get ready to press forward, and hew a straight path to meet your life aims one by one. — By Amy Elliott.

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