I saw a man standing on that hill
walking around like he’s got no one
will I end up like him, all alone?
girl, when you go I’ve got no soul— Bedouin Soundclash
Dear Friend and Reader:
Most of us, myself included, have spent much of our lives searching for our missing piece, in the form of a Special Relationship. I’m going to capitalize that term, because it’s a direct reference to a concept introduced by A Course in Miracles. Without giving a wholesale endorsement of that book, I think this is a valuable concept to understand if you’re working toward growth and better relationships; it seems to be the main thing standing in the way.
Basically, the Special Relationship is something that is embarked on from a sense of incompletion. It should be no great surprise that it often leads precisely back to that place, because we cannot find completion in another person.
The Course takes the position that the search for this kind of relationship is a substitute for finding our inner core and living from there. In effect, what we think of as “love” becomes a substitute for what we think of as “God” and at the end of the day, or the end of our lives, this particular effort typically leads to neither.
This whole psychic ecosystem is perfect for marketing culture, and I think it’s perpetuated, in part, for that reason. There is so much unfulfillment — emotional, sexual, social and otherwise — that we live in a sea of spiritual hunger; and that hunger we attempt to fulfill either with products, ranging from stuff to make us more desirable to stuff for its own sake to stuff to kill others (our economy is still based on military spending). The constant search for this elusive missing thing creates a society based on attempting to find fulfillment where it is not. Have you ever considered the paradox of why we live on such a lonely planet, when people abound everywhere? How can everyone be looking for love at the same time, and not finding it? Well, maybe because many people want something they are not willing to give.
Of course there are relationships that do succeed; that is, the people get together and actually keep growing. They honor one another as individuals and not halves of a whole. Yet the substitute is far more common than the authentic thing, and rarely distinguished from the real thing. The repetitive problems that most people face in their relationships tend to compound over time and create an abiding cynicism about love. You don’t need to look too far to find this attitude.
This is not true of everyone, but I can tell you that most people who are in relationships that they find satisfying, and that are based on truth, do not look forward to the day when they might have to find someone else they actually get along with. Most of these qualify as Special Relationships because there are two entirely different standards for how to treat humanity: one for the special partner, and one for the rest of us. In that double standard, we’ve played divide and conquer with ourselves. The special partner gets special treatment, and they often get a special version of the truth that excludes anything that might threaten the relationship.
Untold millions of people live in relationships that they cannot really abide because the notion of living without a partner is so terrifying that they feel they have no other choice. It is astonishing to me how often we sacrifice who we are for the sake of having someone else, who is there allegedly to make us feel complete.
Note, I have just committed a form of cultural blasphemy by saying what I just said. Second note, many people are evolving past this game of seek-and-not-find, and as a result they are having a hard time connecting in fulfilling partnerships. Many have given up relationships outright. One problem compounding this situation is that we lack new models of relationship that allow us to conceive of coexisting as individuals in an atmosphere of truth. For many, the old models don’t work. New Models exist but for most people they are not developed well enough to understand; or they are still too controversial to be considered socially acceptable, even though many are longing for some new ideas. I know that a lot of people who have those new ideas are afraid to utter a peep, fearing that they will be rendered ineligible for partnership at all; but that’s no way to have a revolution — or a little fun, for that matter.
If you are catching on that there’s a problem, you’re of above average intelligence. If you can openly admit there’s a problem and that you want something more, you have some guts.
The Ruler of Libra, Retrograde in Aries
We could say a lot about the self-concept that leads to this crisis. Any concept of relationship must be based on a corresponding concept of the self that has that relationship, and I do believe the problem begins here, as does the solution. Let’s see what astrology has to offer if we look through it like a lens. Remember that what you’re reading is my interpretation, though I will leave my margin notes so you can follow my astrological reasoning.
Venus is currently retrograde in Aries. This began Friday, March 6 and extends through Friday, April 17. This is a rare event; Venus is retrograde less than any other planet, and it presents some unusual opportunities. Venus is retrograde about six weeks out of every 18 months (about 8% of the time). The most recent Venus retrogrades in Aries were in March/April of 1977, 1985, 1993, and 2001 (yes, when the retrograde is in Aries, it’s always in March and April because Venus never strays far from the Sun).
Aries is the sign that represents self. Most people give Aries the keywords, “I am.” Alice A. Bailey describes it as the sign where the First Ray of Will or Power reaches human consciousness. Most of us don’t get so far as actual will or power; Aries becomes a stand-in for the self-concept. In traditional astrology, Aries is ruled by Mars, the god of war. It is a fire sign, entirely unlike the nature of Venus which is associated with air, earth and water (Libra, Taurus and Pisces).
Libra is the sign that is most closely associated with relationships. It’s the sign opposite Aries and often gets the keywords “We Are.” In addition to being about relationships, Libra’s main theme seems to be about aesthetics; that is, beauty. This beauty exists on the mental and the physical levels; a sense of balance, fairness and symmetry come along with this sign. Rather than conquer, Libra wants to perceive and create.
When you put Venus into Aries you can get some strange effects. For example, you can get an emphasis on glamour and appearance for its own sake. Much of our culture acts as if it had Venus in Aries owing to this one property. Today I glanced at the cover of Marie Claireand noticed the exciting article about what handbag would make you a big hit at the summer party. Indulging yourself in this kind of thing may be excusable because it’s supposedly fun, but in truth it reveals a deep problem with self-esteem. How far is that handbag really going to get you? And these symbols abound in our culture. How many people would not be seen using an older cell phone?
And how many people are willing to let on they don’t have a partner? There is so much pressure to be partnered in our culture that not having a wife disqualifies someone from being president. Chogyam Trungpa said in The Way of the Spiritual Warrior that a man must marry in order to have the appearance of decency. So the presence of this other glorifies and validates the existence of the self — Venus in Aries. But it’s often a cover for some profound insecurity.
We’ve all run into the experience of falling in love with oneself through the other, or being in love with being in love. The other is used as a kind of stand-in for the self because the other, at least temporarily, is more acceptable to the ego (which A Course in Miracles, by the way, defines as an identity complex constructed essentially of self-hatred). The love that could be felt toward oneself is projected onto another person. This works well enough until the misgivings and hatred we feel toward ourselves become projected onto another person.
The whole business of how we really feel about ourselves is profoundly taboo territory. Embarking on a journey of conscious self-knowledge, we can go through a lot of layers of misgiving, discomfort and shame before we reach a level of comfort and equanimity with ourselves; the most basic self-acceptance.
The Tense Relationship With Ourselves
But here is a little problem. Our concepts of self-acceptance, selflove and narcissism are often conflated; that is, we don’t have handy ways of thinking of them as distinct concepts. As a result, we can feel shame and embarrassment when presented with an opportunity to accept or love ourselves, because it comes along with a notion of self-aggrandizement. Working the other way, we can quickly confuse someone who is arrogant with someone who is confident or centered in herself.
Venus retrograde in Aries takes us into the territory of the relationship we have with ourselves. For one thing, it emphasizes the point that we have an inner relationship at all. That relationship is often suppressed because there is so much misgiving in there, which we call things like “low self-esteem” or “depression.” Most humans, so far as I can tell, have not come to terms with their own existence, and so our self-relating is fundamentally an exercise in doubt.
We could say a lot about where that doubt comes from; there are many sources. One place for sure is from our parents (a Cancer-Capricorn theme). I think that the real crisis of parental love involves the different agendas that parents and children have for one another. Most children go through a time when the parent or parents are the absolute center of their universe. But adults have more complex lives than kids, and invariably children are only part of the lives of parents.
This creates a power imbalance, and as relationships with parents are the template for relationships later in life, the stage is set for many disappointments. We can never hold the central place in anyone’s life that our parents held for us; they don’t love us like we love them. This is particularly true given that so many parents are negligent, which in many ways seems to be an inevitable fact of life in a society as complex and demanding as our own. I just barely have the focus to feed and take care of myself properly. I do it, but I’m right on the edge. How would I be able to take care of a child, and still do what I need to do as a member of society or as a creative person?
It does not help that many parents have narcissistic relationships with their children, that is, they see them as extensions of themselves rather than as distinct individuals. This problem is so pervasive that it’s nearly invisible. It explains why we live in a society where having a relationship is viewed as a sign of worthiness, a badge of honor or evidence of being human.
To see how this equation turns out, just listen to a few or a few dozen stories of the kinds of things people often do to one another when they’re in the process of getting divorced.
Plenty of what we experience in relationships — the adulation, the cruelty, the admiration, the love — is about projection. Venus retrograde in Aries is about taking back those projections, and seeking something within ourselves. That could be a feminine identity within the prevailing masculine concept of “self” that we exist with. That sounds like making a discovery of the inner goddess, a core feminine identity that is entirely different than what we normally think of as ourselves. For both men and women, Venus retrograde in Aries is about seeking the beauty we see outside ourselves, within ourselves.
As Venus moves retrograde through Aries, it’s going to do three things that I mentioned last week. One is that on April 3, it’s going to form a square to Pluto in Capricorn. This is a deep, introverted aspect, and we encounter the Capricorn factor of those relationships with our parents. This aspect has a lusty, passionate quality that is both urgent and self-centered — and I think we need to let it be precisely that.
The second thing Venus is going to do is cross the Aries Point. This is the first degree of Aries, which is the place the Sun is when Northern Hemisphere springtime begins: the sidereal vernal point. This is the “personal is political” place in the zodiac — the place where we see that our lives are constantly at an intersection with the larger public life. There is a discovery that we have something in common with many other people; that we are not actually alone in our journey or our plight, but we have to be alone first to witness that truth and not expect others to invite us along.
There is also something here about being confronted by how rigid our ideas of sex and relationships are. Aries views nearly everything as a competitive sport, including love, friendship, etc. Venus in Aries is competitive oh boy, but turn her retrograde and you can turn the popularity Olympics into a deep inwardly-directed question. Our accepted relationship model leaves no room for experimentation; that is why so many people cheat. Most of us drag around a prudish quality that is more befitting a convent, only we live in a world where we are driven to artificially sexualize ourselves, or are confronted by constant sexual aggression. Venus square Pluto, much like Venus retrograde, turns this conversation inward, asking us to identify sources of both aggression and resistance within ourselves.
Finally, Venus gets wet. This is where we find the missing piece. Venus, the goddess, was born in the ocean and when she stations direct she will be in the last degree of Pisces. We’re suddenly relieved of all of this exploration and obsession over self and enter territory that is at once collective, spiritual and sexual. Venus stays in this degree for nearly two weeks (April 11-April 24) while she slows down, stations direct and begins to cover the territory where she was just retrograde.
To me this is an opening where something new can be born: a new idea about ourselves, a new sense of freedom and most of all, the sense of something we actually have to offer others. We do, but I’ll tell you this — it’s not a token. Love is not on the barter system. Like breathing, it’s something we do because we’re alive.
Yours & truly,
Duck and cover, 21st Century-style
Thursday was a close call for the International Space Station when a piece of space debris the size of a marble hurtled past and within just three miles, as reported by CNN. Station crew were ordered into the Soyuz capsule just in case an emergency evacuation was necessary, the article stated.
The idea that something barely a centimeter across can be that big a danger is pretty eye-opening, given that the amount of junk circling our planet runs into the tens of millions of objects, according to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program. And while the program’s websie says the space station should be tough enough to handle an impact by debris up to a centimeter in size, the real danger comes from the 200,000 objects that range from one to ten centimeters in size, and the 17,000 that are even bigger than that.
Not all the debris shares the same orbital altitude as the space station, of course, but there’s plenty of stuff circling Earth at varying altitudes, which could put any number of commercial and government satellites at risk. The best recent example is the Feb. 10 collision of the Cosmos 2251 satellite (a defunct Russian communications rig) and the privately owned Iridium 33 satellite. That orbital wreck produced more than 500 pieces of debris, all of which is being tracked (the folks at spaceweather.com are on top of new developments in that arena). Some small pieces have started falling into the atmosphere — nothing big enough to survive re-entry, it is believed — but it could be years before it’s all cleared out of orbit and indeed may never be.
And by then, even more junk — from other collisions or just the flotsam that accompanies a standard launch — will join the orbital traffic jam. Bonus: Space Weather has a user-submitted video showing the leftover chunk of Iridium 33 passing through the star field at this link.
Smeg! Red Dwarf heading back to Earth
There have been countless science fiction books, movies and television programs that depicted spacefaring cultures involved in noble, visionary and culturally diverse endeavors. And then there was BBC Television’s Red Dwarf, which is to Star Trek what Spaceballs is to Star Wars.
Okay, they score one out of three — the crew of the namesake interstellar mining ship was as diverse as it gets: The sole surviving member of the original crew (and possibly the human race), a hologram of his dead roommate, a neat-freak android, a bumbling supercomputer, and a humanoid that evolved from a cat (with a dose of James Brown apparently thrown in for good measure).
Make what you will of that motley assortment, but the sitcom was a big success for much of its 1988-99 run, and found a new audience when it was re-aired in America.
Now, 21 years after the show hit the airwaves, a special, two-episode reunion will be aired over Easter Weekend on the digital channel Dave in the U.K. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth will feature the original cast, according to an article on the BBC News website. The article says the broadcast will also include a “no holds barred episode without sets, special effects or autocue,” and a “making of” special. Doug Naylor, co-creator of the show, wrote the episodes.
During its run, Red Dwarf drew eight million viewers in 25 countries worldwide, and seven million DVDs and videotapes were sold, BBC News reports.
So, will American fans of the series get to see their (and we use this term very loosely) heroes in action over Easter Weekend or afterward? Sadly, no. A BBC America spokesman said there are no plans to air Red Dwarf: Back to Earth on the network at this time.
Mr. Spock spotted in … Arkansas?
It’s just a few frames in the middle second trailer for the upcoming Star Trek film — future U.S.S. Enterprise First Officer Spock, standing before an ornate platform, with wooden beams rising in an elaborate fretwork inside the building beyond. Those complex rafters are a structure worthy of any computer graphics artist’s best efforts. They just happen to be real, part of a small chapel sitting on a hillside three miles outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Noted by an architect and Natural State native (not to mention Trekkie) who blogs at Letters In My Soup, the structure is Thorncrown Chapel, designed by the late E. Fay Jones, himself an Arkansas architect and former student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Thorncrown, built in 1979-80, is almost entirely glass — 6,000 square feet of it — supported by intricate wooden rafters. The American Institute of Architects named it the Design of the Decade for the 1980s, and Jones received the AIA’s highest honor — the Gold Medal — in 1990. He died in 2004.
As to how Trek found its way to the Ozark Mountains, that’s still unclear. A call to Paramount Pictures had not been returned by press time.
— News briefs this week were written by Eric Francis — my Googleganger in Little Rock, AK.
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, March 13, 2009, #757 – By ERIC FRANCIS
Aries (March 20-April 19)
Your charts give the impression that you must do something but you don’t know quite what. Be aware what not to do: run in circles; mental or otherwise. The current moment about your life, so far as I can see in your charts, is about thought rather than activity. You have been through a lot lately, and it’s unlikely that you’ve sorted it out. Mars entering Pisces this weekend will help you slow down and study what you are feeling. As an Aries, you’re a deeper person than you think you are. Mars and other factors are striving to take you to a new depth with full awareness, though for a while it may not seem clear quite what to do once you’re there. Take your time and you’ll figure it out.
Taurus (April 19- May 20)
The emphasis switches to what rather than who. Connections are important; getting others to cooperate is important; having a vision must be foremost at this point, if you want your success to have substance. Substance means that your work reflects who you are rather than any number of other less-true possibilities. Apply this same substance to your working relationships and personal relationships and you can experience an extended moment of having an integrated life, where your inner awareness aligns with your outward movements — something that’s rare enough to find in the world. This alignment will become your ticket to the next crucial phase of your growth. It’s a worthy goal by itself, but it’s also a means to something else.
Gemini (May 20- June 21)
You may not consider yourself a person of imagination, but so far as I understand Gemini, this is one of your greatest gifts. The problem with anything imaginative is that it takes someone with both drive and confidence to turn something you conceive with your mind into something that exists in the world, though this would appear to be exactly what you’re trying to do. Remember that your ideas are running ahead of your ability to do something about them, so there you will have to do some catching up with yourself — and this is best done gradually. Over the next few weeks you can reasonably expect both delays and unexpected surges forward, and I suggest not taking either as signs of anything other than movement and progress.
Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Faith can indeed move the world; nothing else can, because every other ingredient is irrelevant without this one. You can safely stop doubting yourself. It’s a vile habit. You can, instead, feel your way to confidence. To do that you will need to either ignore or politely dismiss people who lack the willingness to dare. Yet consider that self-assurance is never perfect; indeed, when you are 100% certain, you’re more likely to be wrong. So I don’t suggest you go for absolute certainty but rather a sense of fair probability. This would include having the conscious willingness to be wrong. That, if you ask me, is true confidence. Meanwhile there are still a lot of people with a lot of opinions; and a couple of them have something worthwhile to say for themselves.
Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
You want clarity, and you deserve it, too. It’s too bad that so few people have any notion of what that really means, but take this as a reminder that you’re the one who ultimately decides if something or someone makes sense. This being said, your basis for making that decision is about to change. You have tried logic, and you’ve tried a lot of the stuff. When it comes down to determining something like whether you think someone is going to be harmful or helpful, you need to take two things into consideration: your first impression and your gut instinct. These methods of assessment get a bad name mainly because people ignore them against their common sense; this is largely a matter of wishful thinking, which at the moment is not your friend.
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Once again someone or something is trying to get your attention. And it would seem that you are intent on making sure you don’t give that attention too easily. What you may not have deduced is that in trying to not pay attention to this factor, you are basically devoting yourself to it entirely, without getting the benefits of doing so; this, because you are withholding your willingness. You could ask yourself why you might be so intent on denying something; you can study what you have to lose by being willing to change. Or you can ask what you have to gain by taking notice and going with the flow of energy. From the look of your charts, what you have to lose is an ego attachment to the past; and what you have to gain is being fully present in your life.
Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
Creativity is a process of self-creation. Part of creation usually involves deconstructing something, or at least seeing a process in terms of its elements. By now you’ve figured out that light and shadow, good and bad, positive and negative, and many other sets of polarities work together with awareness to create something new. With Mars joining other planets in Pisces, you have a chance to explore and understand these polarities in different ways. The first to consider are the distinctions you make between self and other, or the ways you align the concepts of self and other. To make a long story short, if you go looking for your missing piece, you’re likely to discover you had it all along.
Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
If you’re wondering where your passion went, don’t spend your time pondering, or waiting: you can have all the confidence you want or need, if you take a chance on the desire, goal or dream you’re now wanting to manifest. I recognize that you have a long list of things about which to be insecure. I also know you’re in a colossal struggle to feel some authentic sense of confidence in yourself, and safety on the planet. There are no shortcuts in spiritual growth, though in the world of personality there certainly are more and less direct routes to the same goal. For now, I suggest you decide how much value you want to place on fear, and how much you want to place on your creative power.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
I’ve been going on and on about ideas, I know. The thing about ideas is that we don’t know their value till we try them, and we don’t know their real value until we go through a cycle or two of effort, success and overcoming obstacles (inner and outer). What I am really suggesting you do is start this process and get yourself involved. As the planets would have it, something has lit a fire under your buns and it seems like some emotional motivation is spurring you into action. Now that your emotions are in the picture, this is the time to use your mind; the time to plan what steps you want to take toward an immediate (rather than long-term) goal. Immediate means the next three months or so, but it really means right now.
Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
You consider yourself a person of high integrity, and you do a good job of maintaining both the truth of that, and the appearance. Lately, a question has been bubbling around your mind; you seem to have doubt about whether some value you hold, or action you’ve taken in the past, really met the test of being for the greatest good of all concerned. I would go so far as to say you’re questioning the appropriateness or ethics of something about yourself. Bear in mind that you are seeing the issue in magnified form. It’s smaller than it seems, but you won’t be able to do anything about it unless you enlarge it and get a good close look at it. Don’t be afraid to do precisely that. If you question your own integrity — and then resolve the issue — nobody can do it for you.
Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Your life has been consumed by one change after the next: truths coming to light, deep and potentially painful issues demanding your love and attention; and the question of whether you have any solid ground to stand on. You do, but it’s not the ground you think. In other words, it does not involve a relationship, nor does it involve how people see you. The ground you must learn to stand on is your sense of your own existence. Most clairvoyants you meet will tell you that a good few dead people don’t actually know they have ‘transitioned’. I would say that most people who are alive don’t realize the simple fact that they exist. One way to look at your current adventures, misadventures and explorations is as a quest for the truth of your existence. Try it and see.
Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
Freedom is a choice, and most people don’t make it because they are either afraid they’re going to screw it up, or because the notion of taking full responsibility for one’s own life is too daunting. However, you’re figuring out that the responsibility is worth the reward, and reward at this moment is the ability to make some innovative choices about what you want to do with your future. Trust me: this moment matters. It matters that you overcome this deep human flaw of refusing to own your power of decision and anything that may flow from using that power. The one thing you cannot do is lapse in your responsibility to devote yourself to full awareness. Awareness takes energy, and you have plenty of that. It also takes willingness, which seems to be in no short supply. Therefore: go for it.