Who To Be and What To Do (or Cheering Up for No Good Reason)

By Joseph Crane

November 29, 2016

I have no entertaining astrological predictions or insights this week but I have ideas.   I have no lofty position or credential from which to give advice but I won’t let that stop me. These times call for something different from all of us.

As an astrologer, it’s been hard getting back to astrology. Astrology is about making sense of the cosmos, finding pattern and order in our lives and in our world, but lately this has seemed like sentiment and nostalgia, not reality

In response to our current political situation, almost everybody I know has oscillated from outrage to a feeling of helplessness, and I have been there too. Singly or in combination, these responses serve to cloud our mind and diminish our effectiveness.  By now it’s time for all of us to start doing better.

epictetus1Difficult times bring out the Stoic in me, and lately I’ve taken to reading Epictetus, a second-century moral philosopher who had the misfortune of being born into slavery, being lame, and who lived much of his life in exile.  His “Three Fields of Study”, from Discourses Book 3 Chapter 2, are Desires and Aversions, Choice and Refusal, and Avoidance of Error. His explanations stirred my mind and has helped me organize my thinking. Although Epictetus ventures into some conservative and quietist waters, he is frequently inspiring and his modest list suggests an outline for individual plans of action.

 

First: Channeling Whatever into Determination with Humor

Our philosopher first talks about our need to avoid extreme emotional responses and to focus our energy correctly.  From an astrological point of view, we need to be less Aries and Sagittarius, and more Virgo, Capricorn, and — of course — Scorpio.

It is easy to waste our time noting the many ways in which our current president-elect is a nogoodnik – you supply your own term.  I knew back in the 80’s that Trump was a shallow, self-absorbed, amoral and opportunistic person.  Why should I be surprised that his latest incarnation is no different from this?  Better is to use our intelligence more wisely than him and to have more solid values than he has.  Better is to contrast, compete, then to slow him down and stop him.

Our personal responsibility is greater than it was last month.  Now gone is one version of American exceptionalism, that we are immune from incompetent and malevolent leadership, that our democratic institutions are so strong that they will prevent undemocratic values from prevailing.   This is no time to take for granted our civil liberties or that our nation’s leadership will even bother giving lip-service to being fair to its citizens.  This is no time to get all lathered up but for resolve and a sense of purpose, however you may decide to carry that out.

Our first responsibility is toward ourselves to live our lives well, better than before.  This means gathering family, friends, and community – and global community – so that we live and act within larger contexts of interconnection.  It also means we take better care of ourselves physically, environmentally, emotionally, spiritually.

American football gives us a useful lesson, that there’s no shame in playing defense.  During my lifetime chargers-defensefollowing national politics, sometimes we’re on offense and sometimes we’re on defense.  Unfortunately, there’s been a turnover and we, the defense, must march back onto the field.

All plays begins from the offensive: the offense has the initiative; as defense, you respond to whatever they try to do. They will try to overwhelm you, intimidate you, wear you down, to fool you, weaken you so they can do what they want.  As defense, however, your job is to overwhelm them, intimidate them, put fear in their hearts, make them make mistakes.

Right now it feels like the ball is in the “red zone”, within the twenty-yard line, and often that means the team on offense is likely to score.  You may give up a score but sometimes you can prevent or reduce one.  gladiatorWhen the offense gets too fancy or underestimates the defense, we regain momentum.  The “goal line stand”, when your team prevents the offense from scoring when a score seems within easy reach, never fails to inspire me.  (If you don’t follow American football, think of the famous but overdone “Punic War” scene from the movie Gladiator.)

What happens when we, the defense, get too worked up emotionally?   Our energy surges and wanes unrelated to what situations require and we make mistakes, miss opportunities, and are easily fooled by the other side.  In football, defensive zeal turns into unnecessary penalties that are counterproductive at best.  Over-aggressiveness usually turns into frustration that eventually turns into losing heart.  This is just what the other team wants and we should not let that happen to us.

 

Second: Choice – What is your Calling?

What issues speak to you most strongly?   Note what gets under your skin, what makes you re-post and retweet and read obsessively with a rising temperature under the collar. If outrage settles into “justified anger” and we leave it at that, we’ve done nothing but injure ourselves.  Instead we need to lighten up and do something.

There are so many issues to choose from. Maybe some have put you in disagreement with the Obama Administration and an anticipated Hillary Clinton Administration, and now things have gotten a lot worse.

Here are some possibilities for you and I hope this list doesn’t overwhelm.  I’ve bunched a few together and hopefully I haven’t missed any that are important to you.

  • Civil Rights/Freedom of Assembly and Press
  • Education/Saving Public Education/Higher Education and Student Debt
  • Consumer Protection
  • Anti-Bigotry
  • Criminal Justice Reform/Court Reform/Death Penalty
  • Immigration and immigrants’ rights/Refugee Resettlement
  • Income inequality/tax policy/unions/trade
  • Reducing racial and ethnic bigotry
  • Wall Street/financial reform
  • Reproductive Rights/Nonviolence toward Women
  • Privacy/government surveillance
  • Reducing Gun Violence
  • Voting Rights and Procedures/ Electoral College/Gerrymandering
  • Policing and Community Relations
  • Energy Policy/Renewable and Nonrenewable
  • Environment and Climate Change

(These are just the domestic issues.  One could go on.)

Comparing all these needs with your resources of money, time, and energy, this is just too much.  Yet there’s a good chance you could be doing more with one or some of these; over the next several years you must to do more.

Many of these also occur on a local, regional, or state level.  We can learn from the “other side” that flooded school committees, local and state government with their initiatives and cultivated a “deep bench” of people who can participate in political campaigns at all levels.

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Often, it’s best to follow somebody whose knowledge and intelligence you admire and who is in line with your understanding.  On the environment, there’s Bill McKibben, on education there’s Diana Ravitch, on consumer protection and regulating big business, there is, of course, Elizabeth Warren.  Let’s not forget Robert Reich on economic issues. There’s some good leadership out there.

We also find our communities of common concern. It’s often the many little things accumulating, not the grand personalities and the heroic postures, that prevail over time. History has given first prize to Tolstoy not to Napoleon.

Remember that the offense has the ball and calls the plays and events may dictate where your interest and energy go.  They may also hide their true intentions by distracting us in all directions and we need to be quicker on our feet and better able to anticipate their movements.

Yet it is best is to start where your heart goes, what upsets you: this is your starting place or where you can increase commitment.  It’s your opportunity to take care of yourself and others, to make a difference.  You will sleep better and begin each day more cheerfully.

 

Third: Know What You Are Saying and Doing

Here’s my “spin” on Epictetus “Avoidance of Error” category: you take whatever you’ve checked off or circled from the list above and you learn a lot more about it.

Happily, mainstream media and social media outlets are paying more attention to the phenomenon of “fake news” that lincolnjpgdominated much of the communication from “the other side”.  We’ve also had our share, far less of a share, but its result has been to diminish us and what we care about.

We must have better command of facts and of intelligent and truthful analysis. Many of our sources of information leave us with much attitude and a few talking points, nothing of substance with which to persuade anybody of anything.  If we’re not working to understand something, chances are we’re just confirming what we already think we know.

  • Good is to use social media to read and distribute articles from trustworthy sources.
  • Better is to dive into a topic using the many sources of good information that are available. (Don’t forget the reference desk at your local library.)
  • Best may be to read a book or two. A book may contain information that has a larger horizon, like the effects of gun control laws around the world or how other democracies have dealt with malignant executive leadership.  A well-researched book will also provide historical perspective, like the effects of previous progressive legislation on the American middle class or the origins of public education in this country, or how popular tyrants emerged in the ancient world.  (Some periodicals, like the New York Review of Books provide this kind of information but too often publications edit this out as too demanding of the modern attention span.)

There are advantages to developing deeper and richer knowledge of an area of interest.  We invest our time and energy and money more wisely and we become more discerning.  We affirm our loyalty to the truth, not swallow what makes us feel good for a moment, a kind of conceptual junk food.  In the long term, truth always makes us happier. We also strengthen our communities of interest.

In-depth knowledge helps you deal with those in your life who voted for the other side.  It’s natural to feel angry toward those who, we feel, participated in our diminishing as a nation – but anger has a short shelf life and can destroy relationships.  Our job is not just to listen to a Trump supporter but push back when their certainty based on misinformation or bad analysis. Conversing with my conservative friends and clients, I’ve found that staying with the facts and offering some international or historical perspective is more persuasive than repeating the talking points of my Facebook friends.  A light touch, and knowing what we’re talking about, helps mightily.

 

Conclusion: My Role as Astrologer

We know that all that happens occurs within a larger context, and all that happens eventually changes into something else.  Astrology, properly done, tells us who we are and what the world needs from us. Astrology seems to function well when there’s a place in the cosmos and in history for an individual or a culture, and this is a message we need more than ever.  Back to work for me!

2 Comments

  1. Excellent article, Joseph!

  2. Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a stuff!
    existing here at this webpage, thanks admin of this site.

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