Friday, May 16, 2008

Horoscopes Without Dates

I usually start my day with a little exercise, walking to the grocery store to buy a daily paper. My public day, that is. My private day usually begins a few hours earlier with me writing something or drawing something or going out to check the morning stars.

I usually start reading the paper by checking my horoscope. I only read what Holiday Mathis has to say. Her horoscopes are also here online, but the way I use horoscopes needs the little clippings from the newspaper.

I’m a Scorpio.

Oddly, when I’ve talked to people who take astrology seriously, I almost always ask them to guess my sign. Even when the people don’t know me at all, even when they have just one conversation to derive their guess from, I don’t remember a serious astrology person ever getting it wrong. They always look at me, kind of smile a little, and get Scorpio.

I don’t believe horoscopes ‘work.’ I don’t believe there’s any basis to astrology.

At some point over the next two years I’ll do a couple more posts about astrology. I’ll be talking about how I believe astrology got started—I don’t think the accepted wisdom about engagement with the stars being driven by the rise of agriculture is true—and I’ll be talking about one tiny little reason why I think a certain approach to astrology can be rational and pleasant—astrology as ‘tools of cognition.’

But today I’m just going to talk about how I have fun with horoscopes. It’s a practice that I’ve had fun with for a while and I can recommend it to others. It hurts no one.

When I read my horoscope in the daily paper, I do one of two things.

If I find that particular horoscope to be irrelevant, totally unrelated to my life, I just ignore it and toss it out when I finish with the paper.

If I find that particular horoscope to be interesting or entertaining or thought provoking in any way, I cut out the horoscope and save it.

When I cut out the horoscope, I cut out only the paragraph of text. I don’t save the date. I save the undated text of the horoscope in an old cup.

I now have a cup full of a few dozen old horoscopes, all jumbled up and random, completely out of sequence.

Once or twice a week I reach into the cup and pull out a handful of the undated horoscopes. I read through them and pick three or four that seem to be most relevant to my life at that particular moment. Sometimes it is uncanny the way the text can seem to be appropriate and timely in some way. Sometimes three or four of the randomly selected horoscopes can be put into an order that seems almost like a coherent narrative.

I’m sure this is just a psychological trick of projection.

I’m thinking about things, consciously and unconsciously, and when I read through this or that horoscope it appears the text is relevant because I invest the content with meaning that matters to me.

Or, maybe—you never know—there could be something genuinely weird and Jungian going on. There actually may be archetypal dynamics like gears meshing all around us. Horoscopes may now and then touch on these archetypes and, when we read them, create some kind of resonance. The resonance and our awareness of it may actually help us understand and deal with the deep reality we are immersed in.

Or something like that.

I don’t know. Basically I do this because it’s fun and, sometimes, interesting.

And sometimes, rarely, every now and then, putting together three or four of these random horoscopes without dates helps me clarify my thinking about some oddball bit of slapstick going on in my life.

It happens.

And the thing is, making these readings—these sequences of three or four undated horoscopes—costs nothing because I’d buy the newspaper anyway for the business, sports and showbiz sections. And these readings aren’t all that different from the kind of, so to speak, issues narratives many people I know construct by going to psychics or therapists.

It’s worth mentioning, just in passing, that writers often get intrigued by using randomness. My favorite example is Philip K. Dick. Dick sometimes would cast the I Ching and use the results to shape the plot of whatever novel he was working on. It may sound crazy, but “The Man In The High Castle” was written that way and it is my pick for one of the best novels ever written.

But, anyway, like I said, I do this because it’s fun and, sometimes, interesting.

For instance, here is a sequence of undated horoscopes I put together for myself this morning. This is somewhat abridged. There are some topics (well, basically one) I will not post about which are nonetheless pivotal to me. I made this reading purposely avoiding a topic which some horoscopes have been very interesting about. Here’s what I came up with:

     You know who you are.
     People will perceive
     that you are someone
     other than who you know you are,
     and this may make you
     doubt yourself.
     But don’t. Stay firm
     in self-knowledge.

     You don’t need
     a formal ritual
     to divorce yourself
     from a part of your life
     that has become outworn.
     Let it go
     the way you discharge
     any other heavy burden—
     open your hand
     and drop it where you stand.

     You’re headed toward
     the unknown again.
     Normally you’d try to find out
     as much as possible
     about your destination,
     but you wisely realize now
     that preconceived notions
     will only keep you
     from experiencing
     the full scope of fun.

     Organization is important.
     Return phone calls at your leisure;
     nothing is pressing
     enough to interrupt
     your time for dreaming
     and planning.
     Join the real world
     only when you’re good and ready.

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