Astrocreep: Death is Merciful… Peace Rests Nevermore

The image above is from Claude Lorrain’s series featured in Relatione delle feste fatte dell’
Excellentiss. Sig. Marchese di Castello Rodrigo (1637)
Published  July 2014
The image above is from Claude Lorrain’s series featured in Relatione delle feste fatte dell’ Excellentiss. Sig. Marchese di Castello Rodrigo (1637)

The image above is from Claude Lorrain’s series featured in Relatione delle feste fatte dell’ Excellentiss. Sig. Marchese di Castello Rodrigo (1637)

June was so hard. My friends became sick. My friends became paralyzed. My friends died. Intellectually, my values anchor my worldview in staunch recognition of chaos and godlessness. But my heart became unmoored. When confronted with a reminder of ultimate powerlessness, even this hardened Astromystic can forget all she knows. Like a child despairing that the world will disappear if she covers her eyes. Like a child agonizing over unanswerable questions: how can a rotten one live while a sweet one dies?

In grief ’s stupor, I recalled that we were under a Mercury retrograde, a time when even close friends can feel far and communication can feel impossible. But I was struck with anger and frustration at myself for thinking to associate the transits of planets with death from long illness, death from addiction, death from neglect. These are the moments when astrology can be just as bad as religion—flimsy, impotent, hiding the true sources of pleasure and abjection. Any philosophy that soothes us by claiming our suffering is at the service of supernatural forces should make us suspicious. Not because we are the all-powerful agents of our own fates, but because the gods that govern our lives, who dole out survival to some and annihilation to others, are earthly. They are of this world. They have names and addresses. And any investment you have in the concept of free will is worthless without confronting them.

NPR recently aired an interview with a carpenter who helps folks build their own caskets. Los Angeles mortician Caitlin Doughty runs a popular website and podcast called “The Order of the Good Death.” Recent books like Mary Roach’s Stiff explain decomposition, while Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Stay provides a historical review of suicide. A heightened interest in death has transcended the margins of society and now is a hallmark of culture at large.

But I’m skeptical of a cultural shift toward death acceptance. Do we need more books about death? Do we need more pictures on Tumblr of you sulking in the cemetery? Don’t you know that death is all around us, and in general it ain’t cute? Louisiana is the prison capital of the world, for stars’ sake. And as for suicide, I swear if I hear one more free-thinking far-left free-spirit friend of mine go off espousing on how suicide is like, the ultimate act of autonomy or whatever… then we may just find out if homicide is, too. To hold such idealized views on suicide, one must view each life as though it exists in a vacuum, free from adverse influences, with a multitude of possibilities and choices available, and total clarity of self-awareness.

In her treatise on death and grief, The Year of Magical Thinking, Sagittarian writer Joan Didion writes: “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” Like many, I read that book while grieving— double duty, actually, the death of a relationship and of a family member. At the time, Didion’s description of change rang viscerally true. The proof was my life; I applied no other test to her words.

But I’ve come to a different view of change: that life changes slowly, is constantly  changing. A friend who is dead did not leave our grasp in the moment she took her last breath. She was dying the whole time. We are all always making tiny, imperceptible movements closer to and away from each other, closer to harm, or just barely skirting danger. There are so many ways to die. But it’s the ways to survive that I fear are dwindling. You can feel gutted by changes that feel sudden. You can feel paralyzed by the knowledge that change is ever-present. Just try to remember: we’re still among the living. I don’t know if free will exists. But the way toward taking care of ourselves and the people we love lies in correctly naming and fighting against the things that are killing us.

And it’s not Mercury. But if remembering that planets transit, and the Earth turns, and the constellations move across our sky—if that reminds you that pain passes too, and times of sweetness may be ahead as well as behind—then take comfort in astrology. In the spirit of no-frills hard truths, this month I give you the most lean, concise, distilled forecasts for your sun sign.

 

Aries

Your charisma will get you far but unfortunately, other people occasionally have feelings and needs. You do too. Sometimes you feel like you need people. You do.

 

Taurus

A season of steady sex will make you supple and forgiving toward  your coworkers. Try to infuse any new feelings of charity with expansiveness. Where else can you let down your guard?

 

Gemini

You will encounter a part of you that  disgusts yourself and your loved ones. This is in or around the full moon in Capricorn on July 13th. Try to learn  from it, try to channel compassion toward it, and if that fails, fuck it.

 

Cancer

July Cancers will be wracked with forbidden desires. June Cancers are still attracted to their partners. Those with restraint and discernment may transfer their Eros into wealth  accumulation or creative production.

 

Leo

Birthday season is your annual  victory lap. This month, may your friends assist and support all your grand schemes. May your days be filled with giant life strides, may your nights be filled with nightswimming.

 

Virgo

Play like a child. Privately document your least mature thoughts. Resist the habit of spinning your wheels by choosing activities demanding of your physical senses, that bring you back to your body. Bite into a lemon.

 

Libra

For the new moon in Leo on July 26, you will have the means and desire to dispense with mediocrity. Remember: debt can be crippling but so too can be settling.

 

Scorpio

If your joie de vivre took a hit in June, you’ll be relieved to finally catch a powerful wave of psychic intrigue by the full moon. Try to remember: it’s not just passion that makes a spiritual warrior. It’s discipline too.

 

Sagittarius

Your loose and easy approach to budgeting cannot always succeed. Jupiter will not always provide. In July, reacquaint yourself with worldly things, such as rice and beans.

 

Capricorn

Submit to the work of maintaining acquaintanceships. One way to resolve intimacy issues is through kink. Similarly, one way to resolve friendship issues is by having friends.

 

Aquarius

In between being selfish and selfless there lies a middle path. You can hope in vain for a dazzling affair to save you from the relationship you deserve, or you can try to deserve better.

 

Pisces

Reach out to those around you to accomplish your ambitions. Be blunt  about your desires, any distortions from modesty, embarrassment, or second-guessing will render your efforts null.

 

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