So surely you’ve heard about the latest kerfuffle: the realignment of the Zodiac. The addition of a new sign, Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer), knocked every other sign out of whack and for a week there, the interwebs were abuzz: If you woke up a Taurus, you were an Aries by the time you went to bed. To paraphrase a San Francisco Chronicle headline, the Zodiac shift knocked people off their axis.
(One Facebook pal wondered — with a bit of snark — how the folks with their signs tattooed on their forearms — or wherever — would weather the storm. She also wondered why so many people cared.)
Here’s what we learned from an interview in that Chronicle article , written by Erin Allday, who quoted child psychiatrist Dr. Laura Davies (who incidentally went from a Virgo to a Libra, which didn’t bother her all that much):
“People want to understand themselves, and they want to understand each other. Astrology was sort of a shorctut to understanding,” Davies said. “We all know our sign, and we know one or two things about it. If it changes, it means we have to rethink things. Suddenly that’s not me anymore.”
Indeed, one of our friends squawked: “I take comfort in couching my flaws in a cosmic get-up, ya know??” Later, Alldin’s story quotes Patty Morris, a psychology student at John Kennedy University who also studies astrology. She says astrology is just another tool we mortals use to understand ourselves:
“When we try to look within ourselves, things can get really murky. People appreciate these systems that have codes and descriptions that they can relate to,” Morris said. “When people have a relationship to something, like being a Leo, when it’s debunked, it’s like the bottom is dropping out of you.”
The whole realignment, it was beyond shocking. (At least till it was pretty much debunked by CNN.) But it made me think: is our sign yet another version of our iconic self, the image we construct that we sometimes let define us? Hello, I’m a Taurus. The bull. I’m practical, trustworthy, determined and affectionate. I’m also stubborn and opinionated. Well, then. I’m an all-around good person, but when I get set in my ways, you know, I can’t help myself. It’s in the stars. I’m always right, right?
And so, if we believe in this stuff, our decisions, our personna — are defined. The stars say so, after all. Which makes me wonder. Is the reason we buy into this stuff, why so many of us freaked out when we thought that our sign wasn’t our sign, that it’s easier to look outward for self-definition? Is the Zodiac, not unlike the iconic self, a sort of armor we use to protect ourselves when we can’t figure out who we are – or which way to go? Is it a way to pretend we have control?
All of which led me back to Facebook, on a much more serious note, where one of our fans posted a link to a piece on Peace X Peace, written by Priscilla Warner in the wake of the shootings in Tucson. Trying to understand a senseless tragedy that took the life of a 9-year-old girl, Warner came to an epiphany:
Last year, I attended a retreat with Pema Chodron, a brilliant Buddhist teacher. Pema is someone I always imagined as a brave, fearless warrior. The titles of her books terrified me: “When Things Fall Apart,” “The Places that Scare You.”
I hoped she would teach me some lessons about coping when things fall apart, when events and circumstances scared me. “Strength doesn’t come from running away from fear, armoring ourselves or putting on a mask,” she told the hundreds of people who came to learn from her. “We can’t try to run away from feelings or avoid them. Strength comes from allowing ourselves to not grow a thick skin, to be willing to take a chance and not have anything to lose.”
Pema quoted her revered teacher, Chogyum Trungpa, who said, “A rainbow is made of sunshine and tears mixed together.” He told a bride and groom, “Pleasure is not a reward, and pain is not a punishment. They are just ordinary occurrences.”
In other words, life. Which is often out of our control. Which led me to an epiphany of my own. Sometimes we’ve got it right. But other times, no matter how much we want to be in control, we don’t. Sometimes we’re wrong. It’s an incredibly liberating feeling, that sense of letting go.
Especially if you happen to be a Taurus.