So, a friend of mine and I inadvertently got tangled up in a conversation with someone who was born and raised in the narrow-minded, backward, and provincial state of Washington where I reside.
The conversation was about astrology. The third person in the conversation, in that condescending, deprecatory, and slightly snotty way people have of telling you that your opinions are anathema to them, said, eyebrows raised, “Wow, you really believe in this stuff, don’t you?” as though we were discussing Tinkerbell or fairies or ghosts or the Loch Ness monster.
The tone of voice is so insulting, as though you are six and an older sibling disdains the fact that you talk to your Barbies. “All of us grown ups know that Barbies don’t talk,” the tone manages to convey.
“Yes, I know that,” you think, in your six year old brain, “but a) I like talking to my Barbies, and b) I do not expect them to talk back and c) you’re a mean-spirited moron, let me play with my damned Barbies the way I want to!!”
(No, you didn’t think this at the age of six, but you know what I mean.)
The two of us who like astrology and use it as a metaphor had been saying something trivial about the moon in some house or other, not realising, of course, that we were speaking with someone whose mind is fairly closed—well, no, it’s closed, not “fairly” closed.
For the purposes of what I’d like to have a rant about today, you have to understand, I despise closed minds.
I don’t really care what the subject matter is, my philosophy is shut up, you might learn something. The Buddha never found enlightenment by closing his ears, no matter how trivial or stupid he might have thought someone or something was (at least, this is how I imagine Buddha being; he might have been a terrible snob for all I know).
But once again, this kind of conversation, amongst the uninitiated who have no wish to become initiated, and are quick to let you know it, and disdain your choices, reminded me precisely where astrology stands these days. There seem to be two camps, firmly divided: the believers and the non-believers. However, my question is, what precisely is it we believe in, if we claim to believe; and what is it the non-believers are trying so hard to resist listening to?
I have this ongoing, crazy-making conversation with a sort-of friend of mine, that goes something like this:
“You” (meaning me) “believe in astrology, and that makes you a crazy person, because astrology is a religion that can do nothing but embitter you, mislead you, and lie to you. It has no content, it’s all opinion, and everyone who ‘believes’ in it deserves the fiery pits of Dante’s 8th level of hell for being total fools…” or something like that.
The point is, I know there are people who follow astrology, believe in it, and appear to worship at its shrine. I also know that there is true danger in most organized religions, that violence is perpetrated in the name of Jesus, and Buddhists make warrior monks, too. If there is danger in believing in something, however, doesn’t that tell you that you should take the thing, whatever it is, with a large grain of salt, and not let yourself be duped, pulled under, or influenced in such a way that you lose your mind, your rationality, your ability to discern?
So what is the real concern here, I am left to wonder… is it that there is something inherently scary about astrology, which for me serves as a metaphor, one of many languages we can use to explain ourselves to one another, or is it that there is a deep and abiding human fear of the irrational? What do we mean by ‘belief’, anyway? When it comes to believing in astrology, are we saying that we expect astrology to do something for us? To answer questions, provide life direction, make prognostications—and then when it can’t do that, we become embittered because we placed too much faith in something that was never set up to provide all the answers in the first place?
And what of the third person in our three-way conversation? She doesn’t like astrology; she also fears it. My contention is that people put way too much stock in astrology, and do not have any fun with it. They simply take it far too seriously. What if you thought of it as just another language? Would you take learning Latin this seriously?
Would you tell me, if I learned Portugese, that I was a true believer, that I was in danger of losing my rationality, that I was a devil-worshiper, that I had no sense?
No. You would applaud me for learning a language.
Try to get away from the analogy that astrology equals religion. It is not a religion. It is not a ‘belief’, if by belief, we really mean ‘dogma.’ It is a language, a set of symbols. In that way, it’s of great interest to me. I like symbols; I think they’re cool. The other thing I would suggest to those who are afraid that astrology equals some arcane belief system is to discuss the differences between faith, religion, and intellectual curiosity. They are worlds apart.
Ultimately, it seems to me, one can use the Portugese language without becoming Portugese. Similarly, one can “speak” astrologese without becoming either an astrologer or a nut-job, panhandling on the streets. For me, there is no church of astrology, but I know for many, there is, and they will fight you to the ground to prove that astrology works.
For me, it’s just another one of life’s enigmas, and I am content neither to fight about it, nor to proselytize.
I do not care if you ‘believe’ in astrology or not. Just please do not impose your narrow-minded opinions on me about what I can and cannot be interested in. Interest does not equal belief, and belief and faith do not have to go hand-in-hand, although I know they usually do. In this way, I suspect astrology is more a form of magical thinking than a belief, but who cares? As long as I am not destroying my life, or the lives of others, and I am innocuously only discussing it with other like-minded souls, am I doing anyone any harm? No. Verily, I am not, nor are you, as long as you’re not forcing your interests (or beliefs) down other people’s throats.
Just don’t sound all crazy and wide-eyed about astrology, okay? You make everyone think anyone with any interest in it at all is bat-shit nuts, and that isn’t helping.
Here: look here, you’ll enjoy it, and it’s Saturday. What else have you got to do??
- 23 Unnecessarily Astrological Products – From Horoscope Cocktails to Asian Astrology Kicks (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)
- Write for beyond the stars astrology! (beyondthestarsastrology.wordpress.com)
- I Don’t Believe in Astrology, Yet I’m an Astrologer. (elephantjournal.com)