For me it’s always best to start with the constellation image. For Aquarius the constellation image is the “water bearer.” This along with its “aqua” root makes most people think Aquarius is a water sign, but in fact Aquarius is an air sign. If we take this little piece of misdirection alone, we can learn a lot about Aquarius very quickly. Aquarius is sometimes like air disguised as water. Intellect disguised as emotion. Idealism disguised as compassion. Mind disguised as heart. There is a spacey coldness within the sign of Aquarius, a distanced eye from the heavens, a homesick alien longing to be human, expressing itself most humanly…”If only the human race could evolve or improve or ascend just a little higher, I would have more friends, I would have a real tribe, I would have some actual commonality. If only the human race could be more like the gods I so love.”
It’s often said of Aquarians that they love humanity but they can’t stand people. I always laugh at this joke, but I would modify it to read, “Aquarians love humanity, but they love the gods a little more.” The image of the water bearer in old times symbolized a young man who served the gods their divine nectar. In this simple image we see both the human love of all that is higher, more rational, more evolved, and more enlightened…the love of the gods that only the servant of the gods can truly understand, but at the same time within this love for all that is “higher,” we also see the consequential distancing or alienation from all that is truly human, complete with all our contradictions, inconsistencies, and instinctual qualities.
Aquarius plays the role of the inspiring messenger of the gods, as well as being their servant. Carl Jung once said that the price we pay for trying to harness the powers of the unconscious (the depth of space where the constellations live, lets say) is loneliness and isolation. This is the gods revenge upon us for trying to take their knowledge and use it to improve ourselves or “evolve humanity” or whatever else. The inflation of consciousness created by stealing something of the gods’ knowledge (from the unconscious) leaves us looking like egoists or weirdos to others. And yet, the voice of the gods, the messages and gifts they often send us, are unavoidable, as is the alienation we suffer when we grow in our understanding of the geography of the unconscious.
What a conundrum! For these reasons Aquarius is a sign often given to the Jungian concept of individuation. Aquarius, according to many Jungian astrologers, is the sign of the daemon or the genie, whose guiding influence comes into our lives in order to evolve or grow our consciousness out of the familiar and into a broader or deeper understanding of the unconscious. This “daemon” is often compared to Lucifer…a kind of light bringing but also rebellious spirit; neither human nor god, but somewhere in between. James Hillman has compared the daemon to Eros, or Cupid, a trickster, an intoxication, a lover, the backward lightning flash of beauty in the mind’s eye. The daemon’s lust for “man to become god” can enrage both the gods and people alike. “Let us just be who we are,” both the gods and the people might say to the daemon…longing for and admiring each other in our strange ways but also with appropriate distance and distinctions.
Sometimes the daemonic Aquarius can’t fathom why the gods and the people would want to remain separate. His refusal to allow for the separation, his insistence and rebellion, is what creates the image of devilish power, the daemon turned to “demon,” Lucifer to the devil, and the power of progress into the mangled results of a cloning experiment gone terribly wrong. The vegan with her machete of progressive intolerance. The friend who can’t shut up about how fucked up everything is and whose ego is building a tower called, “the ideal world.”
To my mind, astrology itself is highly Aquarian. That’s why it’s my firm belief that we astrologers have to constantly use our craft to shave the hubris off the faces of some of our most seemingly “divine” ideas, revealing the animal skin below or behind them. James Hillman once said that it was most important that we start doing therapy on our ideas, not just our historical or private sense of self. “Ideas that we don’t know we have, have us,” he said. The daemon is an ambiguous figure. Essential for the guiding fictions of our lives to play out and for the soul to develop along the lines of its most precious fantasies, but also a kind of thief and deceiver, a trickster rebel whose lofty causes should sometimes be questioned with the simplest language of human scrutiny, “Hey who do you think you are? Don’t be an a-hole. This is a dialogue not a dictation. I’m just fine with the way things are.”
The Saturn/Uranus double rulership of Aquarius also aptly represents all of these themes, but we’ll leave that for another post. All of these subjects should be especially in play over the next three weeks as Mercury retrogrades in Aquarius!
Prayer: Help us to learn how to dialogue with our daemons.
Image by courtesy ofGabriel C, at creative commons image licensing
Reflected in today’s astrology is an important idea about legacy, determination, hard work, sacrifice, and accomplishment. A thought for us to work with today…”It’s not just the thought that counts.” Along with this we might add, “It’s not just the effort that matters. It’s not just, ‘giving it your best.’ And it’s not just, “the right attitude or what’s inside of you that makes you great or builds character.”
Each of the original statements being negated are of course deeply valuable insights and pieces of wisdom. They are reassurances and instances of self-acceptance or self-forgiveness, and they will remain as important insights because they are timeless. At the same time, is it possible that these kinds of statements have become empty platitudes? Is it possible that by saying these kinds of things SO frequently to ourselves and others that we’ve marginalized something else?
Some examples of what might be lurking in the ghettos of all this “gosh darn it you’re always good enough just the way you are” talk…
* You give someone a gift without doing careful research, without putting time and actual thoughtfulness into the gift. You spend a cheap amount of money, or you spend too much money without an eye for something special. You send a card but you don’t really write anything inside of it. You check a thank you note off the list. You give one of those, “future homemade gift certificates” and try to make it look thoughtful when the truth is you’ve got nothing invested in the other person’s happiness and you’ve spent all your money elsewhere.
So it’s not just the thought that counts…the thought that counts is a thought whose got actual rhythm..a thought keeping the beat, keeping a sense of style, keeping a sense of timing and harmony. A “thought that counts,” should be seen more like a musical thought. A thought in the right key and WITH the right counting. That’s the “thought that counts.”
* You want to be great at something and so you start in studying a new subject, or learning a new craft, hobby, or skill. You put in a lot of effort in the beginning, but then you get tired, bored, or lazy when the “new thing” becomes familiar, or difficult. Instead of deepening into the work, you get comfortable with where you’re at. You plateau and stay there. Your defense for the hard work of climbing up the next peak becomes the phrase, “I’ve given it my best, and that’s all I can do,” or “I’m trying my hardest.”
No. No you’re not. You’re letting yourself down and using an excuse. Developing just about anything to a high level of skill or mastery will require blood, sweat, and tears and hardly ever phrases like, “Well, that’s that, I’ve given it my best.”
* You want to change something about yourself, your body, your psychology or behavior, or some other pattern in your life. Maybe you change a few things but then some other things just won’t budge. So you start saying, “I’m valuable no matter what. At the level of my heart and soul I’m perfect just as I am.” But the truth is that you’ve taken, “I’m sick of myself,” a disapproving teacher who wants to make you better, and you’ve locked her in the basement and called her a demon or an untruth or a liar or a ruthless taskmaster, or whatever else. So now your inner teacher is gone, the only one who will tell you the harder truths, because you’ve used the cloak and dagger of kindness and acceptance on her, and now she’s forgiven to hell.
But regardless, that old teacher is still down there in the flames, and soon enough you’ll hear her truth speaking again, “No, you aren’t good enough just the way you are. You’re not valuable no matter what. Get off your duff and keep working.”
With Mars and Neptune conjoined in Pisces and the Sun culminating in Capricorn, we might be hearing the voice of THAT kind of inner teacher right now: the hard ass who is not impressed with our self-love delusions. Right now we might be more aware than usual of just how brief our lives are and how short the window is for us to grow into our true potential. What are we afraid of changing about ourselves that we know needs changing? Why are we so afraid of the commitment, focus, and discipline that it will take to go where we’re capable of going?
All of this is reflected in the Capricorn/Pisces combination in the sky right now, which reflects the desire for greatness, or the desire for transcendence, sacrifice, accomplishment, or legacy. A legacy can obviously be made in many unique ways, and not everyone is called to be a Mozart, but a simple point reflected in the stars right now is about looking at the way in which some of these platitudes about “already good enough” aren’t actually helping us. It’s a very touchy subject because those “already good enough” kinds of statements are also necessary in a world where the drive for success and legacy, when not grounded in the soul’s calling, can become ruthless.
All of this has been on my mind lately as I’m personally feeling the call to deepen some of my practices and “take my game to the next level,” so to speak. Whenever I feel this way it’s like that scary teacher is approaching me with his disapproving gaze. I get excited and nervous all at once. And of course there are times when the teacher is actually insane. The teacher has sometimes thrown chairs at my head to try to make me better, and I’ve reported him to the school board and started saying things to myself about how wonderful I am already. How it’s “the thought and effort that counts.” That’s necessary for a while when the teacher gets too nutty, but then eventually if I stay in “self love” land for too long, he always comes around again to call out my bullshit, and when he does I know it’s because it’s time for me to buckle down and work harder within the practices I love the most. It’s time to get better and stop making excuses for myself.
To close, last night my wife and I went to see the movie “Whiplash,” and the timing couldn’t have been any better. The movie (don’t worry no spoilers) is about the complexities of mastery and greatness, of discipline and hard work as well as its relationship with self love and acceptance. It’s about the teacher and the student, the Senex and the Puer, and it’s about the anxiety and discomfort of being pushed to our potential, as well as the fine line between pushing past limits and abuse.
In my experience of being immersed in New age culture for a decade, and before that Christianity since childhood, alongside a decade of drinking ayahuasca, we tend to embrace the self-love ideas far too quickly and dogmatically, which instantly demonizes the “hard line teachers” within us. Makes them into meanies or devils or unforgiving egoists. The reason I take the angle I take in today’s horoscope isn’t because I don’t value failure, mediocrity, self-acceptance, or anything else, but rather because my own path has taught me over the years to keep a watchful eye on the difference between self-love and excuses or laziness (something I’m still learning every new season!). Some might go so far as to say “self love” IS “hard work,” as well as all the other cuddly things, but I’m more inclined to say “self love” isn’t the only spiritual game in town. Can we stop making it all about “love” for even just a few minutes? Is it possible that our insistence upon love is like the upset stomach of an ego that’s simply eaten too much?
Can’t we leave room for the pursuit of greatness itself, along with all its contradictions and angst? Why must all roads lead us back to the sentiments of love? Maybe, just maybe, “it’s not just the thought that counts.” After all, as James Hillman liked to point out, the very same idea about thoughts makes us guilty of our thoughts rather than our actions. An impure thought is as guilty as an impure deed in a Christian world where all roads lead back to love and what’s on the inside is all that counts…
The film Whiplash is an excellent study of all these dynamics, and I would highly recommend it for anyone else out there who understands or feels resonant with these complexities!
Prayer: For today help me to stop making excuses and listen for the voice of my inner teacher, that scary looking one that’s saying to me, “No, you’re not already good enough. I know you can do better this.” Image by courtesy of Gabriel C, at creative commons image licensing
With Venus in Aquarius about to oppose Jupiter in Leo it’s a good day to talk about personality and group identity. These topics have always been loaded in terms of cultural and religious divides, the history of racial/cultural and religious warfare, etc, but more and more the same kinds of violent identity conflicts are finding their way into our shopping malls and schools, our movie theaters and work places. From the perspective of the opposition between Venus in Aquarius and Jupiter in Leo, the problem isn’t just a systemic result of the unequal distribution of wealth in our country or over medication or even media saturation. Yes, of course, all of those things are problems that we can blame or should take into account, but in blaming those “systemic” factors we might be perpetuating the exact same mentality that is creating such outrage in the first place: a mentality that says “Who you are is merely a reflection or collection of social causes and conditioning.”
Maybe our only counterpoint to this prevailing notion is the image of stardom or fame. To rise above the blandness of the systemic view of identity you have to strike a pose. You need to grab the bull by the horns. You’ve got to overcome adversity and wear a rubberband around your wrist. Be a hero. Say something unique and capture in on video spontaneously. This can be proof TO the system that you are unique from it. That you’ve found your way out or that YOU are the shining exception.
So long as this extreme polarization perpetuates itself, so too does the feeling of being trapped. If the way out of systemic abstraction and blandness is only for the elect few, then we’re easily polarized into the idea that a strong sense of group identity is easier or more desirable than personal destiny. On the other hand, if we believe that the way out is to improve the system, then we’re also easily polarized into a constant war of ideas about the “just or good society,” perhaps losing our respect for ideological or archetypal diversity along the way.
From the perspective of the planetary opposition between Venus in Aquarius and Jupiter in Leo, we have to be careful of making easy targets of each other as a way of dealing with a lack of environmental essence. It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m above or beyond social identifiers,” but it’s also not as simple as choosing which group you belong to and then flying the flag as proudly as you can.
The keyword, I think, is responsiveness, which also has a relation to the words “spontaneous” and “spouse.” In each moment, we are free to respond creatively to our environment, like its a friend or a sibling or even a partner. This environmental responsiveness lends the experience of essence to our day to day lives. This is something James Hillman called, “a psychological environmentalism.” Within whatever groups we identify with most strongly, or whatever social factors we’re most aware of within ourselves, are we just hiding out or avoiding something, or are we constantly responding to our environments, making the presence of other groups and complexities within ourselves known or seen? Are we listening carefully and imagining through the events, people, and places that present themselves to us constantly, like birds calling and flying, perching and hopping? Are we capable of seeing the way OTHERS are responding to their environments? It’s just too easy to respond to systemic blandness in an equally monotone fashion. The systemic blandness is a way of seeing, in other words, that makes even our criticisms of it systemically bland. OH THE BLANDNESS! We have to recognize that part of the phenomenon of public shootings is about the eruption of an authentic RESPONSE to an environment, within an environment, creating a new environment…like the god Mars or Shiva or Kali demanding that we be more alive, more alert, more present, our animal twitch speeds returned to the frequency of the living.
In a show like the walking dead, the metaphor we should pay attention to isn’t just about the zombies, it’s also about the amount of stab shots to the zombie’s heads you have to watch as new heroes replace the fallen and continue to fend off the zombies episode after episode. The reason I personally got bored of the show is because the phenomenon of zombies became zombie-like after a while. The gore of a crowbar through a zombies eye in season one is now dead and groaning on the ground by season seventeen.
Desensitization everyone says….until we’re desensitized to the concept…that irony, that constant gnawing of alive but dead systemic ways of seeing systemic problems…like yet another zombie head bashed against the pavement….
So what does an actual responsiveness look like? I have no idea…do you? Should we start a club? How about a riot of ideas? There’s nothing practical here I can think of.
Prayer: help me to stay responsive and alert, alive to my surroundings…help us to create a psychic environmentalism
Image by courtesy of Gabriel C, at creative commons image licensing
As Saturn continues its grand entrance into Sagittarius we’re already getting a sneak peek at some of the more challenging themes of its new sign placement. A few to look into for today include the nature of truth as well as the nature of law (societal and karmic or spiritual law alike), the fixity or rigidity of holding any kind of truth we value (how hard should we hold/express what we believe?), and the nature of the priesthood (all different kinds of priesthoods, not just religious ones). Let’s look at the complications of all these themes in greater detail, and let’s look at the Charlie Hebdo event as kind of imaginal anchor for this exploration.
At first glance the shootings at the French satire magazine look like an obvious and simple case of terrorism, and really in the most simple sense that’s exactly what they were: murderous, hateful acts committed by religious extremists. A challenge to our freedom of speech, our freedom of mind, our freedom of humor, and the freedom of the press in a free society (especially France whose national history has been such an important part of revolution on our planet!). For all of these reasons it’s clear why so many people rallied and marched together to support the continuation of these rights and freedoms. As a professional blogger myself, these rights are fundamental.
However, we can’t stop here. Or we can, but if we do then we won’t have the opportunity to look at the more complex and challenging layers of the conversation that are happening in the aftermath of the shootings, all over the world (including the magazine’s offensiveness to millions of non-extreme muslims). It’s my feeling that it’s possible to enter into the more ambiguous or grey-zone areas of events like these without being ignorant. And so with that in mind, let’s continue…
The problems begin when we begin to contemplate the nature of what satire IS and what satire DOES a little more carefully. The word “satire” has a complex etymological background, which relates the word to others like “satiate,” and “sad,” as well as “satyr” and even “Saturn.” Interestingly enough, the word ‘satyr’ refers to a horse/man/goat like mythical creature, whose relationship to the sea-goat of Saturn is obvious and whose famous trouble-making is as old as the romping of centaurs (Sagittarius’ constellation image). The work of the satirist, according to an interesting academic paper shared on the “Sarcasm Society” website is defined as follows: “Satire is an indirect form of critique, in that it mocks or attacks an individual or idea by proxy. Satirical speech and literature is generally used to observe and judge the “evils” or morally questionable ideals held by individuals, groups and sometimes entire cultures. The attack itself is derived from what is known as the satirist’s social motive–these critiques illustrate what the satirist, within the context of their own world view, believes is “right” based upon what they ridicule as “wrong.”
The challenging part of this definition arises when we recognize that satirists are not free from their own guiding set of beliefs, dogmas, and moral or philosophical claims. In over a dozen websites that I researched this morning, all sites define the genre of satire as a political, social, or philosophical “attack,” made through the use of artistic, poetic images or speech. What makes satire so important for our society is the idea that we can use art alongside of ideas to argue and debate the nature of truth with each other. For this reason alone, Satire has existed for thousands of years, since Greek and Roman times as an effective political and social weapon. The pen, along with the crayon and the cartoonist’s pencil, is often truly mightier than the sword.
At the same time, the very archetype of using humor and art as a weaponry of ideas has always been, by its very nature, something that tends to offend people. It offends because its very nature is aggressive and confrontational, as well as cathartic. This is why so many people are having complex reactions to the Hebdo shootings. It’s not that anyone would standby and condone murder (for the most part). It’s that the response to these murders has generated a conversation about ideas, about truth, and about the freedom of the press or ideological freedom in general.
Where is there a line of respect for the diversity of beliefs in our world? When does that line become censorship? Should we celebrate the trashing of religions and faiths through pointed humor, or do they have it coming because of their history of rigidity and intolerance? Should we find more considerate ways of debating? Does one ideological attack, no matter how humorous, invite more of the same, or should satirical media outlets be granted amnesty under the law…we turn our eyes away from the nature of satirical aggression because it’s form of aggression is 100% protected by law? Is satire its own dogma? Are there high priests of satire, secretly furthering their own secular/atheistic/materialistic agendas through the constant leveraging of easy ideological targets?
Take Jon Stewart, for example. A double Sagittarius. I once heard Richard Tarnas call him a “high priest” of the media, a sort of high priest as satirist. Millions of people worship at the temple of the Daily Show, specifically because it is a kind of charismatic, evangelistic roasting of current events around the world. Stewart, using brilliant satire and artistic humor and images makes moral attacks upon whoever and whatever appears most dubious. He is purposefully inflammatory, in the same way preachers purposefully amp up a congregation for the sake of religious catharsis. And yet, for as successful as Stewart is, I’ll never forget the night when I came home from an ayahuasca ceremony and had to turn off the television because I found his voice and his aggression entirely off putting. Obviously I was in a very particular state of consciousness, but many people have the same reaction to satirists in general. They simply don’t like the tone..it feels passive aggressive (certainty and self righteousness disguised in open mindedness).
Another example, even more challenging for spiritual people, is Bill Maher. Yesterday a Salon article featured Bill Maher saying that nobody should make choices based on ancient myths. He said, ““It seems to me the most obvious decision a person could make in their life,” Maher explains. “Do I want to make real-world policy decided on the basis of proven facts and the reaches of what humans have gotten to do in science? Or do I want real-world decisions made based on ancient myths written by men who didn’t know what a germ or an atom was, or where the sun went at night?”
Maher, like many satirists since the Roman and Greek times, are often unconsciously acting out the priesthood of secularism. Ironically, the archetypal pattern Maher is acting out here is as old and mythic as any other. Whether its modern scientific fundamentalism or Islamic or Christian fundamentalism, the point is that satire is often just as dogmatic and aggressive as any set of religious doctrines. Progressive, reactionary, freedom oriented thinking, that uses pointed insults, mockery, and passive aggression in the press, is participating in the war of ideas.
It’s not something we can avoid or get rid of (nor should we). But with Saturn in Sagittarius, as the dispositor of Pluto in Capricorn square to Uranus in Aries, we are being challenged to examine the deeper ways in which religiosity of all kinds permeates our world. Saturn as the lord of karma is different than a victim blamer. Saturn is the planet whose nature best embodies the “opposition” aspect in astrology, since its sign rulers are the direct oppositions to both the sun and the moon’s signs. Saturn is always showing us what we are and what we are not, in the clearest and often most difficult sense. To learn how to see the dynamics of Saturn we have to be very careful. Saturn rules the archetype of the “scapegoat” because looking at how conflicts implicate both people or both sides of an issue can always tip over into victim blaming. This is why Saturn’s exaltation is found in the balance and justice ruled sign of Libra (the scales).
Using a careful, exalted in Libra kind of evaluation, it’s never about making the victim and the aggressor equal to each other in some abstract or dehumanizing way. It’s about understanding how the nature of who the victim was, what myths they were living, and what the shadows of those myths were about, imply or involve the persecutor. In this instance, the point that many people sense and feel is that the nature of satire is aggressive, can be its own form of dogmatism or self-righteousness, and therefore MTYTHICALLY it implicates itself into the war of ideas and beliefs that unfortunately can play itself out in situations like the Hebdo shootings. It’s ironically even MORE Sagittarian to explore the events in this way. Rather than taking something at surface value and making the event about just ONE issue, the desire is to stretch out beyond what is known and explore things further. This is the strange combination that comes up when the sign of Jupiter (possibilities, freedom, and expansion) meets with Saturn (fate, limitation, and rigidity). The upset that people have around the marching and “freedom of press” fist pumping isn’t about whether or not the press should be free, in other words, it’s about the knee jerk reaction to take the deaths of these individuals and transform their deaths into yet another ideologically rigid tirade. The deeper question is about ideological tirades in general. The question is about truth and freedom, in general. The sense is that we live in a world where fate is also part of how things play out. Limitations and “cause and effect” are also part of how things play out, spiritually and psychologically. Does freedom have to be absolutely free, or can it have a relationship with the fates? This is a question for the French and American psyches right now, clearly, as well as the global psyche. These are all instances of Saturn in Sagittarius.
To conclude–I have no answers. I myself have a Capricorn Moon (with Saturn ruling my moon from the sign of Libra but also in conjunction with Jupiter!). My moon is also in the 9th house of Sagittarius. I believe these kinds of contradictions are an essential part of why I’m an astrologer. To me it’s important that we look at the mythic dynamics of all these patterns in order to understand the relationships between them…by doing this I’d like to believe that we’re making greater space for the diverse structures of each other’s worlds.
prayer: a comic strip that Daniel Pinchbeck recently posted on Facebook (click to see it full size)…
The last quarter Moon has just turned void of course and is traveling through the via combusta (also known as the “fiery road,” the via combusta represents a stretch of degrees from 15 Libra to 15 Scorpio that is thought of as a particularly difficult area of the zodiac for both the Sun and the Moon).
Meanwhile, Mars in Pisces is about to square Saturn in Sagittarius as it conjoins Neptune.
Themes and a few images to watch for:
* Irritability that leads to a dramatic inflammation
* Facing our deepest inadequacies and asking ourselves whether or not they are real, or how real, and if so what to do about them
* Confrontation with religious, spiritual, or philosophical authority figures
* The priest desires the disciple, the guru sleeps with the student, the student tempts the teacher
* Sexual scandal in institutions of higher learning or religion
* Fighting for an ideal that’s not your own, your fight benefits something you’re not truly concerned about
* Being used or using someone else for your own selfish gain
* Charity and false or secretly selfish charity
* A man with a skin rash
* Intoxication or Poisoning (CNN Image: A village in Mozambique loses 69 people to poisonous local alcohol drink)
* No method or tactic too low or out of the question
* The religiously motivated attack
* A statue of Mars, a ceremony at the temple of Mars
* Trying to start something new but feeling blocked, scattered, or overwhelmed
* “Slow and steady wins the race”
* A come from behind victory
* Withholding or limiting ourselves for religious or spiritual reasons
* Repression or unnecessary restrictions
With Mars/Neptune and Saturn/Neptune combinations there is also a subtle theme we might call “trying to hide our ugliness.” We can talk about this a few different ways…
First the word ugly comes from the words for “dread” as well as “misshapen.” The Greek roots of the word also have a relationship to the word “dyslexia,” which is a learning or reading disability that creates various reading/speaking and listening problems with words and sounds. One of the most common things we like to say about the attempt to hide our ugliness is that ugliness is nothing more than a kind of perceptual distortion…an aesthetic dyslexia that can be worked through just like people can learn to read or speak correctly though they hear and see words backwards or in reverse. With practice we can learn to see what is misshapen in a different light. The idea here being that ugliness (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder, and that all things are beautiful when seen in the right way.
On the other hand, the heroic approach says that we need to confront our ugliness. Do the work to change it. A new workout program. A new attitude. An adjustment. A fixup. A project. A trophy. With the right attitude anything can be overcome. So we knuckle down and try to transform our deformities.
The heroic-spiritual approach says that we need to accept our ugliness. We need to change what we can and accept the rest. Decorate our fat rolls with magic markers. Flaunt our troubled pasts because they’ve made us into the shaman-wizards we are. Stick up relentlessly for all underdogs because we’re all destiny’s student of the week.
Finally, there’s the Jazz approach. And I think this is the least understood of the bunch. It’s the approach that lives with the complex recognition of the entire complex. We spend so much time trying to hide THAT we’re trying to hide the ugliness, that we forget that “trying to hide the ugliness” is a beautiful thing itself. Or at the very least it’s an interesting thing. It’s its own animal display. A unique pattern with its own dimensions. Take for example a Jazz improvisation on the trumpet. During a solo riff the player hits an awkward note. It’s clearly not the note he meant to hit. It’s clearly off. It doesn’t sound right. It’s not harmonious. It’s discordant. Grates the ears. Trying to hide the ugliness the poor improv player returns to the right notes and plays them even louder, and even faster, trying to make up for his mistake. The entire audience sees the pattern: embarrassed musician trying to make up for his miscue. On the other hand, the Jazz player when hitting the wrong note might simply choose to hit it again, and then again, until something new comes out of it, and the mistake is deliberately hidden, for everyone to hear and see. This is what I would call the Jazz approach to hiding our ugliness.
We don’t have to be above ugliness by trying to “accept it,” and we don’t have to be above ugliness by trying to “transform or overcome it.” We can overtly and clearly hide ugliness through a creative revisioning of its meaning, its juxtapositions, its rhythm, or any of its many other features. We’re so uncomfortable with ugliness that we’re more like the improv player who tries to play louder and faster to overcome his discordant note. We just can’t allow for ugliness to exist or be its own thing.
On a side note: It’s my opinion that overused, viral sarcasm memes are probably our single most societally cliched way of hiding ugliness…these sarcasm frequencies start off as excellent examples of the Jazz play on ugliness, but they too often end up as that “louder and faster overcomes the flaw” mindset. Sarcasm “channels” in the popular mind make the hiding of ugliness into a bland technique rather than an organic process of discovery that stays close to the uniqueness of whatever is ugly in the current moment. Without variation and diversity, specificity and attention, even ugliness can become objectified.
Prayer: real music takes an ear for the ugly…there’s no soul without some old-fashioned ugliness
Image by courtesy of lindapendant, at creative commons image licensing
This grand cross may not be quite as strong given that the 4th point in the cross is a node rather than a planet, but the argument should still be made that we are passing through an incredibly powerful porthole to start the new year.
* A mother exhausted by her child, breastfeeding, stares at her framed diplomas
* A man slips in the rain and mud while taking the trash out, curses, gives up
* A young woman on a hiking trip with friends, loses patience with their slowness and their caution, blazes forward until she can’t hear their voices anymore
* A teenage boy stuck in traffic, calms his own anger, focuses on trying to look the patient, mature part instead..feels good
* A father surprises himself by being open to his daughter’s criticism…”you’re right,” he says to her.
* A kid kicking his legs underneath the dinner table, eager to return to his room where he’s been building an elaborate world
* A single mother introduces her new boyfriend, feels alone the entire time
* Someone finally says, “Stop guilt tripping me about everything.”
* A sigh of disapproval and frustration. “I’ll do it myself.”
* A new position, the first day on the job
* The ceiling disappears…above is the wind and the sky..the air is cold and the time is now
Images have the powerful ability of speaking to the planetary weather in a way that simple archetypal descriptions cannot. Looking through the images above, see if any of them resonate…and then practice going deeper into any of the images as though the scene or image was an aspect of your own life right now. What comes through? How does your scene develop? How does it connect you to your inner guidance and what does that inner guidance have to say?
Prayer: Help us to move through this Full Moon period with a curious mind and a listening heart.