FREE WILL ASTROLOGY: Wednesday, August 6, 2003

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Fifty years ago prophets said we’d all be working no more than 32 hours a week by now. Some predicted we’d have as many as 220 days off a year. What went wrong? Most of us are putting in more hard labor than our grandparents did. But if you want to be faithful to current astrological mandates, Aries, you will spend the next few weeks doing everything you can to bring your life into closer alignment with the old prophecy. The naked fact of the matter is that you need more playtime.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): “You may enjoy this movie if you shut down enough brain cells. I turned off all except the ones needed to remember where I parked my car.” So said a critic of the first Charlie’s Angels film. It’s an approach that many intelligent people employ routinely in response to all the loud, shiny garbage our culture foists on us. What about you? Do you assume you have to make yourself dumber to have fun? Has the blaring inanity of the world caused you to shut down your smart sensitivity? If so, try to reverse this trend in the coming week. You’ll receive help from unexpected sources if you do.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): You and I and everyone else in the world talk to ourselves constantly. The conversation is mostly silent and covert, however. As a result, we get away with abusing ourselves; we assail ourselves with mean thoughts we wouldn’t speak aloud. Now is a perfect time to break this bad habit. In fact, I’m going to officially declare this Speak More Kindly to Yourself Week. For best results, shun the usual telepathic communion and say every word aloud as you carry on your interior monologue. You may want to consult the book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): “Dear Rob: I think you recently mentioned a book about making everyday tasks more spiritual. I’m gung-ho to do exactly that: give thanks before I eat, wake up laughing, bless the ground I walk on, notice with joyful appreciation the divine bounty that overflows in ordinary moments. Can you direct me to that book? —Grateful Crab”

Dear Grateful: You must have dreamed it. Not since I touted Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul in 2000 have I made reference to such a book. But you don’t need authorities to guide you right now. Your intuition will lead you unerringly in your quest to find sacred mojo in the smallest details.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): I advise you to avoid ingesting rocket fuel in the coming days. That means you should be careful about eating lettuce grown in Southern California. Much of it contains high levels of perchlorate, a main ingredient of rocket fuel. (The Environmental Working Group says it’s because defense contractor Lockheed Martin dumps the stuff in the Colorado River.) In any case, you won’t even need metaphorical rocket fuel. Cosmic forces are conspiring to boost your physical energy and mental agility to record levels.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Mata Amritanandamayi is one of India’s most beloved gurus. She preaches no doctrine but believes all religions lead to the same goal. Her renown has grown largely through her embraces. She travels around doling out hugs, often more than a thousand a day. Make her your role model for the coming week, Virgo. You’ll be most likely to thrive if you suspend all your spiritual theories and ideological opinions and become a pure channel for unconditional love.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): George Washington was afflicted with smallpox, malaria, pleurisy, consumption, amoebic dysentery, rotten teeth, and Kleinfelter’s syndrome. That didn’t stop him from accomplishing feats that earned him a place in the history books. Make him your patron saint in the coming weeks, Libra. Draw inspiration from his heroic ability to overcome personal discomfort. You’re in a prime position to render months of suffering irrelevant with a decisive triumph.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): In 1914, a science magazine found that 30 percent of the world’s top scientists believed in God. In a second survey in 1934, the number dropped to 15 percent, and by 1998 it was 7 percent. So it must be getting harder for smart intellectuals to commune with the Divine Wow the way we smart mystics do. That’s a damn shame. Luckily for you, you’re now in an unusual phase where there’s no contradiction between cultivating both rigorous critical thinking and an intimate relationship with the nine-tenths of reality that is hidden from our five senses.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): The most venerated object in Islam is the Kaaba, a large cube in a mosque in Mecca. In a corner of the Kaaba is its most sacred part, a black stone surrounded by an oval silver structure. Astrologer Caroline Casey points out that it has the shape of a vulva and suggests that it reveals Islam’s unconscious yearning for the Goddess. That’s ironic for a male-dominated religion that, like Judaism and Christianity, has suppressed the feminine aspects of the divine. Here’s a starting point for this week’s meditations. What feminine aspects of the divine do you long for? How can you bring more of their influence into your life?

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Frank O’Hara’s poem “Meditations in an Emergency” is mostly a meandering, self-indulgent mess, but it contains three lines that should inspire you for weeks. Here they are: “Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous ... I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love. ... It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so.” O’Hara’s poem is a microcosm of your immediate future, when small but valuable treasures will be embedded in heaps of useless nonsense.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Last year Nigerian women launched a new form of protest against the U.S.-owned oil company that wreaked environmental havoc in their country: They threatened to get naked in public. During the invasion of Iraq, several groups of American women, inspired by the Nigerians, registered their dissent through mass nudity. More recently, Mexican farmers stripped to their underpants during a demonstration against their government’s policies. It’s a perfect time for you to develop this new technique. Take off your clothes to those you oppose! If that’s too extreme, try the metaphorical equivalent: Disarm your adversaries not by attacking them but by expressing your vulnerability.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Every Thursday night I roll my trashcan to the curb. Usually it’s three-quarters full of garbage bags and requires no special treatment. But on some weeks I generate more than my normal share of refuse. To fit it in, I grab a low-slung branch from the persimmon tree, pull myself up, and lower myself down inside the trashcan, jumping to compress the load and make room for more. I hope I can serve as an inspiration for you this week, Pisces. By my reckoning, you should gather, compress, and throw away at least six months’ worth of outworn junk, including both the psychic and physical varieties.

Homework: What quality or behavior do you exhibit that would most benefit from a little healthy self-mockery? Testify at

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