Free Will Astrology

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I saw my Aries friend Alexis yesterday. "You’re even more festive than the last time I saw you," I told her. She had on red silk pants, a burgundy cashmere sweater, a silver scarf, black snakeskin boots and a beaded black tunic. I noticed several new piercings and a Hindu-style red dot on her forehead. She also happened to be carrying her snake, which was wrapped around her arm. "The older I get, the freer I am to hide nothing about how I really feel," she replied. "It’s not even rebellion anymore — it’s generosity. I have this sense that the world needs me to express my most extravagant self." I nominate Alexis as your patron saint in 2004, Aries.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): How have you measured your progress over the years, Taurus? Report cards, diplomas, certificates and plaques? Pay raises, VIP friends, new titles and nicer cars? Or have your benchmarks of success been subtler, like rising levels of self-love, a growing capacity for intimacy, more robust health and friendships with people who bring out the best in you? Whatever signs you have relied on, I ask you to set them aside in 2004. Empty your mind so you will be fully receptive to fresh intuitions about your ongoing evolution.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): My orphan friend Elektra has no idea when she was born and therefore doesn’t know what sign she is. While there are drawbacks to this, it has advantages, too. She celebrates her birthday once every month, for instance. She also reads all 12 of my horoscopes each week and heeds only the ones she likes. I suggest you adopt her approach in 2004, Gemini. This week you could act like an assertive, single-minded Aries. Next week you might want to be an organized and disciplined Capricorn. By mid-January you could thrive on playing the part of a willful, mysterious Scorpio. All the world will be your stage in 2004. You should relish the host of roles available to you.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Cancerian actress Pamela Anderson has become a Sunday school teacher who reads the Bible to kids. While some might wonder if the former Playboy centerfold has reformed and others might call her a hypocrite, she told the BBC there’s no incongruity between her sexy image and her faith in God. I urge you to be inspired by Anderson’s example in 2004, my fellow Crabs. You have the possibility of playing two different roles that many people find incompatible. Who cares what they think?

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Three weeks in a row, a Leo woman in Romania watched a TV horoscope show that assured her she would soon receive a windfall. No free money ever arrived, though, so she lodged a protest with a local consumer protection agency. Officials there in turn advised the horoscope show’s programmers to issue a disclaimer stating that their predictions may not be 100% accurate. I suppose I should make a similar announcement here, though I’m pretty sure the prophecy I’m about to make will be fulfilled. If you vow to work smarter (not harder) and shed illusory hopes that free money might come your way unexpectedly, you will get richer quicker in 2004.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): One of your most wonderful qualities is your aptitude for helping people. It’s also the part of your nature that is most likely to be abused by charming narcissists and charismatic manipulators. But in 2004, you will have a knack for freeing yourself from these oppressors, and you’ll be able to spot potential new ones from a mile away. Take this pledge now: "I will serve only the smart, effective people who also serve me."

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): I invite you to meditate on death not as the end of your actual physical life, but as a metaphor for killing off beliefs and habits that are outworn burdens. Once you’ve come to understand that this kind of death is an ally that you’d be wise to have by your side all the time, you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of this horoscope. Seriously, Libra. Don’t read on until you are convinced that the "good death" I described is an asset you want. Ready? Your assignment in the first two-thirds of 2004 is to die at least once a month. If you do it gracefully, you will be blessed with a glorious rebirth by next October.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Scorpio actress Chloe Sevigny has an unusual relationship with the Ten Commandments. Judging from the fact that she’s a Catholic who goes to Mass, she seems to regard them as important. On the other hand, she told a Rolling Stone reporter, "I interpret the Ten Commandments pretty loosely. Actually, I interpret them in any way that helps me." Sevigny’s approach won’t work for you in 2004, Scorpio. If you want to align yourself harmoniously with cosmic forces, you should either take your moral code very seriously, or else abandon it altogether and find a new one you can totally commit to.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Thirty-six-year-old Dale Peck is an author with an extremely high sense of self-worth. He has written several novels that he describes as "among the best books published in the last ten years." He has also penned many caustic and derisive book reviews that dismiss modern literary giants, including Faulkner, Nabokov, DeLillo, Barthelme and Pynchon. He calls James Joyce’s Ulysses "diarrheic flow," and rips Rick Moody as "the worst writer of his generation." I bring Peck to your attention, Sagittarius, because I believe you should study him as a model of both what to do and what not to do in 2004. Aspire to achieve his abundant confidence, yes, but root it in self-love, not a contemptuous sense of superiority towards others.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): San Francisco Chronicle columnist Tom Sienstra writes about the great outdoors. He sometimes makes long-term weather forecasts by analyzing natural phenomena like the quality of red onion skins or the thickness of winter coats on coyotes and deer. I, too, like to factor in clues like this with my astrological evaluations. To gauge your prospects for the coming months, I’ve gathered information on eagle nests, the horns of mountain goats and cloud patterns over wild places. I conclude that for you to be in maximum harmony with cosmic rhythms in 2004, you should spend a lot of time wandering in the great outdoors.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): As an Aquarius, you have a tendency to be ahead of your time. Sometimes it’s an asset, like when you readily embrace good changes that less adventurous people are afraid of. But on other occasions it’s a liability, like when you figure out solutions to budding problems that no one else is even aware of yet. I believe this kind of disjunction will happen with regularity in 2004. Your first reaction may be to feel frustrated. "I have the answer," you’ll feel like screaming at your cohorts, "to the question you people desperately need to ask!" Here’s some advice: Accept the fact that it will be just as important to sell your brilliant solution as to come up with it in the first place.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): After having dined at the Urasawa sushi bar in Los Angeles, I’m prepared to give you advice about your love life in 2004. It should have a lot in common with the sake I drank there: delicate yet potent, enjoyed most when sipped slowly and made from individually polished grains of rice grown next to sacred groves of sakaki trees and fed by an ancient underground spring. Here’s this week’s homework:

Make a list of your anti-resolutions. What weird habits, incorrigible vices, and controversial actions do you promise to cultivate in 2003?
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