Free Will Astrology

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ARIES (March 21-April 19): Writing in The Week magazine, Editor in Chief Bill Falk reminisced about how he once churned out three opinion columns a week for newspapers. "The truth is," he said, "there were many weeks in which I didn’t have three fresh opinions of any value." These days, he added, he couldn’t handle a gig like that. As he’s matured, he has become suspicious of his own certainties. "Opinions are highly overrated," he concludes. "Most concern passing phenomena that, six months or six years from now, become utterly irrelevant." I propose that we make Falk your patron saint for February, Aries, as this is a perfect moment to enjoy the humility and grace that come from nurturing compassionate ideals instead of agitated opinions.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): You might want to get a history book and read up on the Greek army’s defeat of the invading Persian forces at Marathon in 470 B.C. While you’re at it, look into the ragtag band of Texan soldiers that won independence from Mexico at San Jacinto in 1836. I make these suggestions not because I think you will literally be going into battle, Taurus, but because I believe you’ll soon be moved to defend and even expand your freedom. Meditating on history’s successful struggles for liberation might inject an inspirational dose of martial energy into your campaign.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): You’re in a phase of your yearly cycle when fate will conspire to expand your perspective, get you naturally high and turn you into an explorer. To align yourself with these cosmic tendencies, you might want to charter a supersonic MiG-25 Foxbat plane to ferry you to the upper edge of the atmosphere, where you can see the curvature of the Earth. Other good ideas: Sail over Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains in a hot-air balloon or take a class in shamanism at a local yoga center.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): I predict that in 2004 you will become far more discriminating about what images and information you allow to enter into the holy temple of your mind. You may even put up protective barriers that keep out the media’s toxic psychic wastes and your friends’ bad moods. I also predict that if you don’t become more discriminating, you will lose touch with your own deepest desires and end up trying to be something you’re not. In conclusion, fellow Cancerian, you sure as hell better remember how naturally telepathic you are and how easily you take on other people’s feelings as if they were your own.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Astrology is both logical and messy; it’s useful in making sense of the world, yet full of maddening ambiguities. At its best, astrology is a playful study of the metaphorical link between the human psyche and the sun, moon and planets. It’s not a science. It’s an elegant system of symbols, an art form with a special capacity to feed the soul and educate the imagination. When regarded as a precise method for predicting the future or when used to pander to the ego’s obsessions, it becomes a deserving target for satire. So there you have it, Leo. I’ve clarified the essential views that underlie all I do in this horoscope column, and which therefore color the relationship between you and me. Now I challenge you to do what I just did: Get together with the people you care about and articulate the fundamental assumptions that form the basis of your connection.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I rarely employ my mediumistic skills, but a host of spirits was clamoring to address you this week. So I agreed to channel five of them if they’d be brief. Here, then, are your advisors from the other side of the veil. First, Werner von Braun: "Research is what you do when you don’t know what you’re doing." Second, A.A. Milne: "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." Next, Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Casey Stengel: "You’re lost but you’re making good time." Harry S. Truman: "If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em."

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So proclaimed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in his book Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible. To a medieval peasant, for instance, television would have appeared to be pure sorcery. Here’s my corollary to Clarke’s principle, Libra, just in time for your season of wonder and mystery: "Any sufficiently unexpected blessing is indistinguishable from a miracle."

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): "How can one’s heart and brain stand all the things that are crowded into them?" wrote 19th-century composer Robert Schumann. "Where do these thousands of thoughts, wishes, sorrows, joys and hopes come from? Day in, day out, the procession goes on." Sound familiar, Scorpio? If I’m reading the astrological omens correctly, the flood that Schumann described has recently reached tsunami proportions in you. You simply can’t go on like this. As the closest thing you have to a soul doctor, I regard it as my duty to prescribe massive doses of spacious silence. Quiet your thoughts, slow down your pace and drop out of every frenetic game, at least for now.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Back in the 1980s, an old pal of mine was a girlfriend of Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry. I’m hoping if he’s elected in November, she’ll arrange for me to get a tryout as his astrological advisor. Who knows? Maybe he already reads this column. You there, John? Here’s my counsel for you and your fellow Sagittarians. As tempting as it might be to dramatize the differences between you and your competitors, your best bet in the short run is to be an emblem of unity. Don’t let your powerful moral vision get bogged down in detailing what’s wrong. Instead, be passionate about beauty and truth and justice.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Here’s Big Secret of Life #27, crucial for your meditations in the coming weeks: Whatever you choose to focus your attention on, you will get more of it. So for example, if you often think of everything you lack and how sad you are that you don’t have it, you will tend to receive abundant evidence of how true that is. If, on the other hand, you dwell on the good things that make you feel grateful to be alive, they will probably multiply. You are a great wizard, Capricorn. Why not use your powers to practice white magic on yourself instead of the other kind?

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): This will be an elephant-wearing-a-parachute-as-it-falls-through-the-sky kind of week for you, Aquarius. It’ll be a successfully-shoplifting-a-Bible kind of week, a using-bottles-of-Dom-Perignon-champagne-to-put-out-a-fire kind of week, a rewriting-a-Shakespeare-play-and-selling-it-to-a-Hollywood-producer kind of week. "Improbable" should be your nickname. "Prodigious" should be your word of power. If you don’t receive a magic pretzel or a golden booger from a talking raven in your dreams, I’ll be shocked.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Red alert! Your behavior is beginning to have an eerie resemblance to the guy who regularly stands on a street corner in Beijing and offers himself up as a punching bag. At least he makes money from it, charging stressed-out jerks about $6 to smack him around for two minutes. But I can’t see any benefit coming to you for the way you’re letting yourself be abused. Please stop this perverse form of entertainment immediately. Find a better strategy for encouraging intimate contact with people. Here’s this week’s homework: What quality or behavior in you would most benefit from healthy self-mocking? Tell how you keep yourself honest. Write:

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