Sunday, April 25, 2010

The 4,000 Year Old Lie

Cancel my calendar. Tear up the contract. Don't buy that toaster oven. Send no email. Someone stole the remote. It's happening again. Mercury is in retrograde.

Or so they say. Actually it's an optical illusion and it occurs about three times a year for a few weeks. Mercury appears to be moving backwards from Earth's perspective. But planets don't really back up any more than a slow train, observed from a faster parallel train, is going in the opposite direction. Furthermore , if you see it at all you're one of the fortunate few. It never really escapes the red glow of the sun.

As far as I'm concerned Mercury could spend the rest of its orbital life in retrograde as long as the moon is in the House Of Pancakes. It's not likely to budge even if Busby Berkeley were around to choreograph the cosmos anew.

Astrology is, plain and simple, bad science; bad astronomy in particular. Excusable in 2000 B.C but only an amusement today. At worse it panders to the gullible, at best it's a parlor game...a way of meeting people at a single's bar.

It's also an industry that shows no sign of slowing down. This is the social phenomenon that interests me. Readers of horoscopes are not the drop-outs of the world. They are of both political persuasions. They read, they write and are otherwise thinking people.

The main problem with astrology is not so much in a misreading of the movement of constellations but the attributes it assigns to them. We don’t need Shakespeare to remind us that the fault lies in ourselves, dear Brutus, not in our stars.

What is the impulse that drives people to connect dots that aren't there? As a pharmacist I spent many hours talking patients out of vitamins or other nostrums for their sniffles or doldrums etc... Folks like to think they've hit upon a quick panacea or explanation for events that are random or unknown, as if every question mark has a corresponding exclamation point.

Maybe the larger issue is whether we have free will or if our fate is pre-determined. Certainly our beliefs are shaped, more or less, by accident of birth, geography, religious heritage, gender and DNA........but not entirely. We also have choices and can sometimes reject, transform or transcend the givens of our lives.

By looking to the stars we are abdicating responsibility for our own acts as autonomous and sentient individuals. My Taurus wife is no more or less stubborn than my Sagittarius daughter.


  1. My horoscope this morning said I was going to read a well written blog today. It was dead on.

  2. Amen, Fred! That man can write. I actually look at astrology a little different. In business, we talk about personality types. Many systems divide the world into 4 types. Astrology is a system of personality types.

    I go now to watch the full moon and dance naked.

  3. For Haiku who wrote "I go now to watch the full moon and dance naked."

    You'll forgive me if I pass on that spectacle . . . but if you invite Scarlett Johannson then you might twist my arm.

  4. And that is a fact, Fred? Thanks for the laugh.