REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): My mother never reads my column. In a way that's sad: She doesn't care about what I love to do. In a way that's liberating: I don't have to worry about saying something that might offend her. I mention this, Aries, because I'd like to challenge you to make a number of moves this week in which the influence of your mother plays absolutely no part. That means you declare your independence as much from the mommy you've internalized in your head as from the real person. And it means that you not only free yourself from the urge to seek her approval; you also break away from the compulsion to rebel against her.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): It only took me six months, but I've finally figured out what your guiding symbol for 1996 should NOT be: a $20,000 diamond-studded Cartier watch. As to what it SHOULD be, I'm still not positive, but it's something like a scene of you skinny-dipping in Brazil, or attending a hot fudge sundae party in Thailand, or doing a wild and sacred dance on a TV show in Hungary. This year is not, in other words, a favorable time to lust for the kind of power that money and status bring. It's much smarter to cultivate the sovereignty that's conferred by boosting your capacity for bliss, falling in love with change, and making vision quests to exotic sanctuaries.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): The Russian mystic George Gurdjieff believed that the vast majority of us are virtual sleepwalkers most of the time. We're on automatic pilot, barely able to do more than react in the most mechanical way to the events we encounter. Psychology pioneer Sigmund Freud had an equally dark view. It's the natural state of humanity, he thought, to be neurotic; being out of sync with one's surroundings is quite normal. The reason I'm bringing all this up, Gemini, is that I've rarely seen anyone in such a favorable position to prove both men wrong as you are now.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): If Eskimos could coin 32 words for different kinds of snow and Americans could invent 23 terms for "convenience store," surely you can come up with a hundred varieties of eros -- especially now, when you're practically making love to the smell of the wind and the taste of the sunlight and the sound of the Earth turning. It's as if your libido has tripled in intensity and distributed itself evenly throughout your entire body. It's as if you're always on the verge of turning into the beautiful things you're entranced by.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): I sense that you're agitated, anxious. A flustered voice in the primitive part of your brain keeps roaring, "Stop the insanity!" You fear you're corkscrewing out of control, being stripped of your ability to sustain your share of the common good. Well, have no fear, my sexy worrywart. I'm here to reassure you. The fact is, it's not possible for you to go crazy -- because you've already gone. That's right. You slithered over the magic threshold about eight days ago. Since you've obviously survived all this time, you can plainly see it's not so terrible. And if you can drop your irrelevant protests about sacrificing what you've already surrendered, you may come to actually enjoy your fresh, hot state of emptiness.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I'm sticking to the prophecy I made more than six months ago: For you Virgos, 1996 will be the Year of the Cornucopia. Knowing your penchant for self-denial, I'm sure you're accusing me now, as you did then, of being demonically possessed by optimism. But I refuse to budge. Every time I turn my psychic eye on you, I see stuff like bouquets of tiger lilies, velvet gloves, jars of pristine seashells, fistfuls of sparklers, a cake baked in the shape of a question mark, flasks of holy water, and the key of life accidentally packed inside a Cracker Jack box.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Hey Old Soul, it's time to work on your life story. I don't mean you should write down your exploits. I mean you should pull off a few thrilling adventures that you'll love to regale your grandchildren with years from now. It's the perfect moment for you to incite the epic plot twists you've barely dared to daydream about ... to act as if you're the hero or heroine of a fabulous quest that's about to earn its stature as a mythic tale.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): I figure your life will be guided by one of two aphorisms this week. I'm hoping you choose the second, but you're free to go with whichever sounds most fun. The first adage comes from the fictional character Rambo: "To survive war, you must become war." The second is my own invention: "To survive love, you must become love."

(P.S.: In hopes of coaxing you to opt for my favorite, I'd like to throw in a few more words of wisdom, this time from the philosopher Pascal: "When one does not love too much, one does not love enough.")

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): [Note: Some of you like to believe the universe is a Big Soulless Machine (BSM) that runs itself; the notion of "God" may offend you. Recognizing this, we've substituted BSM for God in the following advice.] The BSM tests you every day of your life. Its exams are sometimes friendly and fun, sometimes appallingly difficult, but they're always designed to stretch your capacities. Every once in a while -- like now -- the BSM demands that you improve your skill at penetrating surface appearances. Big hint: The BSM's preferred way to do this is by sending into your life people and events that are either too good to be true or too bad to be true.

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