REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): By far the greatest mathematician of ancient times was Archimedes. He calculated a close approximation of pi, designed the catapult and compound pulley, and discovered fundamental laws of theoretical mechanics. With the pioneering energy and rigorous pursuit of truth you're demonstrating these days, you remind me a little of Archimedes. And I wouldn't be surprised if you had a breakthrough comparable to the outburst he was famous for. While sitting in the bath, he was visited by an eruption of inspiration that solved a problem he'd been working on for a long time. He was so thrilled he jumped up and ran into the streets naked, shouting out, "Eureka!" -- Greek for "I have found it!"

Taurus (April 20-May 20): The evidence pouring in is growing more puzzling by the hour. I sense you're on the verge of a rather spectacular befuddlement. In light of this, I believe it'll be unwise -- indeed, impossible -- for you to make decisions using tried-and-true formulas. You may even have to come up with approaches so novel that they seem cracked to the casual observer. That's why I feel confident in leaving you with this gem from that Taurus Zen master, former baseball player Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Some people regard me as more of a cheerleader and motivator than an impartial reporter. They think I downplay the pain and embellish the gain that awaits you. There's a grain of truth in that. Now and then I may imply that paradise is nigh when in fact the suburbs of paradise are a more realistic goal. But I view my optimism as a healing counterbalance to the absurdly exaggerated doses of discouraging news you hear almost everywhere else you go. Having said all that, I want you to know that I am not hyperbolizing in the least when I tell you you're now very close to gaining a strategic new advantage over an ancient frustration.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Your assignment this week, should you choose to accept it, is to read Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Ugly Duckling. As you may know, it's about the misadventures of a young swan that mistakenly believes it's a freakish, unlovable duck. I'm not saying there's an exact analogy between your recent history and the ugly duckling's, but I'm sure you'll resonate with the climax of the story, when the bird finally realizes its true nature, and no longer strains to compare itself to an utterly inappropriate ideal.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): You'll be a lightning rod this week. That means of course you should not stroll on golf courses or climb tall trees during thunderstorms. On the other hand, you should do what you can to get struck by electrifying bolts of insight about the future. With a little luck, some of you may even have conversion experiences akin to the temporarily blinding vision that presto-chango'd Saul of Tarsus into the Apostle Paul. With a lot of luck, a few of you may get the same result without being cast into darkness for even an hour.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): It's not a good week to ask for gifts you don't really need, or steal things that already belong to you, or fake any kind of emotion whatsoever. It's also not such a great time to let old memories of romantic combat influence your decisions about love. However, it's an excellent moment to check out a book by psychologist Lorraine Lafferty called Perfectionism: A Sure Cure for Happiness.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): When I first started in the business of writing a horoscope column, I chose Jeane Dixon as my anti-role model. Her use of astrology was everything I didn't want mine to be: obsessed with celebrities, expressed with unimaginative language, saturated with right-wing politics, and pandering to her readers' greed and narcissism. I didn't hate her. On the contrary, I loved her for providing such a lucid symbol to define myself in opposition to. I urge you, Libra, to launch a search for your own reverse mentor. The astrological aspects say the time is right to formulate a clear and vigorous picture of what you don't want to become.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): It may seem wildly out of place in an urbane column like this to talk about "false gods." Isn't that a term better suited to the hysterical infomercials of fundamentalist Christians? Let's just say that I'm giving it a different meaning here. The false gods I'm referring to are the cheap idols and fetid fetishes and stingy obsessions that don't deserve the devotion you've been showering on them. I say unto you, Scorpio, that it's high time to sweep them off their pedestals and replace them with truly godlike icons that'll bring out more of the best in you.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I invite you to write a letter to the person you'll be one year from today. Tell this Future You that you've taken a sacred vow to accomplish three special desires by then. Say that these desires are more important to you than anything else in your life. Describe them. Brainstorm about everything you'll do to make them happen. Draw pictures or compose collages that capture your excitement about them. Promise that you're ready, for their sake, to sign your passion on the bottom line. When you've finished this letter, mail it, along with a self-addressed stamped letter, to PO Box 150247, San Rafael, CA 94915. One year from the day I receive it, I'll mail it back to you.

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