REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): A Sagittarius wants to stretch out in your presence, and if you're willing to say, "Bless this mess," the expansion will be mutual. A Cancer is inclined to share secrets. Can you drop your barge-ahead pose and be more fluidic? As for the Pisceans in your life: They deserve greater credit and recognition; please gaze deeper into their eyes. Is that enough relationship advice for now, Aries? This intimacy stuff is hard work, but practice will make you more perfect. Try this: Put yourself inside the skin of your Libran friends; imagine, as they do, that there's joy and value in seeing both sides of every story.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): In the Greek myth, Perseus resolved to kill Medusa, a monster so hideous that all who looked upon her face were turned to stone. To help Perseus out, the goddess Athena gave him a burnished shield whose surface shone like a mirror. With it he avoided gazing directly at the snake-haired one, focusing instead on her reflection as he sneaked up and pounced. I mention this tale, Taurus, because I suspect you'll have encounters with distinctly unbeautiful influences, and I hope you'll approach them with as much stealth and strategy as our hero. (P.S.: After Perseus dealt the death blow, the winged horse Pegasus sprung fully grown from Medusa's body.)

Gemini (May 21-June 20): According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last July was the hottest month the world has ever experienced since records have been kept. I'm sure that's true, but I'm betting that this October will be a far more sultry, torrid, and incandescent time for those of the Gemini persuasion. As Venus flirts with the Sun in your House of Inflamed Desires for the next few weeks, you'll undoubtedly experience global warming in your pants.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Comic Chris Rock recently revealed the secret of his success in The Cable Guide. His rap was so close to the Zen message I wanted to bestow on you this week ("Don't just do something; sit there") that I decided to let him provide the bulk of the oracle. Study his words of wisdom as you cultivate the high art of creative vegetation. "You've got to kind of live like a bum to be a successful stand-up," Rock said. "But the bigger you get, the less free time you have to let your mind just wander. In order for me to be a good stand-up, I got to pretty much do nothing all day."

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Will a cute little distraction turn into a half-righteous detour? Will an event that lasts five minutes take six months to reveal its full meaning? Will the astrological sign you understand least become a first-class X-factor? Will the monkey on your back offer you a banana? Will a persuasive pretender turn out to be less a pretender than you believed? Will you finally name the secrets you've been hiding from yourself? Answers to these and other not-so-hypothetical questions are looming.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): This message has gone around the world 17 times, and has now come to you for good luck -- but only if you carry out the instructions and DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN. Virgo Pee-wee Herman broke the chain and carelessly trashed his cushy career for the sake of a few minutes of cheap thrills. In order to preserve the chain, you must do the following: Pledge that you will try to increase your income by doing what you love, serving humanity, and staying true to your ideals. DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN!

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): For your birthday I would love to give you an emerald green parachute, ruby slippers, a canoe covered with jewels, five bouquets of tiger lilies and one of organic broccoli, a donkey clown pinata full of crickets, a protective gargoyle lifted from the Chartres Cathedral, one of Jimi Hendrix's holy finger bones, a strawberry chocolate cake baked in the shape of a question mark, a DNA map drawn up by the Human Genome Project, fistfuls of sparklers, a bottle of holy water from the River Jordan, photos of lightning on a giant poster, a refrigerator magnet cast in the likeness of the Dalai Lama, a digitally remastered CD of the Big Bang, and the key of life accidentally placed inside a Cracker Jack box.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Scientists have confirmed that Hell really exists! Or so the Weekly World News reported recently. It seems that during a deep drilling project in Siberia, geologists came upon a broiling underworld from which squalled the howls of tormented souls. This news was mildly comforting to me, as I've always imagined that an actual physical inferno might be preferable to the illusory hell I sometimes put myself through with my tortured thoughts. What about you, Scorpio? What's your least agonizing version of the bottomless pit? The stars suggest that's the place you should go to in order to negotiate the sticky business ahead.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I'm having a vision of you as the honored guest at an outdoor banquet. In attendance is everyone in your life who has ever liked you or thought you were cool. After a delectable dinner and a series of speakers who praise you and thank God for your presence on Earth, the person who understands you best leads the crowd in a "love bomb": a prayerful outpouring of adoring vibes directed at you for a full hour. Now I'd like you to flesh out this meditation, Sagittarius, and make it the fantasy you fall asleep by for the next week. It's high time for you to magnetize yourself to receive all the support you deserve.

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