REAL ASTROLOGY for an unreal world

Aries (March 21-April 19): Pet peeves: superstitious wafflers who believe all astrology columns are divine revelations; logic addicts who dismiss all astrology columns as trash; overly cautious earth signs that misinterpret the do-it-now exuberance of Aries folks as carelessness; and Aries who have pioneering ideas but don't lay the groundwork necessary to enlist other people's help in carrying out those ideas.

Pet glees: optimists who're equally respectful of the scientific and mystical modes of thinking; realists who have a sixth sense about when their Aries friends' brainstorms are bogus and when they're brilliant; and Aries who've given up trying to change other people and have taken charge of changing themselves.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Taurus writer Randall Jarrell once said, “A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times; a dozen times and he is great.” I think this standard can be applied to many other pursuits besides poetry. To excel in your field, you have to be willing to hang out where the energy is most electric. But more than that. You also have to work constantly to keep your chops up so that on those rare occasions when sudden inspiration becomes available, you have the skill to capture it in a useable form.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because I see a whole mess of lightning bolts headed your way.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): I have been meditating on your pressing questions, O Seeker. I have tuned into the wrenching riddles that are disturbing your heart, and I am ransacking my meager wisdom for some morsel of truth that might calm you. But what I am beginning to suspect, O Befuddled One, is that any answers I might uncover will do you no good at all. What you really need, I think, are not answers to your pressing questions, but better questions; more clearly articulated questions; more ruthlessly honest questions. Dig deeper, please.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Where will you be at noon on January 1, 2000? What dream will you be living? Whom will you have become? What or whom will you be serving? Will you look back at the period May 4-May 20, 1995, and mourn, “If only I had launched my Five-Year Master Plan at that ripe astrological moment …” Or will you, on that exultant day, instead be crowing, “I can hardly believe that I have become president of my own life.”

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Ants could literally be crawling in your pants even as you swing the deal of the year. An itchy little nemesis may stage an uprising against you about the same time Very Important People are realizing how wonderful you really are. But I don't mean to imply that pests will sabotage your triumphs. At worst, they'll cause a rash that'll have you scratching yourself inelegantly while standing in the winner's circle.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): To observe the arrival of your dreamy season, our staff has awarded you three honorary titles. You've been selected as: 1) Most Likely to Benefit from Wandering in Wild Places; 2) Most in Need of Inspiration From Serendipitous Adventures; 3) Most Likely to Have a Wish Come True If the Wish Is Made Upon a Falling Star.

Ready to get started on living up to these labels? Try this. Saunter up to the top of a hill or a roof in the early morning hours of May 5, and settle in for an hour of sky watching and rambling fantasies. The Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks that night, bringing you a falling star to wish upon about every two minutes.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): On May 6, 1626, your fellow Libran Peter Minuit wangled the bargain of the millennium, purchasing Manhattan Island for a few trinkets worth about $24. Almost exactly 369 years later, you're poised to wheel and deal with a similar vengeance. Let me suggest, though, that you demonstrate a little more generosity than Minuit. You don't have to be a greedy sleazebag or put your karmic credit in jeopardy in order to score the best value of the year.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Your quest is at a fork. In the next few weeks it'll split off in one of two directions. To the right lies dark obsession — a raging, compulsive chase like Captain Ahab's pursuit of Moby Dick. To the left a more graceful hunt beckons, more in the style of Sir Galahad's devotional search for the Holy Grail.

Choose the right fork and your quarry will be beastly, primordial, impossible. Choose the left fork and your quarry will be magical, transformative, earthy.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): As a Zero Work activist, I'm tempted to dare you to quit your job and devote yourself full-time to creating the life you've always dreamed of. Just think: You could wake up each morning with nothing else to do besides figuring out how to make money doing what you love to do.

But to give you advice like that, I'm afraid, would be irresponsible. You may not have the luxury of living in poverty for 15 years, as I did while I followed my bliss until it paid off. So you're not going to catch me recommending that you quit your job this week. But could I at least talk you into making your job a bouncier, zippier, fizzier experience?

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): What love is not: Love is not a lottery, so don't gamble on long shots. Love is not a Calvin Klein ad, so don't let sterile idols seduce you away from flawed but fecund realities. Love is not a low-maintenance machine, so work on its upkeep at least as hard as you do at your job.

What love is: Love is a mindfuck, but that's good, considering the fact that your number one erotic organ is your imagination. Love is a game in which the rules keep changing, so stay loose enough to anticipate the new rules even as you master the current ones. Love is an alchemical laboratory where you can uncover secrets about yourself that you've always tried to hide, so experiment, baby, experiment.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): The following space has intentionally been left blank, so don't worry that you're missing something:

The beautiful emptiness you just experienced was brought to you by Kamikaze Silence, my patented new therapy. Unique among all the “talking cures” that dominate psychology, Kamikaze Silence celebrates the unappreciated truth that sometimes it's healing to just shut up. I'm sure you'll agree that your world is increasingly crammed with so much noise and commotion that often you can't even hear yourself think. With Kamikaze Silence, you're able to create a brief, intense, sanctuary of sweet nothingness at any time, no matter how rabid your surroundings. Ready for more? For the next minute, wrap yourself luxuriously in the delicious protection of Kamikaze Silence.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): To honor the cryptic, epigrammatic spirit of your week ahead, here are a few pithy formulas.

Whispers carry more clout than shouts; candles shed more light than flamethrowers.

Short trips may change everything forever; long journeys may shift things just a little, and only temporarily.

Candid confrontations could lead to quagmires; tricks, feints and bluffs could spark gemlike solutions.

The “simple facts” are rife with lies by omission; only the messy contradictions are trustworthy.

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