I do not believe the gods test us. To be fair, I don’t believe in gods. But if you’re going to subscribe to this idea, that life is testing you, then your life is basically one continuous, never ending test that you can’t be graded on.

There is only the decisions we make and that is the sum totality of our being. I wrote this in my journal after an abrupt shift in my personal life and shortly after, I came across the following quote by Carl Jung. He describes a vision he had when delirious and ill:

jung

I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed away; everything I aimed at or wished for or thought, the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell away or was stripped from me… Nevertheless something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me… I consisted of my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am.” (MDR: 290-291)

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Pluto

It’s funny re-reading what I wrote as transiting Pluto was making its way over my natal sun. I didn’t really know what to expect. Now, I’m beginning to make out the shape of things to come.

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Suite Charlie

Suite Charlie

I recently read an article in The Mountain Astrologer by Kenneth Johnson in which the author claimed Hellenistic astrologers considered the 11th house to be the place of the good daimon while the 12th house was the place of the evil daimon. For Johnson, daimones are described as guides prompting you to follow your individual destiny, even if, in the case of the evil daimon, it pits you against the mores of society. I think if you are going to consider ancient terms, it’s fair to reinterpret them according to modern sensibilities as we are reading the charts of modern people afterall, but it is also fruitful to consider the context in which they were originally used.

The term daimon has a number of translations and it’s important to recognize that it was not a technical term because the ancient Greeks did not have a technical theological system in the way that Christianity has. In addition to watchers or guardians, daimones could be conceived of as “lots” in life, or as the souls of men of the Golden Age, or a way of happiness (eudaimonia). So daimones, as the ancient Greeks would have conceived of them, are not simply guides, as Johnson describes. Daimones are also more closely linked to fortune than the MA article suggests. Good daimones are about flourishing in life, having a good social standing or successful children or robust health; bad daimones are about misfortunes such as your wife dying in childbirth or becoming a slave or being poor.

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Flaneur Society

From The Guide to Getting Lost

Like most busy, urban people, I used to dislike “dead” time. Unproductive time. Waiting in lines. Long commutes. A laundry list of tasks and deadlines hanging over one’s head.

I was waiting on a friend and what began as 20 minutes ballooned into what would be over two hours. In the meantime, I wandered the neighbourhood browsing bookstores and observing the people passing through the streets.

A filthy bundle of baggy clothes curled up on a bench roused itself and I caught the face of its wearer. Instead of the crusty old man I’d expected, it was a beautiful woman with whom I shared a smile.

A small toddler and I made eye contact. I winked at the child, who burst into a giddy grin, like we had just shared an outrageous secret. The parents remained oblivious.

A twentysomething couple in front of a closed store were having an intense and uncomfortable discussion about their relationship, clearly unplanned. Half an hour later, as I walked by them again, they were still at it.

I passed by so many people in those two hours: young and old, rich and poor, languages of all kinds, half of which I didn’t recognize. Some with take out or groceries, others on bikes, a few with fingers glued to smartphones. A woman I’d seen browsing a bookstore walked by with her purchase.

All these people, I thought, will smile, will make mistakes, will give, will hurt and then they’ll die. And I thought that this is where I feel most comfortable. In between destinations, in between stories. From a low vantage, creeping the city’s streets and gutters, going nowhere, nothing to do, it’s easier somehow to grasp how marvellous and complex our world is.

These days, I can will my perception to open and find the world expanded and flooded with light. Living things take on a remarkable salience until they are almost shining, hyper-real, incredibly precious. My once familiar neighbourhood is set aflame and the mere thought of it is enough to move me to tears, as if I am too small to contain the vastness of it all so that it must spill out the eyes. I’m not sure what to do with this vision for I still spend most of my life seeing the world as I did before, as a blind woman, an unredeemed woman. But it seems to me that more and more, my default position is to receive everything.

I feel as if I have spent the past two years on fire, but have only recently acquiesced to my own self-immolation. It’s like I can see the last dregs of my own resistance, once so scalding and opaque, now reduced to a silty, bitter semi-circle, smiling at me from the bottom of the cup I’ve been drinking from. Because I’ve been hard at work, processing, processing, processing the power, digesting its impurities and trying resist the impulse to punt it off on any number of ready victims just to take the pressure off myself.

And now, strangely, it seems there’s nothing left for me to do except let the dregs burn clean and witness this world dissolving into light.

rwanda-20-years

The New York Times Magazine is featuring an article with photographs of Rwandans. Each portrait features “a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.” I think these stories of forgiveness can serve as an example to all of us.

The act of forgiveness may not seem like act that benefits oneself. In fact, when one is so wronged, to forgive sometimes seems like an act of self abnegation, especially in the absence of justice, vengeance or some kind of tipping of the scales closer to even. But really, when you truly forgive, even if it is by degrees, you are getting the fuck over yourself. Getting the fuck over your suffering, your wounds, your losses, your former life, your self. Getting the fuck over the fact that because of someone else, because of no good reason, certain things are, and always will be, hurt or dead to you. Getting the fuck over the obscene contingency of life. Forgiveness is no small task.

“The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.” – Dominique Ndahimana

People with a keening desire for god and transformative spiritual experiences have always made me a little wary. There is a general ignorance regarding how much suffering this relationship can entail. In an article about mysticism, published in the Fall 2013 issue of Parabola, Mirabai Starr writes:

“The year I turned forty, the day my first book came out, a translation of Dark Night of the Soul by the sixteenth-century Spanish saint John of the Cross, my fourteen-year-old daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car crash.

“Suddenly, the sacred fire I had been chasing all my life engulfed me. I was plunged into the abyss, instantaneously dropped into the vast stillness and pulsing silence at which all my favorite mystics hint. So shattered I could not see my own hand in front of my face, I was suspended in the invisible arms of a Love I had only dreamed of. Immolated, I found myself resting in fire. Drowing, I surrendered, and discovered I could breathe under water.

“So this was the state of profound suchness I had been searching for during all those years of contemplative practice. This was the holy longing the saints had been talking about in poems that had broken my heart again and again. This was the sacred emptiness that put that small smile on the faces of the great sages. And I hated it. I didn’t want vastness of being. I wanted my baby back.”

Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross

If you believe in the goodness of god, do you really know what you are talking about? Because life is more complex and contingent than the pat pseudo-spiritual phrases modern, secular culture enjoys trafficking in. Everything happens for a reason. Why don’t you tell that to the mother whose child has just died?

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Since the cardinal grand cross (Jupiter-Pluto-Uranus-Mercury) is back with us again (now that Mars has replaced Mercury), I thought I’d write another post about Pluto’s transits to my chart. By the by, if you had a rough time during the grand cross in early autumn, perhaps you can think about how you’d like to deal with it differently now.

hands

Contrary to a lot of what has been written about this transit, it has not been the most emotionally difficult one that I have experienced. Actually, I would say the overarching emotional tone, despite the challenges presented, is almost one of relief. When faced with what you’re capable of, it’s a good feeling having that knowledge.

It feels good to have nothing to prove to yourself.

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