Brian Foo via

If you missed part one, you can catch it here. These posts form a two part series about what you can look forward to with a Saturn Return.

I recently gave a tarot reading to a friend of mine and she remarked that she was surprized that I was still practicing tarot. That seemed like something the “Old Isthmus” would do. And I thought what a strange comment that was because I hadn’t realized how much I had changed. You’re so practical now, she clarifies. You’re so into these practical things. Joining groups, chairing meetings, all of it. And she’s right; in the past I never concerned myself with ideas about civic engagement, leadership and what not.

The Saturn Return has consolidated a lot of my responsibilities to society. A prosperous, vibrant, tolerant and creative society doesn’t just happen by magic or by virtue of inertia. And contrary to a lot of articles I read, leading a meaningful, happy life is very much a social endeavour that is deeply tied into the participation in the creation of shared meaning. Whenever we talk about happiness or satisfaction in the west, we always focus on the individual. But without shared meaning, shared narratives, shared metaphors that are authentic, we are lost in our own idiosyncratic, solipsistic fantasies or, as is very common, we become easy prey for systems of meaning that are inauthentic, harmful and do not accurately reflect our reality.

I remember having a conversation with the lovely Carol Horton over lunch in which we talked about the need for contemporary narratives and to not disassociate ourselves from our present context. She then teased me for thinking about my social privilege as “icky.” And it is icky in the sense that the great disparity we find in our society is disgusting (and frankly, also shameful!). But icky describes something that you want to be rid of, like something gross that is sticking to you and that you want to wash your hands of immediately. Quite the opposite, wealth disparity, capitalism, decadence, these are all things that I want to dive into, to understand, not simply to criticize it but to approach it with as open a mind as possible.

Capitalism and modernity, these things are not the enemy for me. I have a deep, visceral bond with the world and the narratives they have created. It is no accident that my preferred aesthetics are those that arise out of great wealth disparity: art deco, fascism, etc. The contours of the modern cityscape with its arrogant shining towers, are etched into my soul. Nothing fills my heart with joy and gratitude so easily as the dissonant wailing of an anonymous five alarm response team rushing past me on the street, pealing through my ears. A society in crisis? Bring. It. Motherfuckin. On.

I can’t say that I haven’t struggled with the dichotomy of my own privilege and my champagne tastes versus the socially oriented goals I share with others. The following exchange between Diogenes the cynic and Aristippus, another philosopher (paraphrased and embellished by myself) always helps me put things into perspective:

Aristippus: You know Diog, if you would only learn to kiss up to the king, you wouldn’t have to live on lentils.

Diogenes: You know Stippy, if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn’t have to kiss up to the king.

Zing! Learn to live on lentils, babe.

But more seriously, in leading up to my Saturn Return, I have had to reexamine and reconfigure my own position when it comes to my social responsibilities and break down unhelpful ideas that are ingrained in the N. American individualistic world view. Ideas like:

  • If you are helping others, you must be sacrificing/compromising a part of yourself (win-win situations do exist!);
  • There exists some kind of ethical purity test out there by which you are always going to fall short (a construct I find many middle class liberals often subscribe to);
  • Your contributions to society can be measured and ranked against those of others;
  • And so on

The more I really connect with modernity, the less these dichotomies matter and the more I am drawn to participate. To be active in making difficult choices, to force myself to navigate ethical grey areas, to contribute to meaning making with others. It’s not about do-gooding or making the world a better place, it’s about existing and finding ways to express our humanity under inhumane circumstances. These extreme, radical opportunities are the beauty of modernity. This is why I love the modern world despite all the things in it that cause me rage and sorrow.

There have been many times in the past decade when I’ve felt in turns that this world is hopeless, barren, unforgiving or plentiful, beautiful, perfect. Now I realize it’s none of those things and that it doesn’t really matter.

Saturn has come, and passed. Now, I when I look in the mirror, I can say that I am my own person. And when I look out into the world, I can say that I am very much at home; here, now.