FREE WILL ASTROLOGY: Wednesday, October 17, 2002

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Picture yourself carrying a gift of freshly cut orchids through windswept city streets to someone you adore. Imagine what it feels like to hold the delicate stems in your hand. You grip them firmly enough to keep them from falling, yet gently enough not to crush them. When a stiff breeze threatens, you pull the blooms protectively toward your chest. The mood I just invoked, Aries, should be the spirit you bring to every one of your important experiences in the coming week.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Thou shalt embrace the big bad contradictions, baby. Thatís your first commandment in the coming week. The second commandment is this: Thou shalt tickle the crazy-making incongruities. Third: Thou shalt give hickeys to the mysterious ambiguities. Fourth: Thou shalt give your most intimate, seductive attention to the slippery paradoxes. Commandment five: Thou shalt say sexy prayers of gratitude for the contradictions, incongruities, ambiguities, and paradoxes that are making you so much wiser and deeper and cuter.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Every August, the temporary city of Burning Man sprouts in the Nevada desert, a mix of festival, outdoor museum, performance art, and survivalist challenge populated by 25,000 freaks. Nowhere Iíve ever been is more like utopia for me. And yet this year, I stayed home and threw myself into orientation week at my daughterís new school. Rather than dancing Ďtil dawn under the Milky Way with slippery hordes of blissed-out, half-naked bohemians, I sat on hard chairs during long, earnest meetings about how to educate our children. I wasnít motivated by a sense of sacrifice in this, but simply opted for a different kind of pleasure. Youíll soon have a comparable choice, Gemini.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): For much of his career, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill was renowned for work that was well grounded, lucidly crafted, and formal in style. But while assembling his sprawling mystical epic, ďThe Changing Light of Sandover,Ē he used a ouija board to solicit the input of several archangels and the spirits of dead writers W. H. Auden and Gertrude Stein. Make Merrill your patron saint for the coming weeks, Cancerian. Let him inspire you to push beyond whatís worked so well for you before. Cash in on the risks that your success has earned you. Without sacrificing any of your powers of discrimination, expose yourself to provocative voices from outside your usual sphere of influence.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Happy Disinhibition Week, Leo! Here are a few of the myriad ways you might choose to observe this liberating holiday: 1. Stop denying yourself any pleasure that would be good for you to indulge. 2. Dissolve taboos whose protection has become unnecessary. 3. Rethink your reasons for placing certain experiences off-limits. 4. Take a trip youíd never have dreamed of. 5. Extend compassion to an aspect of yourself youíve always abhorred. 6. Open your mind to a position or idea youíve long rejected.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Iíve been working on a do-it-yourself manual for the new ďJust Drop ItĒ school of psychotherapy. In the introduction, Iíll tell you to procure a cheap briefcase and fill it up with a hundred pounds of rocks. On page two Iíll suggest that you imagine the briefcase is stuffed with emotional baggage you canít seem to let go of, memories you love to hate, and frustrations you never tire of complaining about. The third page will insinuate that maybe you should actually carry this terrible burden around with you everywhere you go for an entire week. On the fourth and last page, Iíll offer the simple, elegant cure: Just drop it!

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): If I were to make a fictional movie based on your life right now, Iíd include vignettes of you tracking down a stolen batch of plutonium, discovering a cache of 1,850-year-old gold chalices in a remote cave, and serving as the entertainment director-cum-spiritual advisor on a submarine cruising beneath the Arctic ice cap. Those fictional events convey a sense of the shadowy successes unfolding beneath the surface of your daily life.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Years ago, my friend Eva went through hard times while living in the Sinai region of Egypt. Her Bedouin husband had turned violent, and she got no help from the rest of the nomadic tribe. Fleeing into the wilderness, she became almost feral in her struggle to survive and finally climbed Mount Sinai where Moses had brokered the Ten Commandments. Bramble-haired, starving, dancing without rest, she chanted the names of God for three days. At last she received a divine vision of sanctuary ó a certain house on a certain street in Dhahab, a city on the Red Sea. She made her way there and was taken in by an old couple who nursed her back to sanity. The turning point youíre at, Scorpio, isnít as drastic as Evaís, but itís enough to warrant an act of similar profound drama.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Among all the ordeals youíve had to endure in the past, Sagittarius, a few have been more valuable than others. The time you were used as collateral in a high-stakes gamble by a fantasy-prone trickster, for instance, dramatically boosted your emotional IQ. You got similar benefits from that bogus savior who, as it turned out, never saw you for who you really were. Now itís time to enjoy the educational riches gained through those previous torments. They guarantee that your next ordeal will be like being forced to eat one too many bowls of ice cream.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The German religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) was fond of referring to the faculty of reason as a ďdamned whore.Ē He believed it got in the way of faith and prevented us humans from knowing God directly. Though I regard my ability to think as one of my most prized assets, I do share some of Lutherís mistrust. Like all of us, I have corrupted my logical mind by using it to disguise and rationalize my emotional biases. Can you imagine being able to suspend every last preconception in order to evaluate each situation with true objectivity? Itís almost impossible, but you can make great strides toward this goal in the coming weeks.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Can you pat yourself on the back and kiss yourself on the lips and whisper sweet nothings in your own ear ó even as you kick yourself in the butt? I hope so, Aquarius. You need large doses of praise and encouragement along with moderate amounts of gentle criticism, and youíre the only one I trust to pull it all off with just the right touch. Hereís a suggestion: Use just one foot, not both, to apply the motivating force to your posterior, and donít even think about doing it until after youíve showered yourself with gifts.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): More than ever, Pisces, you need to honor your dark fluidity and melancholy sweetness. You owe it not only to yourself but to the whole world to nurture the part of you that resembles the aurora borealis. To aid and abet this work, I suggest you memorize the following poem by your Russian soul sister Marina Tsvetaeva: ďWhat shall I do, by nature and trade/ a singing creature/ as I go over the bridge of my enchanted visions, that cannot be weighed in a/ world that deals only in weights and measures?Ē

Homework: Tell what you miss most about the person you used to be and what youíre going to do to resurrect it.

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