By Michael Jewell
The answers are in the stars, or so they say. Each week, millions of Americans turn to newspapers, magazines and the Internet in search of some speculative insight into their futures from any number of horoscopes, the charts that determine personality types based on astrological phenomenon. Greek and Chinese interpretations are widely consumed, although the latter, a system that pairs symbolic animals with the year of a person’s birth, is often left to paper placemats in my favorite greasy-wok restaurants. By the time I reached my teens, I had memorized the instructions detailing what I like, how I act, who I should marry and who I should avoid. The rabbit tattoo on my arm is partly a wink to the eerily on-point correlation between my placemat personality and my real-life shy, self-effacing nature. Yes, I am aware that it’s all a crock.
I read my Greek horoscope as I happen upon it; I don’t follow any astrologers in particular. My interest is in line with the bored teenage fascination with Ouija boards, a brush with a fun, non-threatening version of the occult. The protestant bulkhead of my youth decried horoscopes as witchcraft. My own humanistic belief keeps me grounded in what I brusquely call “real life.” Horoscopes for me are a fun, non-committal diversion, like they are to most people. Or so I thought.
Many horoscopes give the impression on the sly that they are best taken with a grain of salt, but others speak with great candor about Venus ascending into my fifth house, which
disturbs me. The impression I get from these people is that they are serious about what they are saying in a venue that is an obvious relic, printed next to the crossword where it’s always been. In the multi-faceted world of the supernatural, astrology is among the least credible of the incredible. It’s a millennia of collected pattern recognition. In man’s quest for meaning in the mouth of nothingness, it’s very odd that our ancestors sought a recognizable pattern in the vastest abyss of the night sky. It’s a metaphysical delusion of grandeur squeezed between Snuffy Smith and this week’s Sudoku puzzle.
I live in fear of the idea that more than a dozen people credulously scan the stars for answers. More terrifying is theidea that my temperament is drawn from events beyond my comprehension, let alone my control. My best assurance is that if what I’ve been told about my future is true, in 10 years I’ll be a doctor with seven children, a prospect in the throes of the wildest possible fantasy. But who knows; the stars work in mysterious ways.