When I moved to Texas two years ago, to a small apartment complex in San Antonio between two mega churches adorned with signs like "He determines your path, it's up to you to follow" I worried I would not fit in. Only a few days in my new home, a neighbor who was drinking a can of beer as he walked his dog approached me to introduce himself (yes, a version of this scene came up in a piece of fiction). We exchanged few words of introduction before he asked me if I had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my own personal savior, and when I told him I was agnostic, he kindly explained that I would come around, we each come around in our own time. I nodded and said that anything was possible, and we parted ways politely as I thought to myself, "This man's head is in the clouds." From that day forward, the dude made me uncomfortable because every time I saw him, he preached at me.
When I began working at a local community college, I met who is now one of my most valued friends. We were both writers, which gave us easy rapport. We began a small writing group and as we began to hang out more, she revealed her fascination with Astrology, explaining that she was a water sign, an easy friend for firey signs like myself. She asked if she could do my chart, and when I hesitated, she said it was just for fun.
My birthday is August 16th, I am a Leo. My firey nature causes me to act, sometimes act out, and it gives me a certain drive that I must be careful to reign in from time to time, she said. She told me I was destined to travel and use creative expression as a means toward spiritual enlightenment. I said, "OK..."
When I write, I don't think rationally. I just go for it. In other aspects of life, I try to plan and make informed decisions before I act. In writing, I simply dive in, head first. So, I reasoned, my chart was believable enough, though still vague enough to dismiss as blanket forecasting. Nonetheless, I became interested--in a rational way, mind you--in Astrology, namely to figure out why my friend seemed so interested. She seemed, I thought, a person with her two feet on the ground, and the way she studied the subject intrigued me.
Astrology and Astronomy were not always exclusive fields. In the time of Aristotle, there was nothing fantastical or short of scientific to the study of stars, even for the purpose of forecasting. "There are cycles we cannot deny," my friend once said, upon returning from a weekend Astrology retreat, in which she spent two nights watching the stars and discussing the science behind Astrology in New Mexico with a group of like-minded practitioners.
"That's true, but why do you think you can predict anything based on a system that leaves so much room for error. Astrology doesn't take into account the conditions a person grows up in, it doesn't reflect genetics or psychological shifts, evolution or even how a person's spirituality may change their way of living." I said all this at once, the challenging statement was one that had been festering and growing since she'd read my chart months before. I had found myself beginning to make connections (I sit in a room and no one takes the chair next to me until all others are occupied--this is not a personal thing, it's because you are a fire sign, my friend had said, people respond to your energy. It's intimidating, even if you do not appear to be).
My friend is a water sign, one who will, according to Astrology, adapt easily to change and balance out fixed signs like fire with an open mind and easy-going spirit. She tells me we were destined to get along. Out of sheer rational curiosity, I have begun to study the Astrology with my friend, and although I do not fully accept it as a science, there are undeniable patterns. The fire and water, earth and air signs all have tells, and it's almost comical how often my friend will whisper a person's sign to me upon meeting them. If the person seems good humored, she'll ask him his birthday, and maybe it's luck but she's been right each time.
Whether or not Astrology is an outdated and often gimicky science (see your daily horoscope in the paper), there is an undeniable correlation to the patterns of human behavior and the alignment of stars. I am not saying I'll get my chart read again, nor am I saying that I won't. I'm not saying that Astrology should still be considered an area of science that is indistinguishable from Astronomy, but I will say that I've come to realize that rationalism is only so helpful. In many ways, what I considered faulty about the notions of destiny and emotional drive is wrong with the stance of utter rigidity--thinking I can research any one thing enough so that it only has one side. The world isn't that simple, and so when I see my neighbor now, who still tells me about his personal relationship with God every chance he gets, I don't feel so uncomfortable. I just listen because their is some basis for every belief. Whatever balance there is between fire and water, there must be between air and earth as well. And as a person who chooses not to define my own belief system, who am I to say otherwise?