lexlingua (lexlingua) wrote,
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lexlingua

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The Trouble with Horoscopes: To Believe or Not To Believe

Horoscopes, how much do you believe in them?

Yesterday, a popular astologer in a magazine said I would lose something. I spent the whole of that day worrying that I was forgetting something, maybe my prized iPad would get stolen, my important office docs would go missing due to a technical snag, maybe I would lose contact with an old friend. The possibilities of loss are as endless as that of gain. Guess what, I spent the whole day -- not by choice, though, I must clarify -- cooped in worry at my desk in the office (and it was a particularly long day too). So what did I really lose? My peace of mind, what else? Like one of Macbeth's witches, my horoscope became a self- prophesying disaster.

Its not a new question, really. How much should you or can you rely on horoscopes, answers ranging from never at all to frequently, even on a daily basis. To all of that, a cautionary disclaimer is added by horoscope authors that a lot depends on your "natal" or birth charts. As an Indian, astrology is particularly relevant to me, since so many of our parents rely on the "kundali" for marriages (marriages are made in heaven), and those, from what I understand, rely heavily on natal charts and rising stars and what not. But for popular ("pop") horoscopes -- i.e. the horoscopes that are generally published in newspapers and magazines -- how does one measure their unpredictability or reliability? How precise is the science of astrology? It is a "science" after all. Right?

A few months ago, I became heavily addicted to them. Could be because of my desire to know what my uncertain future would hold, could be banal ennui, could be both. So, first I read my stars, then those of my family membes, then I tried to decipher my friends' stars for them. They all seemed to have the same lucky or unlucky dates, though the planets in those twelve houses kept shifting (Or did they? Can't remember that well.). But what I am trying to say is that what worked for the Virgo also worked for the Leo, and was also foretold for Cancer. Is that common? Is pop horoscope just a general trend after all, a common horoscope for all the 12 Sun Signs? So a good day for one Sign means a good day for all Signs? Which means a good day just keeps getting better and better, as it is multiplied by everyone's good cheer? Conversely, does a bad day go downhill for everyone??? Damn.

A closely linked theme is that of destiny and fate. Are you of the school of thought that man controls and maketh his own destiny, or do you think one's fate is inescapable? Some theories even predict that the timing of one's death is also programmed in the DNA, and is hence, also 'fated'. Like Milton's theories on predestination, can horoscopes help us beware of and escape disasters, or are they just meant for coping better with what might come? Can you avoid what the stars foretell, or can you merely manage the aftermath on an emotional/ mental scale? I am in favour of the latter, because Fate often feels like a bitter, dangerous concept: no matter how hard you try, you will not evade the consequences that have been pre-ordained for you.

Alright. So that just kills your motivation in a way to do better, if all you'll ever do is run into an impasse till the "right time" comes along.

For instance, there's something called a Mercury Retrograde. During a retrograde, communications suffer, particularly digital ones. In January 2016 apparently, the retrograde starts for about a month, so companies should avoid launching websites etc. What is it's an absolute imperative for business, and you absolutely cannot wait for the retrograde to get over? Do you launch the website any way -- and be doomed to fail? Well, as Isaiah Berlin says, "We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail irreparable loss."

I have had some freaky readings of the stars. Sometimes horoscopes, vaguely worded though they may be, can uncannily hit on the nail's head. From predicting a job offer to times of possible workplace conflict, from success at pregnancy to being careful of backstabbers -- it really makes you think. Do my stars really say that? Because of an alignment of Saturn in Sagittarius, a face off between Pluto and Uranus, or because of Neptune clouding the waters, can your life really change?

Most importantly, are the stars predicting your life, or affecting your life? Are the planets soothsayers merely, or do their rotations and revolutions (and even gravitational pull?) actually have repercussions on shaping our lives? I think that there is a critical difference between foretelling and formulating, both equally worrisome, again linked to that whole Fate discussion earlier. Spooky. Very, very spooky.

In one of the Hindu scriptures, once a great king referred to the astrologer who foretold that a specific disaster would befall the kingdom. The hotheaded brother of the king asked whether this disaster could be averted but he was answered in the negative. The king's brother grew angry and asked then whether there was a point to knowing the fault in our stars after all, because ignorance is bliss. The king smiled and said, that differs from perspective to perspective, but all in all, astrology warns us, and forewarned is forearmed. At the end of the session, all parties came up with a worst scenario strategy and left the room feeling grim but determined.

So. About Horoscopes. What do you think, to believe or not to believe? And once you have started believing, it may be difficult to stop. Separating the chaff can be difficult and tricky, and so too is the process of retrieving parts from popular horoscopes that are accurate predictions from those that are vague and superficial.

Tags: essays, foodforthought

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