Venus retrograde: Reassessing what you value

These are tense times. Scanning the headlines on the Huffington Post makes me dizzy, anxious, and mildly depressed. Trying to fix the world is important, but perhaps the only way to do that is to look within and fix ourselves, if ‘fix’ is even the right word.

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Pluto in Capricorn: Managed to dodge the flying debris?

Or withstand it at least?

Pluto rumbles into 0° Capricorn (or 30° Sagittarius, depending on who you read) today, marking the end of a thirteen and a half year trawl through Sagittarius. A quick google search will throw up many astrological analyses of the period, the hidden (Pluto) excesses (Sagittarius) of which we are just seeing now. Pluto on the cusp of a new sign marks not just the transition into a new era, but also the overhauling of its entire architecture and decor:

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So, does the world look different yet?


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See you on the other side

Tomorrow, some boys with a very big toy are going to try and find out what we’re ‘actually’ made of.

I wonder if the very effort hasn’t already given us the answer.

Image: CERN Collider from the BBC website. For illustration purposes.

On butterflies and bees

Whoever said that the butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can cause a tidal wave on the other wasn’t talking through his hat. Reality, however, is rather more prosaic.

‘The mobile phone and the bee’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but if this report is to be believed, our love affair with mobile technology may be killing off the bee population, which will eventually kill us off because our crops don’t get pollinated.

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A terrible beauty

The phrase from Yeats’s poem popped into my head as I published that last post. I think one of the impetuses to look away is due to the sheer aestheticism of these pictures — the falling man, the vulture and the child, the naked girl in the Vietnam war, and many others — an aestheticism captured by photography that makes us want to reject it because to say they are beautiful is just unthinkable.

I can’t say it better than Yeats. So I’ll post his poem here about the conflict between the Irish and the British during the Easter uprising of 1916. Here the Wikipedia entry if you’d like to have some background to the poem, which seems to resonate with present times regardless. Suffice it to say that, like the picture of the Falling Man, the terrible beauty born of that tragedy is not least that of Yeats’s poem itself.

Easter, 1916
William Butler Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Jump – leap – fall

I watched a documentary on TV last night called 9/11: The Falling Man, and later read the article on which it was based by Esquire journalist, Tom Junod, with regard to the collective repression surrounding the photographic image of a man jumping from one of the ill-fated Twin Towers, out of fear, desperation, even courage, we will never know.

What struck me in that story is the question that it may have been ‘improper’ for the man (and others like him) to have jumped. I don’t understand. What does it mean to die improperly? What makes one form of dying more acceptable than another? And most of all, what qualifies the living to judge? Maybe when death itself is the cause for pain and suffering to the living. It is not that you have died, but that in dying you have hurt me. Put brutally, and I don’t know how else to put it, we blame the dead for dying.

But even so, I still don’t know why one form of dying is more acceptable than another, why jumping is so terrible, as opposed to enduring the burning flames and the crush of the rubble. What drives a young woman already wracked with grief at the loss of her father to be so enraged by the suggestion that he might have jumped, to refer to the man that did jump as ‘that piece of shit’? How can grief for one and compassion for another be so perceptibly divided? Maybe it has too many associations with jumping ship, with cowardice, with sin. Do these mental associations tell us the truth of why these people jumped, leapt or fell, from the buildings? No, but our need to interpret their motivations says more about us than it does about them.

Maybe it has to do with the picture, not the event itself. The picture confronts us with the act of looking at death, with engaging with a raw and honest truth we’d rather not know about — as Junod puts it, we want the right to look away. We want the right to say we don’t care, and the Falling Man, like Kevin Carter’s photo of the vulture and the starving child, makes us look, not at the horror of the event, but at the horror at realising we didn’t really want to have to look at all.

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