Dictionary.com defines "Astrology" as "the study that assumes and attempts to interpret the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs."
Take a moment and think about what that means. Essentially, the way that the stars and planets are aligned or misaligned and the various ways they behave over time somehow invariably have a direct impact on who we are and the sequences of events we are destined to expereience during our individual lifetimes.
On the surface, that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, at least not when taken at its most basic level. After all, how could such cosmic events play an integral role in shaping our earthly trajectories?
For the longest time, this is how I perceived astrology and the "phenomenon" of reading one's horoscope in an interminable search for answers to the big questions in life. Naturally, most people's chief concerns lie with their professional future and, perhaps more importantly, their love life.
I never put much stock in horoscopes and rarely, if ever, took them seriously. I've always preferred the notion that we're in charge of our own destiny vs. the concept that our lives are pre-destined and our personality is largely dependent on which day we're born and other celestial influences.
Part of this undoubtedly results from my decision several years ago not to align myself with organized religion. Though I was raised Catholic, I gradually felt myself growing apart from any established faith and finally decided to take a more open-minded approach to the world, truly giving myself the opportunity to explore what I believe in.
So many events that go on in this world seem haphazard and purposeless that often I've felt it foolish to put faith in the fact that there is some all-encompassing entity, whether a religious deity, the movement of the stars and planets or some all-powerful Force controlling everything (yes, that is a Star Wars reference... lol).
Yet, the course of my life in the six years or so since I have really begun to overcome the social anxiety that crippled me in my youth and take control of the direction and shape of my life has caused my firm stance against the concept of fate to loosen somewhat.
I'm still not convinced of the existence of a deity, since I believe that there is absolutely no justifiable reason to have blind faith in any of the thousands of organized approaches to religion that all claim to be the one true way to salvation, nirvana or whatever they decide to call the state of actualization that resolves in a happy ending after death. On the other hand, I do not contend that there isn't some sort of god out there, as such a bold statement would be just as hypocritical as accepting the existence of one without tangible proof.
Instead, I have come to embrace a more spiritual (and decidedly less religious) view on life and how it plays out. The course of events that I've endured throughout my 20s has really helped to open my eyes to the fact that maybe - just maybe, mind you - things happen with a greater purpose. Whether this is the machinations of some incarnation of God or simply the way the planets are orbitting is immaterial at this point.
The bottom line is that I don't see world as a simple, random sequence of events. In many ways, it feels like my life has been building to the point that I'm at now, and many of the struggles and obstacles I've gone through have served to enhance my character and prepare me for what lay ahead.
Astrology has admittedly become a part of the picture too. I proudly identify myself as a Cancer and was astonished to learn just how spot-on my astrological sign describes me (http://www.astrology.com.au/12signs/cancer.asp). Which brings me to the events of the last week...
Like many people my age, I spend far too much time entrapped on the Internet addiction commonly known as Facebook, and I found it both humorous and entertaining just how up-in-arms people were over the possibility that the structure of the zodiac calendar might change. It was as if the prospect of shifting to another sign would change the fiber of their being, forcing an involuntary personality transplant.
Most shocking of all, I was surprised that I was among those who jumped at the defense of my own zodiac sign. Why, really, should any of us take the astrological interpretation of ourselves so seriously? When it comes right down to it, we decide who we are and where our lives go, right?
It is this question that led me to select the quote that leads in to this blog entry. Having been on both sides of this belief (that life does and does not have some mysterious master plan), I am slowly reaching the conclusion that it's no so much a question of freedom of choice vs. fate but instead one of perspective.
All of those people (myself included) who were so quick to assert that their zodiac sign has informed the direction of the their life have made a conscious decision to believe. Not in the existence of a God or that the course of their lives is already laid out before them but instead in the idea that their life is heading... somewhere.
The way I see it, we can either accept the fact that life is a meaningless, purposeless, directionless journey.... OR we can view it as a learning experience, a road that's leading us exactly where we're supposed to be. It's up to us to decide where we end up and to learn from the lessons that life consistently places before us.
And yes, sometimes we may turn to outside forces, such as astrology, to give us another perspective on things or simply to to reaffirm that we're on the right path. But I believe, and I believe most of my fellow Facebookers are with me on this, that following something like the zodiac calendar is nothing more than a way to keep ourselves focused on the big picture.
Very few people in this world are completely at peace and happy with where they are in their life, and we can either bitch and moan about how pissed off we are and wallow in the bottomless pit of self-pity, drowning our way throughout the subsequent years of our inconsequential existence OR we can suck it up, adjust our life to the way we want it to be and pick ourselves up when life brings us down.
Like this post's quote above says, we are really not so much bound by fate but by the way we choose to live our lives, and nothing - not God, not astrology, nor any other outside forces - should sway us from remaining on the straight and narrow path towards self-actualization.
Years ago, I received a message (in a fortune cookie of all places) that has always stayed with me: "You cannot love life until you live the life you love." Stay focused on that, and listen to what the world is telling you. Follow the path as such, and you'll be amazed at just how easily the pieces of your life fit together. Almost as if it was fated to be so... ;)