LINDSEY FRANCES PELLINO
I first got in to astrology semi-ironically, one of those “it’s fun but I don’t believe in it” people. In conversation, I would rattle off my placements – Virgo Sun, Virgo moon, Cancer rising, Leo Mercury, Virgo Venus – without much provocation. “What does that mean?,” my unwitting listener would ask. “I don’t know,” would be my response, with a shrug of the shoulders. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,” says my spirit guide Kurt Vonnegut (Scorpio Sun, Leo Moon, Sagittarius Rising).
Part of me knows it’s nonsense, but part of me really wants to believe, grasping at the straws of coincidence, or accuracy. If you know me, and you know my chart, I think many of my close friends and family would agree with my aggressively Virgo personality. But on the other hand, I’m sure there are plenty of Virgos in this world who aren’t anal-retentive, self-flagellating wannabe martyr perfectionists. Fifteen year old me would laugh her ass off (or more accurately “lmao XD”) at my current, superstitious self. I tried to be a very Vulcan and Spartan teenager. I prided myself on putting logic on a pedestal. My atheism made me smarter than everyone else – I had figured it all out, the universe was a cosmic wasteland of random particles and stupid humans. There’s even a lovely photograph of me with the “famous” Rockville town center atheist pillar, that gets resurrected every Christmas along with a nativity scene and menorah, in my hometown’s downtown “strip.”
I think a lot of that intellectual posturing was to make me seem cooler to all the internet boyfriends I accumulated throughout high school. Not going to lie, I was a bit of a teenage neckbeard. It’s hard to parse out how much of that was authentic, and how much of it was performative Not Like Other Girls™. Being logical and cold was the antithesis of being emotional, passionate, and – god forbid – vulnerable. The latter three were things I had an abundance of (thanks, Cancer rising). But I didn’t want that – I wanted to be a warrior of truth, reality, and flying spaghetti monsters. I wanted to be the smartest person in the room, the Most Right.
Despite the cringey origins of my beliefs, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that the universe is, ultimately, meaningless. There are no rhymes, reasons, explanations to the random configuration of atoms and energy. Sure, there are laws like gravity, entropy, and the speed of light, but the laws themselves are technically random too. Why have one set of laws vs another? If there is such a reason, for the laws or for existence, it is simply beyond the scope of human understanding, always lurking behind the curtain, rubbing its Lovecraftian tentacles together in triumph after having cleverly duped its creation.
This is a precarious place to be. It’s stark and mind-numbing, and it launched me headfirst into a specific “nothing matters” brand of hedonism and self-destruction. It makes the suffering of the human species all the more tragic – there’s no prize at the end of the tunnel, let alone a light. It doesn’t help that capitalism is the most isolating, treacherous system devised in the history of the world, leaving each of us to fend for ourselves as scrabbling individuals while an elite few snort cocaine and diamonds on their yachts. There is no sense of true community, because we each of us are pitted against one another in a fight for resources.
Back to astrology. With a seemingly random universe, with neither hope nor despair being more sensible than the other, on a planet rife with misery, with other humans who are being forced by capitalism to exist as pillars in the dark – astrology is one small way to coalesce the disparity into unity. It gives us a much sought-after framework for existence. Who am I? Why am I like this? The universe says “no clue,” the planet says “beats me,” fellow Earthlings say “give me your lunch money.” But astrology says “let me show you the way.” It’s part therapist – telling you what’s holding you back from your full potential, and illuminating problems you haven’t been able to properly articulate. Shit feels like it’s going bananas? Check to see what’s in retrograde.
Millenials are one of the least religious generations to date, with Gen Z even more agnostic than us. We do not have cultural structures to provide us with meaning or reason. We don’t trust the government, we don’t trust corporations, and we sure as hell don’t trust churches. We see a world on fire – fascism, racism, xenophobia, environmental and economic collapse, a live action/CGI Rugrats revival that nobody wanted nor asked for. We see ourselves as free-wheeling agents of little import. Is it any wonder that in our search for meaning, we’ve turned to something as silly, performative, and “out there” as astrology?
Our proclivities are ironic-turned-earnest – vinyl pressings of Weezer’s cover of Africa by Toto sold out in mere minutes (and I will pay way too much for a copy once someone resells one on Discogs). The humble fanny pack transformed from “omg this is so ugly I love it” to the most practical way to carry our goods. We wear mom jeans, have hideous bowl cuts and mullets, make purposefully ugly memes. With the absurdity of the world and the horrors of existence, like our dadaistic foremothers before us, we cling to the tacky, inane, and nonsensical. It makes just as much sense to us as certain Christian beliefs, selling plasma for college loans, and tortuous corporate team building rituals. I’m not surprised we turn to a somewhat cheesy belief system, something fun, steeped in 70s “what’s your sign” mustachioed and hairy chested v-neck gaudiness. How much of it is performative, and how much of it is authentic? Is it worth splitting the hairs? It explains so much about our friends and our relationships, answers we aren’t given from any other avenue. The bad boy with BDE that you just can’t rid yourself of? Of course he’s a Scorpio. Oh, she just jetted off to Italy for another week? Sagittarius. Your sister asking you to choose between thirty-five identical selfies for her #glowup instagram post? Duh – Leo.
Depending on your perspective, astrology also lends itself toward determinism. Ultimately, for me, that’s one of the drawing forces – it relieves us of the burden of free will. There is a whole separate rant/spiel I could go on about how free will is an illusion and incompatible with the laws of the universe. But I’ll spare you of that for now, and simply make the point that astrology doesn’t just bind us to a reality, it connects us. It’s not only making a pattern and shape of the void, it puts us in that pattern. The isolating effects of modern living are dulled somewhat if you believe you are integrated into the Solar System. You are not just a sentient mind dropped in a field a matter, you are a part of the fabric of the universe (this is true regardless of astrology’s validity, but it’s hard to process and remember in day to day living). It can offer explanations of reality that are no more or less plausible than the doctrines that came before it. If nothing else, it’s comforting to think that there is a design, a loose harmony to existence.
Letting go of the reins of the world and acknowledging that there are vast forces beyond our imagination and compression is both scary and freeing. It’s helped to foster an acceptance of the way things are. That is not to say we are “off the hook” to rid the world of evils and suffering – whether or not free will is real or not, doesn’t make a difference. Our choices still appear to be ours to make. Maybe it’s our “fate” to pitch in every last scrap of our effort to make the world a better place for others. Acknowledging determinism doesn’t remove our responsibilities as humans to help one another. It’s almost a horseshoe theory of free will, bending us toward a brand of Calvinist predestination, while still believing that nothing matters. Perhaps it’s a paradox to be a nihilist who still blames her problems on the positions of stars and planets. It’s certainly a paradox to be a suffering blip on a hostile planet in an uncaring cosmos, but still wake up every morning wanting to save the world. We contain multitudes, we can be confused and comforted. We can yearn for a reality with a structure, and we can make our own.
Lindsey Frances Pellino is a poet, animal rescue manager, and hospice worker living in the not rich part of Connecticut. Her first collection of poetry HYSTERICAL SISTERS, published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press on Valentine’s Day, is about fictional and real life women and sisters. You can find her on Instagram at @gay4moleman1992