Just Call It "The Fault in Our Stars"

The scientific community is more or less unanimous in its position on astrology. Studies have consistently demonstrated that, when falsifiable, predictions based on astrology are falsified. One study brought in twenty-eight astrologers to match natal-astrological charts to the psychological profiles of a hundred individuals—the stars aligned at a rate no greater than random chance. Curiously, in the face of this evidence astrologers persist.  Detractors pay little attention, proponents regard it with unshakeable faith. Though the educated individual can feel free to regard the horoscope section of the paper as a quaint anachronism, the pseudoscience merits great reverence. The one who writes the weekly horoscope, the astrologer himself, possesses a tremendous power bequeathed to him from centuries past—the power to conjure destiny. 

A casual examination of astronomy reveals just how miniscule we are in the unfathomable scale of the universe, instilling for many a dual sensation of embarrassment and dread. For some, such disproportionality can radically alter their notion of the self. A return to the minutiae of our small, short lives—relationships, emotions, aspirations, edges us toward feelings guilt. Astrology, however, despite its basis in an order of astronomical scale, proffers the suggestion that our lives, small as they may be, are fixed in a system both eternal and meaningful—that the cosmos is always-already our home, rather than the next frontier of our species’ petty sprawl. 

When a person reads their horoscope and sees which details, qualities, or even specific facets of their life were ostensibly set into motion by the precise moment and place of their birth in time and space and the alignment of the cosmos, a sense of destiny is created that is precious and valuable. Though one would be justified in deeming these astrological digests lies, the personal narratives and profiles put forth by horoscopes might just be the small lie that makes us better people, more at home in our universe. 

Two friends of mine, devout believers in the various powers of celestial alignment, recently offered to read me my horoscope. I obliged, of course, but went in with a conscious wariness of the Barnum effect—the psychic’s time-honored tradition of filling fortunes with information vague enough to apply to everyone—and prepared myself for disappointment. Yet, apart from a handful of vagaries, I was pleasantly surprised by the website’s accuracy. Prediction after prediction penetrated my cynicism, and struck me as reassuringly true. 

Most significant was the relatively straightforward prediction, present in even the most basic astrological charts, that my being a Libra had by way of some celestial arrangement bore within me the propensity to exercise diplomacy and resolve conflict among my peers. While I don’t consider myself a master mediator, my friends and family (believers and skeptics alike) have told me on multiple occasions that I tend to act as the diplomatic voice in the face of most petty conflict—more or less corroborating the prediction. 

In astrology, a person’s “moon” (secondary to their principal “Sun” sign) is responsible for subconscious experience—sources of comfort or distress we may not understand, the emotions we may not wish to feel. The list of tertiary signs continues, but the point is that in the artful expressions of astrology one is not prone to depression but inclined to melancholy, not afraid of loneliness but at home with others. As I read, I felt my idiosyncrasies, my social successes and failures were not mere ‘pros-and-cons’, but integral aspects of myself, divorced from any dichotomy of right or wrong. I was no longer a mere product of social context and genetic makeup; I basked in the comfort of belonging to forces greater than myself rather than controlled by them. In reviewing myself as a layered being, rather than the sum of my interactions I felt called not to the dilettante’s monotonous discourse of self-improvement, but to a path of self-realization. 

From an early age, I had known my astrological sign and was aware of its attendant diplomatic significance. While I won’t profess that the alignment of the stars made me who I am, I can offer the amusing and slightly mystifying suggestion that horoscopes did. Perhaps merely knowing  the positive and important role this obsolete, yet age-old and widely-practiced, astrological tradition had ascribed—a mediating presence in my own small social universe—influenced me enough to become that very person as best I could. Maybe my horoscope led me to identify an ideal worth striving to embody, and part of me started striving. Maybe I never had a destiny, but I found one.