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Two Reasons for Hope



I wish that I knew less. Maybe I can fix that.

Why do I feel that I have to read a newspaper every morning? All the bad news is so distressing that I may need to begin the day with a vodka–with a twist of orange for Vitamin C. Even the good news is a bummer, like the article on the New York man who was released after spending 23 years in prison for a wrongful conviction. Great in the moment, but how awful before.

Indignation is more comfortable than guilt, so let’s move on to the story about agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Now we hear that they were having sex parties with prostitutes while on the job in Colombia. The women (presumably) were paid with government money. Why not out of their own pockets? Cheapskates.

Ongoing is the revival of tragic history with the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by a racist supremacist. A river of regret flows into the rapids of almost daily news stories about wrongs committed against blacks by our law enforcement officers. Article after article attests to a resident, as opposed to a transmuted, evil.

And don’t get me started on the international news. I need to read with an atlas handy to try to figure out where all the mayhem is taking place. Today I read that the Muttahida (who’s that?) are losing control, which is enabling the Taliban to infiltrate Karachi. Very concerning, but is that a country? It sounds Russian. Have the Taliban invaded Russia?

It’s too much. It’s just too much. Or it would be if I didn’t also read some very uplifting material. Just recently I realized that I know of two very helpful ways to look at this troubled time. One comes from the Dalai Lama via author Anne Lamott, and the other comes from astrology via Richard Tarnas, a cultural historian and philosopher.

I happened on Anne Lamott through an unrelated search and discovered this quote in Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. As the result of an encounter with a man who worked for the Dalai Lama, Anne was told that Tibetan Buddhists believe that “when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born–and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.”birds

That is a very nice way to look at all the bad news. And really, in order to correct what is amiss, we have to see what’s wrong. Privacy is gone forever apparently, but so far this fact has not yet inspired people to behave better, as in the DEA agents.

And now for the astrological perspective. Richard Tarnas devoted 30 years to researching correlations between planetary movements and the “archetypal patterns of human experience,” as the fly leaf of his book, Cosmos and Psyche, explains. It was published in 2006 and became a bestseller, even as a very hefty read. In one chapter, Tarnas compares the current era to the 1930s and the 1960s when there were related planetary alignments.

His analysis of the astrological influence seems very appropriate: “A general atmosphere of power struggle is typical. Underlying tensions between established social authority and newly empowered countercultural impulses tend to be exacerbated. So also the generational tensions between old and young and the political tensions between conservative and progressive.”

Ah, what a relief. We have been living through a time when the observer wants to ask, “What is wrong with everybody?” Maybe the turmoil really is a recurring pattern, kind of like drought. But Tarnas goes on: “Whether the result is a destructive encounter between forces of revolutionary change and forces of rigid reaction or a pragmatic synthesis of creative innovation and resolute discipline in recognition of irrevocable new realities depends on facts beyond what can be seen astrologically.” That sentence could have used some editing, but the point is that this is where we the people come in.

And with his following words, real hope blooms. Tarnas says that our present moment in history is most comparable astrologically to a period of about 500 years ago. It was the moment of the High Renaissance of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and humanists Erasmus and Thomas More. The printed book had appeared as the first medium of universal communication. Ships sailed off to explore the New World, Martin Luther launched the Reformation, and Copernicus proposed the sun as the center of our world.

Tarnas concludes by hoping that all we are learning about the entire world at warp speed will eventually enable us to address, in a spiritually evolved manner, all the challenges in play. One translates that into the possibility of a new era, akin in its advances to the Renaissance that started in Italy and spread to Europe. Maybe such a promising evolution could begin here and spread to much of the world. We need to get busy, though. It’s feeling more like the Middle Ages at the moment.

So there we are. I am not a Buddhist nor an expert on astrology, but I do know how powerful a chosen belief can be, for good or ill. I think these possibilities are very positive, and so I have decided to embrace the bright potential of both. Now I have to figure out a new standard by which I personally will be informed. And does that mean about current events or something else? I guess I’ll just have to see.



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