Written in the stars:
Millennials, astrology, and the power of a good ol' American story
|Whitney Fishburn||Nov 21, 2019|| 1|
vol. 1 issue 42
The best part about going to church as a kid – and as an adult, too – was the stories. Clergy with no skill for reeling you in are duds; for me, the rest of the ritual was never enough to keep my interest. It’s the shared stories that keep communities together, keep them focused on the same goals, keep them imbued with hope for the future.
I woke up in the middle of the night with that paragraph pretty much formed in my head, and I remembered it this morning, so I reckon it’s important.
Even though we’re prompted all the time to “Share your story!” so someone else can benefit from our having done so, stories really do matter. If you look at the etymology of the word “matter”, it’s from the Latin Mater, “mother”, and is implied in “material”. That is to say, stories are the stuff we are made of, and link us to where we come from, which for every single solitary one of us, is from a mother, and ultimately the Mother. It’s an iteration of what I wrote on Monday: Namely, that knowing our place in the heavens grounds us to our material selves.
Not long ago, I even formed a small group of mental health experts and thinkers who concluded that stories are preventative against suicide: if a person feels connected to the next chapter of life, has the curiosity to know what’s next, there is a reason to stick around. These experts and clinicians had seen it happen again and again.
That’s right: a good story can save your life.
But lately, I think for decades now, we increasingly do not share the same story as Americans. Speaking broadly, Boomers have their story – it seems to be the marquis attraction, frankly, as I have written before. Millennials are in the ascendant, much to the annoyance of the Boomers who worry about having to share the spotlight and all the resources that go with it. And from where I stand as a member of the generation born in the middle to late 1960s, both the older and the younger go about the daily dismantling of the two pre-eminent plot lines of my youth: Russia is bad and Capitalism is good.
Add to that the multi-cultural plotlines and points of view on what it even means to be an American.
And here we have an election where there is no new plot, no new intrigue, no real future. It’s boring because it’s irrelevant. The candidates are telling old stories of ancient peoples whose ways died out long ago. There is no way forward when the center cannot hold, and our center has collapsed.
Sure, you can read reams about it in the media. What else are they going to say: this is all pointless? They gain nothing by doing that.
Yet, in the most practical way, our election stories are pointless because our shared future’s story has yet to be told, and the values that will sustain it are yet to be described.
No matter how the impeachment hearings end, there will never be reconciliation between the two camps. POTUS might go, POTUS might stay. Anger that one’s story is not accepted as truer than the other group’s story will remain. But they are old stories that do not matter because they are incapable of unification. They are destructive. No lives will be saved by clinging to them.
We need a new way of describing our shared truth.
I suspect my brain stitched all this together while I was sleeping because before bedtime, I had been reading an article in the print version of The New Yorker called Starstruck: In uncertain times, astrology makes a comeback. It’s longer than you might have time for during your lunch or teatime, but it’s worth squeezing it in.
The article explains that one’s natal chart as drawn by a knowledgeable astrologer – or a free online app – offers the seeker a pictorial key to the story of that person’s life. Think of it as a plot line done up in symbols, or a map with a legend.
Groups of Millennial seekers now gather in person and online to compare and discuss their natal charts and what they might imply for the future.
Yes, there are gurus and their gobsmacked gullibles, but focus on the deeper plot line:
These are young Americans looking for a good story.
Which is to say, these are young Americans focused on the future.
It might seem solipsistic at first, all these “youngun’s” concerned with plotlines where they are the central star. But constellations are made up of many single stars, and it is constellations that once helped us navigate. It is the Zodiac and all it contains that has always generated our myths and legends – our stories and the maps through them.
What I am getting at is that the article points to a swelling response to our need for new stories, ones that describe a new set of values, a new way to preserve our lives through hope for and connection to the future.
Let Millennials start out navel gazing; they have to start somewhere. My money is on them pushing through the center and out again where they will become star gazers.
At least they are searching, not apathetic. Notice, the article’s headline indicates that astrology is making a comeback. It was the Boomers who turned to astrology during the Human Potential Movement in the 70s. But astrology is beside the point; looking for new truths is utterly American.
In fact, recreating ourselves by telling new stories is the point of being American! It’s impossible to remain “free” if we try to keep freedom imprisoned in a set of values that are irrelevant. Truth is constant, but it’s not stagnant.
So then, what’s a good story?
I say it’s where heaven and earth meet, where we see “what’s the matter" and how to move through it.
Sounds like the Stars and Stripes, the shining points between our ribbons of road.
Sounds like a natal chart.
Thank you, Millennials, for giving a damn.
(Photo courtesy of NASA)