I’ve been wrestling with my love for pop culture lately. I’m sorry. I can’t help it: (here’s the part where I apologize for something I enjoy) I enjoy it. It Every time I go to the gym I pick up the Mag of the Moment and check out what’s going on with Lindsay, Brittany and Jen this week. In trying to label the mixed emotions I feel, I can pinpoint similarities to the emotions of guilt, shame and gluttony…until I look around me and realize I’m putting that same mojo on all my stair-stepping buddies. As a Libra rising with a strong sense of fairness, that doesn’t seem right of me. And neither do those “feelings” seem adequate descriptors. So being of a homeopathic mindset, having learnt symptoms tell more about the disease than the ego readily admits, I put the shell up to my ear and hear an ocean (walking into Saturday’s New Moon/Neptune quincunx is a little like that). Whereas the ego would prefer the pat label rather than sit down and dive into the “symptom” with a nice cup of tea (it keeps everything much more cleanly neurotic that way, ya know?) Cancer New Moon has way too much intuitive capacity to let the ego pull that one over on her. She’s just a simple gal who loves her celebs, so what’s the big dealio?

What’s your enigmatic mystery this New Moon? With Neptune opening up the etheric portal to heavenly, but quite Forest of Restpleasant tasting conundrums, there’s bound to be one. Here, you can have my guilty pleasure. Let’s lean into this so-called guilt. As defined by Webster.com feeling guilty is, (having) feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy: self-reproach. If my offenses are seemingly imagined, could I’ve even possibly conjured them up alone? Not to pass the buck, but soulful Cancer is notoriously psychic, sponging food unconsciously off her familial mother or mother country. Cancer’s umbilical cords reach deep into our collective family. Places, like people, have soul – you’ve felt that. And surely as America has a Collective Soul, she suffers from soullessness, too. Grief, trauma, unprocessed life events separating oneself from one’s Self has a way of detracting, nay, hi-jacking nourishing soul consciousness. Jung called this neglected self the Shadow. And when we cut it off from our bright and “acceptable” side it turns the most colorful, lively day a soulless grey. A strange malaise ensues in that disconnect between past personal (or collective) history – which if not carefully tended to – all sorts of strange demons threaten to dispossess the Soul of her natural beauty.

Even Tyra Banks knows this (I heard her say so while watching America’s Next Top Model at the gym). Tyra told a Model contestant that her pictures lacked soul. In her larger than life Olympian way (which magically sounds like the authoritative voice of Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty herself) Tyra said, ‘I’m concerned about you. There’s so much beauty in there, but I feel like you’re hiding it. You’re missing soul. And the camera won’t lie – people will see this.’ This earth shaking comment pulled a big brother confessional out of the young contestant. It turns out this budding flower had been through rough times. In pictures shown of her recent past, a partying, self-destructive girl raged out of control. Being on America’s Next Top Model was her chance to start over, she said, but to do this she had to hide this former self. Her honest self-awareness struck me, as well as her predetermined awareness of what’s beautiful to the beauty culture. There was no room for an anger-binging teenager on Top Model, she knew this. No, that would’ve been ugly and this is about beau-tay. But her shielded personality wore the slightest trace of rage, obvious to the camera, judges and viewers. And miraculously – maybe it was only me who saw it -once her hidden self was outed the young woman began to look more congruent, whole.

Here’s what also occurred to me: America and her people has and is, suffering loss of soul by disowning its violent nature. This model contestant is a mirror for where we are. We are all connected to one another’s plight, and to a deeper collective consciousness. How can we take personal responsibility for all of it? (We’re women, so we try.) It’s like our women sister souls are trapped in the static painting of a dollhouse and every once in awhile the window mysteriously lights up bright orange signaling the house is on fire. We’ve got to garner enough disbelief to reach for our magnifying glasses, to pull up a chair to look within…and discern the message behind the message “Help” written on the window pane.

I own that I am channeling some of America’s soullessness. There is a huge chasm between the monstrosities of America’s checkered rageaholic past and present – a country that runs for their guns every time the checkbook is threatened AND so happens to be the entertainment capital of the world. Gosh, no wonder I’m feeling so guilty. I’m partaking of that national sedative: celebrity, the elixir of youth and forgetfulness. In that awestruck seduction of Gisele Bundchen on the latest edition of my Victoria’s Secret Catalog (love her) or Angelina wearing mercurial silver satin sheets on the cover of GQ, I forget everything. Feels like a Martini, silky and dry, tastes just as intoxicating. Mmmm. Since I no longer drink, I’m considering that celebrity may have become my substitution.

But does the awareness that I’m swimming in it absolve me from my responsibility to the collective shadow? Our personal lives are an answer to it. I remember an assignment I had in art school, to create an Absolute Vodka ad (at my little South Carolinian private college, my art teacher was a set designer from L.A. no less). I penciled out 3 images: one was a woman crawling on the floor in high heels as a slimy looking guy in aviator glasses watched with a clear sense of ownership from behind her; second, a sad looking little boy with a golden crown on his head stood alone in a dark, thorny forest (I transposed creeping thorns into blood veins); third, my 84 year-old Grandmother’s open hands. A red bull’s eye/ spiral hypnotically unified the images, in front of which I photo-transferred a larger than life bottle of ABSOLUTION. The image speaks more directly to what I’m writing about now than I can express in words. The hypnotic beauty of desire, the self or selves violently left behind in the brambles and the blood and life force rushing through, threatening to encroach on everything growing and good. The power and energy bound up in self-forgetfulness, the passing of time and empty wisdom. Or the open hands of opportunity, to finally be forgiven, to be cared for in the full circle of time. To the addict, the bottle of ABSOLUTION and ABSOLUT are one and the same. To the lucid dreamer, the soul who honors her place in the circle no matter where she is within it knows, as John Malkovich said, “the ghosts you chase you never catch.” Just ask any artist.

So there you have it. Just like this New Moon’s quincunx, I don’t know how to “get over” or resolve the pop culture intoxication from whence I’m swimming. I may never be able to. But if you consider, as Andy Warhol did, pop culture, art, and in that art mirrors life, maybe celebrity and pop culture is just another mirror to bounce reflections off of. Or maybe that’s just a tricky quincunx excuse so I can hit the bottle again. If I am partaking in the national pastime of self-forgetfulness, I do have to trust my own capacity to integrate and weave the fragmented stories into something a little deeper, interesting and more contextually rich than what they’re giving me. Actually, as a soulful person, that’s my job and it’s yours too. I do have a few rules of operation: stay away from the dumb stuff (when I recognize it); regularly question whether I’m looking for missing pieces of myself in those slick, glossy lives or whether I’m replacing the urge to do something more valuable and productive with gossip rags. Occasionally I’ll make good art out of it all. Who knows? Maybe the spirit speaks to me through celebrity.