Yesterday morning we made a trip to Melk to see an 89 years young grandfather of one of our dear friends here in Vienna. We loaded up in the car and journeyed through the Austrian countryside, classically picturesque. We rolled over the Danube and into the Wachau region, the place where the Venus of Wilendorf dated 24 000 BC, was found. This countryside has been (amazingly!) occupied by people ever since. It is clear that timeless history folds into the daily lives of the Austrians. We arrive at the grandfather’s house which reminds me of a gingerbread cottage with icing lattice. With a twinkle in his eye, he greets us hello in German “Guten Morgan, Servus…” welcome! and invites us in for a glass of champagne! Ah, a bon vivant, who although lost his wife a few years ago, has not lost the spark of life. One of the first things he tells us, with the help of his translators, is he was once imprisoned by Americans in WWII while stationed in Norway! Bah! To our relief he politely reassures us (and several times throughout the day) that he is quite fine with this, which is obvious by the number of gifts he gives us (he is a Libran). As we are told stories, of the Norwegian women who brought the POW’s desserts, who also reassured the prisoners that they were good girls, as they had no fish blood (I think this is a reference to a cold-blooded Norwegian goddess) – the Moon is waxing Full in Pisces. The one english word I do catch is “the cage”, which he uses for prison. Wow. Life is one wild and crazy rollercoaster ride, rich in beauty and sorrow, isn’t it? How it can feel like a crapshoot sometimes – a game of pure chance. For example, all three brothers in his family were drafted into war, and all three returned, fine. How? Why? Huh? By a stroke of luck? The Pisces piece of life is impossible to justify or rationalize, only to generously experience, and to count one’s blessings by. Such things as war, famine, poverty, karma all evidence of the triumph of the human spirit over incredible adversity. The magic in this special faith is what we can still achieve, while not knowing. We persist in believing.
Describing Pisces in words is a descriptive effort at best. This is probably because the left brain and the ego really don’t like all this spiritual mumbo jumbo about faith and mystery and spiritual knowing and gestalt. Woo-ha! It just wants to bang around in it’s mental cage. I’ll compare this to learning art. I’ve been messing around with drawing again through a precious book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. One of the exercises asked me to draw one of a subject I recall drawing in childhood – which turns out to be, as for many, a house. I drew and tried to make everything “correct”, and quickly re-experienced the childhood feeling of pain and frustration at not being able to accurately represent anything true to form. Oh, how to show the perspective of a house from the side? I wanted to give up so badly! Instead, I fought the feeling, patiently let the mind fade away…and surrendered. Then the world turned magical, the task pleasurable. Turns out, I may’ve been stuck in a a developmental shift called “the stage of realism,” which according to the author, we experience around age 11. At this age we take the knowledge of a thing we’ve previously stored, yes a cube looks like this!, and get hung up there instead of seeing what’s in front of our eyes. Our brain makes similar shortcuts all the time. Familiar with certain everyday shapes and objects, we stop truly considering them at all. Kind of like a tired jogger, if there’s a quicker route home, mind shouts, “I’ll take it!” and makes a b-line for the definition instead of content. This only causes us to entirely *inaccurately* perceive reality. This is observable in drawing – yes, even Van Gogh did it – but also in communication, how we feel about something we’ve done before, and my personal favorite – relationships. After all, if the mind will lop off the entire top of a human skull (because the forehead is boring?) just imagine all the unimaginative things it could do with a challenging relationship?!
It’s amazing that our minds, so capable of achievement, can be so lazy. Maybe we need to rest it with some good Pisces activities, or rather, non-activities. An overworked mind is like an all-access Virgo channel all the time without Pisces reprieve. They do have a complex relationship. One curses the other. One cures the other. But that’s how opposite signs balance each other. It’s also why art flourishes during troubled times, and why anyone who makes art out of “that’s life” circumstances ends up on the bestsellers lists, or hanging on museum walls. Art, reflection, meditation, solitude, all are remedy for lack of left brain understanding, TMI (too much information) or oppressions of any form. The poets and the artists, bohemians who creatively thrive during times of uncertainty and unrest – have always been one of our best insurance policies against loss of faith as a culture.
After all, art-making is one way the individual responds the call of the larger zeitgeist, the German word for “spirit of the age,” or another definition “mental state of the times.” This is a word that comes up during a discussion with our Austrian friends. They wonder how we will vote in the election, and who will win. So many of us are disillusioned by the government in America, but even our disillusionment is a repetitive cycle. Recall the rise and fall of ancient civilizations, of Egypt, of Rome. We hope that those who know us as America, a country of wealth, will not soon see another fallen Empire, whose beauty and accomplishment is lost to war and greed. Yet we just don’t know. So what to do but surrender? We must believe that each and every life, our individual response, answers to a larger wave.
All I know is what I can do today. It’s certainly one way to survive uncertainty. Today I can commit to looking a little more closely at the lines in my hand, to considering alternatives about *how reality is* for what the world chooses to show me. I can open the floodgates of perception, feel the beauty and suffering of every person as my own. I can live in the now.