I spent the entire night, last night, October 9, in the Emergency Room at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, at my own personal ground zero. I've been in New York since September 28. A family crisis called me back home and I'm certain others facing similar situations, are also returning to this shaken city. The shock waves of September 11 still reverberate, and for many, the impact is physical. Heart attacks, strokes, bad backs, kidney failure, all signs of somatic trauma are occurring everywhere, not just New York, as we continue to process the stress.
As I stood outside the hospital at 3:00 AM, waiting for my 82-year old stepfather to be admitted to the third hospital in almost as many weeks, I wondered what I would write. Another Mercury Retrograde column, offering advice about circumventing computer hassles seemed irrelevant, especially as I contemplated my stepfather's condition and how my 81-year old mother was handling the tension. But a snappy retrograde column seemed particularly superfluous as my attention was drawn to the walls and doors of the hospital. They were covered with pictures of loved ones&emdash;mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, and children&emdash;lost In the World Trade Center disaster. I'd seen those flyers on the news, and while heartbreaking at a distance, up close and personal, the pain and grief became palpable.
In the middle of the night, I felt the casualties of our current holy war. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or even an astrologer to recognize the world is caught in the grip of a massive, grinding global shift. The Pluto Saturn opposition is an energetic component of this cyclone of change, and a historical study of previous hard Pluto Saturn configurations reveals the potency of this volatile combination.
But beneath the movement of the stars, the unfathomable journey of human life continues. As the I Ching teaches, life expands and contracts. That's all it does. We get born and we die. And what happens in between&emdash;who we love, how we love, and what we make of our lives&emdash;isn't necessarily dependent on our ideology. A capitalist loves as deeply as a communist, and the loss of a child is as devastating to an Israeli mother as it is to a Palestinian mother. Under the rhetoric, death rips a hole in your heart and no matter what language you pray in, that gaping wound only hurts.
How we live is what matters. Taking the time to touch another heart is what endures. Just as the people in the World Trade Center counted on doing what they always did that dreadful day, most of the people in the Emergency Room last night didn't wake up in the morning expecting themselves to be on a gurney. Most of us don't anticipate something horrible happening, which is why we're so shaken when it does. We simply live life as it comes, reaching for whatever will make us happy, never thinking about how tenuous life truly is.
Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Jew, Buddhist, or Hindu, the mystery of life is exactly the same. We can cling to a philosophy or ideology, religious or secular, and insist we're right, but when someone we love is suffering, a soothing touch has more power than a slogan and a kiss generates greater healing than a vote.
Free, enslaved, destitute, or prosperous, no matter what age, size, shape, race, or gender, war harms life. Statistics don't feel pain. People do. Animals do. The Earth shudders with each and every blow. And the truth of that undeniable, specific, individual pain cuts through the illusion of opinion and righteousness to reveal the fragility of human life.
The Pluto Saturn opposition illuminates the shadows of that frailty. Pluto is in Sagittarius, the Sign where we struggle to make sense of the human condition. Its symbol is the Centaur, who represents the challenge of synthesis. His arrow reaches for the stars. His body walks on all fours. This is the conundrum of being human. Our consciousness perceives the possibilities of greater understanding. Our instincts pulse to primitive and primordial urges. There is no one belief system capable of containing or explaining the vastness of human experience and at the same time, any belief system, lived with the desire to honor life itself, becomes a path to enlightenment.
Saturn is in Gemini, the Sign of information. Symbolized by the Twins, Gemini represents the dual nature of reality. There's always another side. There's always more to know. But it's all too easy to be overwhelmed by too much information, especially when we lack the skill to sort through the data and discern what's important and what isn't. We live in the Information Age, where we can access and download the facts about anything--bombs, munitions, flight simulators, as well as cutting edge medical information capable of saving life. As this enormous expansion of knowledge collides with our primitive drives, it's exacting a terrible toll. But it's not the information that's scary. What's frightening is our inability to integrate the data and turn it into wisdom.
My stepfather is a man of character and principle. He's lived his life with a sincere desire to make a difference in the world. Now, as he faces the limitation of the body, his desire to be of service is honorable and his philosophy valuable. But last night, as he waited in the hallway of the hospital, what brought him peace was holding the hand of the woman he loves and feeling the comfort of her presence. Ideas, no matter how deep, are machinations of the mind. Hearts know the truth.