Hey, baby, what’s your sign?
So, according to astronomers, we’ve been fucking fools. Gotcha, suckers, you thought you were an Aries, nope, turns out you only saw characteristics in yourself because you wanted to. Really, you’re a Pisces, or whatever.
But why is this important? If Facebook posts (or any popular media outlet) are any indication of anything, people care. People are pissed that their astrological sign may have been wrong. Most of my friends on Facebook are Giant-type people, or, at the very minimum, grad school social science/humanities types, by which I mean, they’re generally critical thinkers. So am I. And yet, everyday, I hit my widget button (F4) and read my horoscope. I’m going to approach this horoscope issue two-fold: first, why people care, then, why people care. That sounds tautological, and maybe it is, but that’s what I’m doing.
First, why do people care about their horoscopes? Well, obviously, it’s fun. Most people don’t take occult practices like horoscopes seriously, even the people who religiously read their horoscopes. It’s more like a habit. Horoscopes are intentionally vague, applicable to many situations. No way they could be otherwise.
More important than the “fun” factor, however, is the fact that horoscopes – in many ways – offer absolution. They are pre-packaged, pithy pre-destinies. If I read my horoscope and it tells me the day will be bad and then I have a bad day, I can blame the stars rather than force introspection, or even worse, self-recognition. It’s like religion, only with sweeter graphics.
But horoscopes are more provocative than such a simplistic reading, see, horoscopes are narratives pared down to the leanest meats possible. In a matter of a few sentences, your day is parsed clean. It is the narrative possibilities – over which you have no control – that make the horoscope so enticing.
It’s the narrative that emerges from horoscopes that has caused all this raucous. People are neatly categorized into twelve personality types – now thirteen, whatever. It’s the same fascination that people have with Myers-Briggs or anything else of that nature. Every person manifests at least some aspect of these various personality types. I was an Aries. I thought it fit me perfectly. I don’t really know what I am now – I don’t even think it matters, I’ll keep on reading the Aries horoscope, it’s all the same to me – but I’m sure that I’ll have many of the traits in my new sign too. Either way, the pleasure that is derived from reading your horoscope isn’t altered, no matter what sign you are. Heck, if you have two possible signs, all the more fun, right?
Another reason people love reading horoscopes is because they believe – faulty though their logic may be – that it is tailored specifically for them, pre-destined by the alignment of stars, etc.
So, now to the second half of my argument: why people care. People care about this possible change because even if they may know that horoscopes are bullshit, they want to believe in magic, just like people want to believe in religion. And here I’ll go back to Marx and alter his famous saying: Horoscopes are opiate of the masses. Horoscopes give people a little jolt of druggy magic. Flipping through the pages of a newspaper – or fuck, even clicking on your little icon – there is moment of infinite possibility: what will your day hold? What can happen? Will today be a good day? And on and on. In a few simple sentences, your day can be shifted in unexpected ways. Today could be the day you meet the love of your life, but you have to be open to it. Today could be a day of unending frustration, but there’s a silver lining, promise. Today could be a bad day for money, so don’t place any bets! Today could be the day you should organize your life, make time for it. So many possibilities. Sure, most people don’t re-organize their day around their horoscopes. That’s what makes them so fascinating. People go through the trouble of finding their horoscopes, reading them, and then alter nothing, while still expecting pre-destiny to change the fates.
Now, of course, this new revelation about the stars tells everyone they’ve been fucking fools for believing. No one’s life is going to change. Nothing is going to change. So what’s all the racket? People are angry because they’ve semi-not-believed-in-but-believed-in-enough-to-check-daily something they knew wasn’t “real” but now that it is revealed to really not be real has everyone feeling like a dope. Or, maybe it’s just me.
As for me, I still love reading my horoscope. I refuse to change my widget to accommodate whatever astrology and astronomy has said. I will continue using my tarot card widget to ask about things over which I have no control and I will continue to find it thrilling and hopeful while knowing it means nothing. I will continue to consult the I Ching. I will continue to read my Chinese zodiac. When I visit another city, I will continue to find cheap palm readings (my favorite) or tarot readings. After all, it’s fun, and if it turns out to be right, well, I’ll gladly eat these words.