Safety and Risk

Full Moon in Gemini, Saturn-Neptune Square

The illusion of safety is something that modern civilization has worked its ass off to create. Borders, security forces, intelligence gathering are only some of the ways it has tried to stave off uncertainty and chaos. What is safety really? Is it protection from danger or risk? Or could it be a different kind of freedom, one in which fear no longer rules our lives? And does that freedom actually depend upon external conditions, or does freedom from fear arise out of an inner discipline or insight?

With the Full Moon in Gemini on November 25 as counterpoint to the Sun in Sagittarius, we must undertake an exploration. These two signs are on a quest for understanding. They encourage us to go to the edges of the known world; to learn, see, experience more and more. Gemini and Sagittarius energy opens us to a seeking that is never completely satisfied with the answers found, although both of them have a shadow side that expresses as bias, assumption and assertion of truth with a capital T. When we are in flow with these energies, we can move comfortably between knowing and unknowing, unafraid of “the other” because we see in the other always the possibility to increase awareness and understanding.

Perhaps these signs show us how life is inherently unsafe. Not trivial or random, but a journey that requires strategy as well as playfulness, risk and creativity. To pledge allegiance to safety at all costs is essentially deciding to disengage from the flow of life, to wall up the borders in fear and scarcity.

Daesh, also known as the “Islamic State,” is actually an example of this allegiance. It does not want risk, experience, or awareness. They want to destroy everything that threatens their own safety – a safety built on violent control, but so fragile that it cannot bear any brush with difference. So it must destroy it.

There are some similarities in the status quo of systemic racism in the USA as well. As people of color rise up together to say, “Enough is enough, stop killing us! Stop excluding our voices from the conversation,” White Americans try to tune them out. This brand of democracy is more fragile than it thinks. Many white folks are resorting to old symbols of slavery and violence to threaten and coerce people of color back into silence. Confronted with the risk of losing power, they miss the possibility that their own lives would be improved if all humans were actually treated with equal justice and respect under the law.

I am writing about safety and risk not only in light of recent violent events in Beirut, Nigeria, France, Missouri, Texas, Massachusetts, Oregon, ad infinitum, but because we experiencing an astrological crucible that is testing the limits of control and pressing us to rethink and reimagine the structures of belief which underlie entire systems. These structures include education, religion, politics, law, and culture itself. How do these structures encourage or impede growth?

In his incredible book Between the World and Me, author Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about visiting Paris for the first time and finding himself in “someone else’s country,” outside of a system in which he was “the one the police stopped on Twenty-Third Street in the middle of a workday.” In a public garden in Paris, he becomes aware of himself in a whole new way:

[S]itting in that garden, for the first time I was an alien, a sailor—landless and disconnected. And I was sorry that I had never felt this particular loneliness before—that I had never felt myself so far outside of someone else’s dream. Now I felt the deeper weight of my generational chains—my body confined, by history and policy, to certain zones. Some of us make it out. But the game is played with loaded dice. I wished I had known more, and I wished I had known it sooner.

To be in “someone else’s dream,” (and to wake up from it) is a powerful metaphor for the forces currently confronting us. The planets Saturn and Neptune, in the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces respectively, are squaring off with one another. Saturn, the planet of discipline, structure and authority pulls uncomfortably at Neptune, the planet of vision, illusion, and imagination. This aspect, active since early 2015, is reaching its first exact contact on November 26 (Thanksgiving Day).

Saturn in Sagittarius invites the Higher Mind to confront rigid thinking, arrogant assumptions, and cynical thinking. It demands that we look hard at the forces which shape our lives, consciously or otherwise. Often, in order to break out of an illusion, we have to refresh our thinking. We can do this by experiencing something new, taking a risk, learning about people or places very different than ourselves and our homes.

The Saturn in Sagittarius signature can manifest in a chart as anti-religious sentiment or extreme religious zeal. It’s the soapbox syndrome: I’ve found the truth and you’re going to hear all about it. For all of us now, we are experiencing an opportunity to undertake a sincere search for meaning, which often first leads us through the frightening terrain of meaninglessness.

Neptune in Pisces, the other partner in this painful tango lesson, would just as soon dupe us into gullibility and fantasy as liberate us into our highest vision. Xenophobia, susceptibility to glamour, and disengagement through escapism are some of the manifestations of this powerful watery pairing. But the other side of this transit points the way to compassion and unity. Unity can be built on nationalism or religious fundamentalism, but again, that is a fragile unity. Real unity comes from openly embracing the other. This transit helps us recognize that a closed system, unable to open to new information and ideas, is ultimately more susceptible to disease and destruction. It is unable to adapt and evolve to changes.

In your personal life, use the energy of this transit to become aware of your own bias, prejudice, and assumption – wherever they may pop up. Practice seeing through the eyes of someone very different from you. Notice what you have previously failed to notice – on the way to work, school, the grocery store, in other people’s faces.

We are living through a time in which no one knows who to trust, and this is very dangerous indeed. We end up trusting authoritarian fools who claim to have the answer to everything. The challenge is to connect with your own beautiful, complicated understanding rather than eating up someone else’s easy solution. Your power is in your doubt and also in your optimism: thinking, “I’m not so sure about that,” while simultaneously nodding to a still unrealized vision you barely have words for. Allow yourself to be in between, not knowing, undecided about the future and your own role in it. Dream. Reflect. Listen to that quiet knowing voice inside of yourself.

What is real safety? I think it is acknowledging how unsafe the world actually is, how seemingly random and tragic. Then, moving past that very limited vision into one in which we confront the places that frighten us, shake off our fear, and get on with the truly worthy work of loving the world, in spite of its inherent risks.