Our Bias Against Discord

In my journey as a parent, I’ve learned a lot of things. How to survive on as little sleep as possible. How to read the same book dozens of time in a row to a three-year-old without banging it against my head until I knock myself unconscious. How to sneak vegetables into smoothies. How to carry on phone conversations while one child bounces on my head and the other screams “Maaaaaah-ahhhhhm, where’s the milk?!” while looking directly into the refrigerator.

I’ve also learned a lot about the preference for harmony I carry around inside of me. Maybe you do too. One day, one of my daughters spent all of her money on a charm bracelet and charms, took all the tags off, put it all on, then realized that it was not what she wanted.

“Everything bad always happens to me. Why do I have such terrible luck?” she wailed in the car.

I tried to make it better. I said things like, “It may seem hard right now, but…” and “I bet we can figure something out.” I let her cry some more, and then told her that bad things happen to everyone, and that we can learn from our mistakes. It probably sounded a lot like, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” although I didn’t say that directly.

She turned to me, visibly angry, and shot back, “That may be true for you, Mom. But that’s not how life is for me!” And she resumed crying and twisting herself up internally.

I shut up. I started the car to drive us home, and I let her cry as much as she needed. And I thought hard about what she had just taught me. I let go of needing the situation to be turned into something positive. I let her be herself, which is often intense, emotionally volatile, and angry-sad. As her mom, of course I want her to be happy. But maybe that just isn’t the road she’s on.

That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? It sounds like giving up. That my daughter might be predisposed to so-called negative emotions and to just let her have them. But perhaps that’s just proof of a commonly held bias against discord.

dis•cord (dĭsˈkôrdˌ) n. Lack of agreement among persons, groups, or things.

    n. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension.

    n. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds.

Libra does not like what those definitions describe. Not one bit. But it also needs those things to exist in order for the harmony, agreement, and beauty to exist. These are themes that might be up for exploration as we head into the New Moon in Libra on September 30. Libra is the sign which holds the balance between light and dark, tension and harmony, justice and diplomacy. The planet Jupiter recently moved into this sign, where it will remain for a year, greatly amplifying these themes in our lives and in the world around us.

Critics of Colin Kaepernick, and the many others who have joined him, would rather not be reminded of the police violence against people of color just before watching their sports. They would rather have everybody obediently stand up and honor the anthem and flag of our country. They would rather have the semblance of peace rather than the real thing. Because the real thing takes hard work, determination, and quite a lot of self-examination.

When tense situations arise with those you love, do you try to fix it? Do you change the subject? Do you give advice? Do you shut down? Do you plunge in head first? What are your automatic responses to uncomfortable and disagreeable interactions?

Wanting beauty, harmony, and pleasure is natural. Humans are built for love and connection. And yet friction is inevitable in the course of any human relationship. When I jumped into problem-solving with my distressed daughter, I was shutting down her feelings. In essence, I was telling her that being happy is better than being sad. And that just isn’t true. They are simply different ways of feeling.

Cutting Cords

In the healing work I do with people, clients and friends sometimes request that I perform a “cord cutting” for them. The idea is that after a painful or even traumatic relationship experience, we can remove the energetic cords that attach us to the other person. I do think that there is symbolic merit in such rituals, but I do not actually believe we can cut one another out.

I experience the universe as a lattice work, a net, a tapestry of interwoven, interconnected threads. I do not think there is anywhere we can go where we are not a part of the web of life. We are always a part of the web of life. And this means that the abusive assholes and the racists and the slightly annoying are all part of the web of life, too.

Someone recently posted a public binding spell on Donald Trump, and there was a lot of discussion about the ethics of this. To me, this could be seen as an act of purest love – not only for the people who would certainly be violated and abused if he were to gain the presidency, but also for Trump himself. People cautioned that doing a binding on a person means that you are bound to that person for the rest of your life and possibly beyond. And I think: we already are. I am already bound to Donald Trump. If I fail to recognize our shared connections, if I seek to “cut him out,” then I am truly in a state of discord.

To me, seeking to cut people out of our lives can actually deepen rather than relieve the pain. Turning away from the distress may only cause it to go underground, where it will slowly leak out into the rest of life, or explode once the pressure builds too high.

Does this mean you have to keep interacting with those who have harmed you? Nope. No way. Let me be clear in saying that you do not have to ever be in the same room with someone who has harmed you, and you never have to stay in a relationship with someone who is abusive, rude, or unkind.

But Libra teaches us that the cords between us are unable to be severed. Even if I never talk to that person for the rest of my life, they are a part of me. I have to deal with the discord.

from "I Heart Huckabees"

from "I Heart Huckabees"

When conflict arises in groups, there is an impulse to remove the disagreeable person or people. If I am having a hard time in a community that I belong to, I can always find another one. There are so many choices available now. Just move along and find a better fit! Leave the discord behind. Let them deal with it.

In another example, when someone breaks a law, they are removed from society in places we call jails. They are locked behind walls, and many people expect that this will lead to rehabilitation, or public safety, or the resolution of the conflict. Do we really think that this is the way to rectify the situation? Putting people “away” ignores the fact that there is no away.

For this month, and the next year beyond it, dealing with your shit (or your “manure of human troubles” as Albert calls it) means going beyond definitions of peace as the absence of conflict.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the need to engage in the struggles we face with courage, love, and determination. Anything less is cowardice and apathy, shadow Libra. Prayer is necessary, but only effective when it is followed by action. What can you do today to show that you are in the fight for justice? Let us ask this question of ourselves every single day.

Peace comes from justice, which is the collective demonstration of love. If you do not love your fellow humans who are being violated and abused, then you have forgotten who you are. I don’t think we can cut out the abusers or violators by ignoring them or locking them away. I think we are simply delaying the time when we have to deal with the problem.

I am ready to deal with the problems we are facing now. Together. Let us rise to the challenge and embrace the tension.

The Mythological and Astrological Eris

Eris, the Goddess of Discord and Confusion, is said to have been the real instigator of the Trojan War. In revenge for not being invited to an important wedding celebration, she tosses a golden apple into the crowd with the words “For the Fairest” carved into it. This immediately sets Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena into an argument about who it was meant for, each of them vying for the title. Paris is chosen by Zeus to pick the winner, but is bribed by Aphrodite into picking her. She promises him the most beautiful woman in the world, which is Helen of Troy. Hence, the whole war. Eris, that horrible old hag of a goddess, is to blame for the whole thing.

Eris is described as the one who “delights in the groans of the dying on the battlefield.” She is feared and reviled. But to me, there is another story here.

The words, “To the fairest” seem very Libran to me. And yes, we could define fairest as “the most beautiful,” which what the three goddesses took it to mean. Fair does mean “free from imperfection or blemish” and “of pleasing appearance.” But fair also means “free from bias, dishonesty, and injustice.”

Could Eris have been calling attention to the omission of her dark presence at the celebration? She certainly stirred up a lot of dishonesty and dirty dealing with her golden apple, but was it simply revealing what was already there, hidden within the goddesses and the guests at the wedding?

Eris is now tracked astrologically as well. Since being discovered in 2005 and classified as a dwarf planet, astrologers have been investigating its possible meanings. Eris takes 556 years to orbit the Sun, so is in each sign for a painfully long period of time. Eris has been in the sign of Aries since 1925 and will remain there until 2048.

It is symbolically relevant that this dwarf planet, before being officially named Eris, was initially named Xena by the astronomer who found it. Xena is a blood-thirsty, selfish mercenary until she undergoes a radical transformation and becomes a champion of the people. She has a hard road in convincing some people that her intentions are good after she changes sides, so to speak. She is confronted with the brutality and cruelty she once wielded and has to reconcile these energies within her.

Although Eris is indeed a force of vengeance and conflict, Eris also represents the abject, the outcast, and the outlaw. In the 1960s, Eris inspired an entire trickster religion who called themselves Discordians, sowing the seeds of chaos and absurdity in order to increase our understanding of the world.  Marina, writing on one of my favorite astrology websites, Dark Star Astrology, says that “Eris is gifted at relentlessly digging until she unearths the demons, and when she does she won’t rest until they are well and truly exorcised.”

Currently, Eris is at 23 degrees Aries, exactly conjunct Uranus. Waking up to the illuminations that Eris offers us is scary, but necessary. We are starkly confronted with “the Other” in so many ways, labels which are accurate, prejudiced, stereotypical, and real. These labels include the refugee, the demagogue, the racist, the terrorist, the stranger, the whistleblower, the prisoner, the activists of BLM and Standing Rock, the addict, the homeless, the cops, the politicians. What is your version of “the demon” and how might Eris be calling you into relationship with this part of you, this part of the world?