Giggling Galaxies!

(It's Brezsny's Birthday)

|Printer-Friendly Version|

I COULD NOT let Rob Brezsny's birthday go by without commenting a brief word or two. We have no natal horoscope on Mr. B. from which to make predictions or draw inferences; we do not know his age; apropos of his Cancarian nature, he lives in something of a shell and is quite successful at maintaining a private reality, "a life," as it is sometimes called.

But within the container of his reality, within his genuinely self-conscious mind and emotions, something is cultivated that becomes a general nutrient for the rest of us. Some call it a "horoscope," but in reality it's the shared thoughts of a cosmic friend, and the teachings of what you could call a pagan priestess of common sense. A while back Utne Reader did a cover story about how you should fire your therapist and hire a philosopher. Rob's the guy.

Let's just say that for scads of people, we really don't know how many millions, but I would guess a couple, The Brez is a kind of a drummer, listening, as he is, to the rhythms of the cosmos, following the equinoxes and the solstices and the stars and planets and definitely the Moon in their wild teacup ride, tracing messages in the kaleidoscopic pattern, and relaying the vibe, the theme, the intuitive idea, back to us. He reads the charts and the ephemerides, and he has studied with one of the truly great astrologers of our times, but we know from the column that much of what he comes up with is based on personal introspection. Real Astrology is a running chronicle of what you could call "found wisdom," with the stars and the giggling galaxies taken to heart.

For any readers in this audience who don't follow astrology, Brezsny, an authentic product of California, is a kind of Matt Groening of the stars. He is the truly successful artist who kept laughing; who didn't sell out; who didn't buy in. Rob helps us find our way through the Life in Hell that Groening has chronicled so beautifully through the lives of his family of little bunnies (Binky, Bongo and others, who were forerunners of The Simpsons). Life can be hard on bunnies, and life can be hard on people, with all its striving for the elusive, works in vain, and what can seem like an endless bumpy road of heartbreaks. But Rob is in touch with the cycles and the rhythms. Life, when a horoscope connects, can suddenly make sense, if only for a moment, and that may be all it takes -- that moment of attunement to the cosmic order, and it says so much.

Rob, like a scant few other successful artists of his generation, has maintained his subversive leanings, plotting revolutions against negativity, futility, defeatism and self-doubt. Fortunately for us, his decision to be a savvy businessman came a lot later in life, and in ways that don't interfere with the work he does. And he understands that there is abundance in sharing ideas; when Real Astrology is around, you can actually get something for nothing. On Planet Earth, that's a clever thing to have invented.

Rob is officially and for history to record the first person to make horoscopes into a pop-literary form, or at least the first lots of us heard about. Getting poetic in horoscopes was a trait, I am certain, that many previous writers actively avoided so as not to come off too mushy or unintellectual, or because they knew they best not dare given their supposed talents. But all creative writing involves working through atrophe. Astrology, meanwhile, is only recently growing out of the notion that it must treat itself as a hard science. There are those who take the Psychological approach, or the Cosmobiological approach, or the Geocosmic style, with some conducting double-blind studies, contributing to "the field" and approaching the question with an aura of skepticism in order to make a more effective case to The Academy, which will be scrutinizing every modicum of thought.

Then you have Rob, casting money spells on us, inviting everyone to masquerade balls, doing love dances and swan dives and writing Gemini's horoscope dangling from a cliff in southeastern Oregon, not to mention being visited by Jehovah's Witnesses, an experience he apparently thought he was immune from. Indeed, Rob is a kind of instant antidote to Witnessdom's droning substitute for existence that pervades much of life as we now know it. In a world of NutraSweet, Rob is genuinely sweet, like a peach. In a world of cool, Rob is warm. In a world of dietary supplements, Rob is the natural antioxidants found in purple cabbage and organic Granny Smith apples. Sure, his column is cute, but then sometimes he socks you, though more often, he speaks in consise parables that actually come across as a meaningful gesture of thought amid all the chaos.

It's not just that we may get the week's lesson-of-life as told by Shakespeare or Stephen Hawking; it's that Rob gives these people, and many others, the voice of the stars. Few astrologers have dared such illustrative license. And few have ever dared to be in the newspapers -- placed amid profusions of negativity and struggle. Bear in mind that within the astrological community, those who write sun-sign columns are widely regarded as the ones who give the "serious" astrologers a bad name. The problem with that theory is that Rob makes the horoscope column such a legitimate literary venue that even the multidimensional fussbudgets have to laugh at interpretations of aspects summed up as eating soup with a fork. And even the hard- boiled brainiac and traditionally we're-leftist-intellectuals- who-want-nothing-to-do-with- astrology Village Voice submitted to the spell, picking up Real Astrology at the beginning of the year, and paying a respectable fee for the privilege.

And while I find Real Astrology in the alternative weekly newspaper of just about every city I travel to, there was a long time during which Rob braved it out with one or two clients, sleeping on a foam thing and scrounging for spaghetti, just like everyone who's ever had a committed relationship with a pen, a paint brush, or a guitar pick knows so well.

I have said many times that there is no such thing as "astrology," only astrologers. When we tune into an astrologer, we tune into a cosmic vision, a context, that the astrologer has been developing; we subscribe to an idea of what some call Karma (a word for how it is that what goes around comes around, and on what terms). We accept a notion of what personal growth means, what mental health is, and how to handle our ever-so-human emotions.

Most of all, we are guided as far as what to do with all this potential we have, terrifying, tormenting and enrapturing as it is. It's good that Rob's the one at the helm, the official astrologer of the people, because so much astrology has been so negative and so fatalistic, with Saturn about to stomp you on the head and Pluto about to come up behind you with a nice clobbering -- all painting a picture of a cruel and indifferent cosmos. But, like Matt Groening invented Chief Wiggum to teach us to laugh at asshole cops and cooked up Principal Skinner to remind us that the big cheese is a real guy who lives with his mother, Rob invites us to a dimension in which the forces of nature are willing to cooperate with our plans and dreams.

In Rob's cosmos, we all get to go as far as we are willing to go. Evil is not a necessary ingredient of life, just an unnecessary diversion. There is compassion and there are friends and there is always a way around the difficulty, or at least through it directly. As my friend Neal said recently, "As far as Taurus is concerned, he tells you things you don't want to hear in a very nice way." And, I would add, he recommends the most effective psychic posture that will get you through.

In this celestial map, the real one, as he hints in the seemingly peculiar title of his rather non-astrological astrology reports, there are not just planets, but also bubble baths and chocolates on your pillow and your lover informed that s/he must lavish you with gifts each day at 2 p.m. There are Celtic fables and Grandpa's favorite insults imported from Poland and revealed just the very week you need them most.

Is it a coincidence, or is it astrology? It's been said that one of Rob's greatest gifts is that he understands the archetypes of the signs so well. He seems to have down pat the subtle ideosynchronicities of the basic personalities that people our culture; he knows the contradictions, he knows the stereotypes and when they are not only bullshit, but when they are right on point. Writing sun-sign astrology is risky business, because people are all so different. But then, are we? Rob gets the joke.

So, it's Rob Brezsny's birthday today (June 23). Right with the Sun at its peak intensity, the third day of summer, and born of the sign Cancer, which is about nurturing, and nurturing the millions. He was born, according to The Secret Language of Birthdays, on "The Day of Interpersonal Enchantment." The entry for his day reads, in pertinent part, "June 23 people are drawn to the enchantment of art, music, and literature. It is always the splendid characters, the magical themes or orchestration, the enchanting colors and shapes, which attract them. The Arts often occupy a central position in their lives, as they are highly appreciative listeners, viewers, and readers."

And true it is that Brezsny seems to be, as an artist, first a musician (who opted out of fame), then some combination of reader and taleteller -- and an astrologer as if it were just a necessary element of background training to get away with spreading good news. And Goddess knows, we need it here.

Among those who share his birthday are Alfred Kinsey, the sexology pioneer, and Edward VIII, both of whom you could say did all it for love -- Edward being the man who abdicated the British throne and accepted exile to be with his life-partner.

It may be strange to be an astrologer in the 20th Century world of microtech and biotech and nukes-in-space, but Rob shows it's also very natural, an intuitive way to cope with all there is, and there is a lot. He whispers an answer to the madness; a breath of something beyond reason.

-- Eric Francis
Woodstock USA, June 21, 1999

To Horoscopes Menu

To Contents Page

To July Monthly