Work Marathon Live Blog

SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Alice Bucknell

September 22, 2018

Remember like five years ago when everyone was complaining about Mercury in retrograde? You probably don’t because it never happened.

But then the alt-right emerged out of the digital woodwork to wreak havoc on international politics, apocalyptic forest fires, typhoons, hurricanes and earthquakes raged across the planet in endless procession, Trump entered the White House, and the UK decided to sever itself from its cultural ride-or-die, the EU, damaging its economy and political credibility in the process. Prince and David Bowie—both perpetual icons of the struggle—died. Seemingly all at once. Well, that’s not exactly how it happened. But chaos compounds in the collective conscious of the recent past, and those most impacted by this mounting sense of instability—e.g. woke millennials—started looking further back and higher up. They turned to more ancient and profound systems of universal order to replace the defunct logics of capitalism that they were raised on.

In a sense, you can peg the contemporary resurrection of astrology and the occult to the rise of meme culture. The amount of astrological data available through a quick Google search. On the flip side of that equation, the potential profitability of hosting a daily astrology website is lucrative enough that horoscopes have migrated from a back-end feature to their own dedicated page on news outlets from Bustle to Broadly, feeding back into the capitalist machine.

Still, the ease of sharing and discerning one’s horoscope and those of others through social media provides a new universal access to a once niche subculture. On one end, it promises a world of total flexibility and of irrefutable reasoning for those willing to buy into it. The nebulous and largely anonymous superstructure of the internet dials up this fantasy. Don’t like your horoscope for the day? Pull up another page. Wanna call things off with your Tinder fling before it gets too serious? Break it easy: you’re a taurus and they’re a scorpio; it’s never gonna work out.

“You can talk to your ex in ways you can’t talk to a current lover, It is relaxing when something has already failed,” says Emily Segal in her presentation, Mercury Retrograde. She digs deeper in her e-flux essay of the same title, revealing that while astrology can be used defensively, or worse simply becomes another means of targeted consumption, it also can work in an anti-capitalistic way, creating a space where failure is at times necessary. Daily horoscopes and more long-term periods of retrograde acknowledge failure and recursion as fundamental elements of our lives, bucking the narrative of capitalist logic as a linear drive toward progress.

The returned interest in mysticism and astrology is partially due to the unstable coniditons of the present; but it is also borne from a need to re-establish a deeper connection with each other and the world we co-inhabit at a moment where an accute awareness of the Anthropocene, political, economic, and environmental meltdown manifests like a hot flush or prick of the nerve, both immediate and nauseating. Astrology produces a space of vulerability, empathy, and deference for systems broader and more ancient than human enterprises. As in the poetry of Precious Okoyomon, it enables us to view “the universe as adapting space, a love that gives space”.

To end on the same plane of thought where we began, I want to return to Anna Tsing's book, The Mushroom at the End of the World. As she suggests, a precarious world is one without teleology, where indeterminacy and the unplanned nature of time are frightening. But in thinking through precarity, it becomes apparent that this type of indeterminancy also gives way to new, hyrbid forms of cross-species survival strategies. Embracing failure and uncertainty as essential components of existence, astrology enables us to come to make the space for ourselves and each other to develop these relationships. An implicit acceptance of failure turns our attention away from the exit strategies heralded by late capitalism and post-apocalyptic escapism for the 1%, and toward surviving on the planet we call home. Only by expanding our radar beneath the soil and far above into the cosmos, we can cultivate the curiousity—and empathy—necessary for collaborative survival.

Astrology chart

Astrology chart

Mycelium are the rootlike fibers of fungi which grow below ground, forming a dense base for sprouting mushrooms.

Mycelium are the rootlike fibers of fungi which grow below ground, forming a dense base for sprouting mushrooms.

We share 50% of our DNA with fungi, making them a much closer relative than we might think.

We share 50% of our DNA with fungi, making them a much closer relative than we might think.