Britta Gustafson: Advice from a self-proclaimed astrologist
Astrology’s simplicity can be something to appreciate.
Twenty years ago today, on Jan. 20, 2001, I offered some astrological advice in my college newspaper.
“Aries(…) This Week: All that raw energy can sometimes get out of hand, have a heart and let that little thing slide. The Weekend: Your days and nights are mixing as well as oil and water, find a happy medium. In the Bedroom: things could get a bit out of control, just the way you like it! Lucky Day: Friday.”
In my second year on the editorial staff at the Campus Press, the student-run newspaper at the University of Colorado, we held a focus group meeting to see what students wanted to read in their weekly paper. To the surprise of some, Astrology made it near the top of the list. Determined to improve our readership, our small staff of five — crammed together on a dilapidated couch, working from a basement office in CU’s Macky Hall — voted me the first CP Astrology writer.
I embraced the challenge. I bought some books and a few star charts, channeled “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw, and discovered that I had a quirky, kinky, clairvoyant knack. And I loved the stuff. My passion led me to become a conspicuous character on campus as a bestower of “Astrological Advice.”
For me, Astrology became a way to take a macroscopic view in grappling with life’s inevitable challenges, a place to offer sound advice under the guise of pseudoscientific entertainment.
I was seduced by its vague prognostications that added control to the uncontrollable, though I regularly questioned its validity. Yet, I began to see some cultural value as a space to encourage students to become more reflective. Years of reading horoscopes later, I still recognize a gentle common theme: they primarily encourage us to look within to find strength.
To those who found it to be nonsense, my work was met with a fair amount of snark. But astrology remains a seemingly timeless fixture in daily pop-culture for a reason.
We live in an insecure world, and it’s hard to resist anything that offers up some blind-faith guidance toward sense of purpose. Studies have shown an increase in astrological beliefs this year — perhaps even an increase in believing anything that’s far fetched and impossible to prove, but theories suggest these beliefs take hold in the presence of political and economic threats.
And from my experience, a certain amount of reassurance comes from reading about your future in 120 characters, no matter how vague.
It’s an open secret that astrology isn’t scientifically based. But that distinct system of logic allows it to be elevated to a status of pseudoscience, so it can be an entirely optional belief system. Fortunately, it’s one that seems benign, unlike many belief systems proliferating these days.
The initial simplicity can be something to appreciate. Astrology provides generic guides from a list of traits that you already have, offering either a foreboding or hopeful forecast for the week ahead. It reinforces the Barnum Effect, that tendency to accept certain information as true even when the information is so vague it might be worthless.
Ironically, astrology’s supposed accuracy is in its generality. Absolutely anyone could value the bold ambition of Aries or the loyalty of a Taurus, Cancer’s intuitive nature or the passionate persistence of a Leo. A person doesn’t have to be a Scorpio to feel emotional or a Sagittarius to crave adventure. But with these assigned attributes based on your birth date, astrology offers the appearance of personalized blueprints for who we are or who we could become. It’s reassurance in a seemingly chaotic or otherwise random universe.
We are now living in an era of contradictions, a time in history where we have never been so advanced and yet seemingly never so regressive. People today seem capable of clinging onto anything.
I think astrology is a far better place to practice blind faith than, say, in a Facebook cult or in any of those dark internet pockets festering with dangerous, hateful conspiracy nonsense.
When a person is repeatedly told by different horoscopes that they are generous, patient or practical, regardless of their potential self doubt, they receive weekly affirmation and assurance that their hardships are part of a bigger picture. And a perceived sense of self-awareness may allow a person to function just a little bit better. It seems fairly harmless, all things considered.
True, astrology seems to exist a bit at the extremes, but we seem to be a culture adrift on the fringes these days. You can love it or hate it, brush it off as a pseudoscience or believe in its power. But with so many options available to answer the unsolved questions, why not look to the stars above rather than reality TV types to find a better place to go forward with some sense of fulfillment during this insignificant blip of a lifespan in this galactic time continuum.
Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind. After all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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