March, 2011


Mythic Prelude:


Hello, and welcome to the Universal Festival Calendar for March, 2011.

So much, it appears, for the Year of the Rabbit that so many expected to see. So far it is clear that the Rabbit Year of 2011 has not come to nuzzle and play like fluffy bunnies who are nothing like the flexed, furious characters who starred in the staredown and shoutdown contests of 2010.
As we saw last month in Into the Briar Patch, a Rabbit Year, even an Iron Rabbit Year like this one, is usually said to be a pleasant social walk through history's lobby for some lemonade and light talk between the big, thundering acts of the Iron Tiger Year just past and the Water Dragon Year coming in 2012. Will 2011 be more mild than wild? Or -- is the most powerful and transformative energy of the Rabbit archetype, which moves people to act in communal groups, now in top, heroic form, helping to galvanize human beings into right action -- that is, action that intends to make things right?
A friend says she's heard 2011 will be bad for countries, but good for people. This is about it. 2011 will challenge institutions of control. Some will not hold against the ocean wave of the people's will. As we see here in Madison, Wisconsin, the teachers want Gov. Scott Walker to Walk Like an Egyptian the way Hosni Mubarak just did -- that is, out of office. The workers are not just funnier than their boss, they are also smarter. This classic scenario is the vehicle of comedy and revolution.
One characteristic of the Boss as embodied by comedy types like Pantalone, Ted Baxter and Ralph Kramden is that they do not pick up well on clues and hints about what others do and don't want. The Boss is not mean, he's unconscious. He is not aware, or doesn't ask, about the consequences of his actions. The main arc of the play about him, the musical laugh riot Boot the Boss, is in getting him to see that it's time for him to exit and get offstage. He doesn't take the hint when tens of thousands of young students in Tahrir Square are joined by hundreds of thousands of others from all ages and occupations. He doesn't see what it means when thousands of Muslims who are not joining the demonstrations -- as some believe the Qur'an forbids us to defy rulers -- are standing in and in front of their mosques at all hours of the day and night, singing to the Square, holding space for change from a distance. Even when people in the Square are sitting on tanks and embracing army officers as their brothers and friends, the Boss does not think that this could be a good time to choose his favorite shirts for travel.
Nor does the Boss see that a change in his opinion could be needed when tens of thousands of state workers, their families, friends and heart brethren, some of them here from a thousand miles away, have formed peaceable organizations who have occupied the center of Madison. Hundreds of people slept overnight in the state Capitol -- as no business could be done in the state senate -- and were well fed and cared for by efficient volunteer teams. With the state workers now in the streets, the people are the public service workers, and they do it well. They get along fine with the police, some of whom are conflicted that their union still has a right to bargain, but the other unions won't if Walker, his allies and owners succeed in taking away the right to organize that Wisconsin workers won more than a hundred years ago. Allies are coming to Wisconsin from other states. The Green Bay Packers have sided with the teachers.
So why doesn't Gov. Walker wake up and get it when there a growing movement to recall him? Could he qualify as a Crazy Boss, like Muammar Gaddafi and Idi Amin? One advantage that can and does help Crazy Bosses -- it did wonders for Ivan the Terrible and Stalin -- is that when the people around them wonder if the Boss is insane, and he could order anything to be done to them at any time for no reason at all . . . they will hesitate to do anything to remove him. This helps Crazy Bosses like Nero and Hitler to stay in power for a dozen years and more. It could work for Scott Walker if he were in a different place. It is one thing to imagine that someone, somewhere, would try to enact a law to take the right of collective bargaining away from state workers. Bosses try this when they think it will fly. They normally attempt it, though, in places where they can get away with it.
But not even an Ego Balloon Boss of the Mussolini or Messianic Nut type would try to take workers' basic rights away in, of all places, Wisconsin. It is the last place in the world where anybody should try to do such a thing. Wisconsin has been the most progressive state in the USA since before Robert La Follette, who founded the Progressive Party. It is the home of the Wisconsin Idea, the 1904 policy document which states that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state itself, that the university will work actively in designing the solutions to the state's problems, and that university and government will work "to ensure well-constructed legislation aimed at benefitting the greatest number of people." Wisconsin's participatory, dynamic approach to governance pioneered workers' compensation, progressive taxation and such egalitarian, widely empowering adjustments of the political machinery as party primary elections and direct election of US Senators by the people rather than by the State legislature. Wisconsin is one place not to pick a fight with the workers.
It is also, sadly, not a place where flamboyant theatricality is a priority. In one bizarre side plot of the Wisconsin Uprising, fourteen state senators flew off to Illinois to escape the reach of Wisconsin state troopers who could otherwise be empowered to arrest the senators, take them to the Senate chamber and thereby force them to constitute a quorum that would enable the Republicans to enact their union-destroying bill. Going to Illinois does do the trick on this one, yes -- as it also has now for state legislators from Ohio -- but in comedy there are no mistakes, only missed opportunities. Thousands of intrepid and courageous political activists have told themselves by now that -- "If I'd been one of those Wisconsin senators, I would have asked the others to stand with me in the park across from the Capitol, with the people around us, so that if the Sergeant at Arms wanted to come for us, he'd have to make his way through thousands of people and dozens of cameras." Would a Leo performer like Hugo Chavez have missed a chance for political theatre like this? Not likely. But for those who may have missed the bus the first time, 2011 will offer many more opportunities.
Astrology Alert: Riding the Rapids: Uranus is in Aries!
Where civil unrest and the tide of change go, the price of poker is due to go way up now as one of the most important celestial events of our time arrives March 12. Uranus entering the sign of Aries is like men running around Rome yelling "Caesar is in Italy!" Even if we don't know exactly what is coming, we know for certain that change is on the way when Uranus crosses into the fire sign of the Ram, ruled by Mars, for the next seven years. We will look only briefly here at the transit of Uranus through Aries from this month through May of 2018. There is more about this epoch-making event in Astral Notes for March --May, 2011.
The essence of the combination is Change. Uranus is the artist and trickster of Revolution, the one who brings change that is heady and exciting to those who welcome it and are brave enough to play it, and upsetting, even terrifying, to those who resist it, or think they will control it to their ends. When Uranus is in the zodiac sign of the impetuous, desire-driven Warrior and initiator of the new, he tends to witness, and perhaps to provoke, revolutionary changes that can go either way, toward freeing people, or enslaving them in new and more ingenious ways. Some recent exhibits in the Uranus-in-Aries wing of the History Museum:
1927 - 1935: The 1929 crash leads to worldwide depression, war and revolution. The new planet Pluto is discovered in 1930. Japan invades Manchuria in 1931, Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected president of the US the next year, and Germany goes Nazi in January 1933. A year later the Red Army in China survives the Long March, and the Stalin dictatorship begins.

1843 - 1851: Socialist and other anti-monarchic uprisings shake the regimes of Europe. The new planet Neptune is discovered in 1846, as the Baha'i movement begins. Civil unrest and the Irish potato blight propel a wave of German and Irish immigration to the USA, which wins a war of expansion against Mexico. The Communist Manifesto is published, and the labor movement begins.

1756 - 1764: Uranus is in Aries during the entire time of the Seven Years' War, as England, reaping the benefits of its recent Industrial Revolution, defeats France and emerges as the world's dominant empire. England imposes in its American colonies the mercantilist laws that will soon lead to revolt when Uranus is in the communicative sign of Gemini.
This is enough to establish the main shape of the picture: transformative events, often involving mass movements of millions of people, sometimes achieving the end of oppressive regimes, but sometimes bringing worse ones. One way or the other, when Uranus is in Aries, especially when he is in a 90° "square" to Pluto in Capricorn in 2012 - 2013, we may feel that we're being swept along by currents that we cannot direct or control. We are in the white water now, and it will get louder. We can choose to navigate it in a strong canoe with fit, resonant, well-equipped friends. We can get inside a barrel and shoot the rapids alone. One way or the other, we're in a fluid, turbulent water environment that requires us to get flexible and inventive if we're going to travel on the water's terms. This is the theme of my book Surfing Aquarius, which Red Wheel Weiser will publish in September.
Stretching the Cord
I lived in Cairo from June, 2004 through June, 2007, then in Sinai, mostly in the coastal diving resort town of Dahab, until April, 2009. I have many dear friends in Egypt, among Egyptians and expats. So after the troubles began in Cairo, I sent Are You All Right? messages to some sixty people in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab, conveying my prayers and intentions that they and their families, and all the good people of Egypt will be safe, and will soon be free. When the internet was turned back on and service on cell phones was restored, I began to get reports from friends about how they were, and what they had seen and heard. The vignettes they sent me did not make the network news, even on Al-Jazeera, but they drew some compelling pictures of the desperate measures tyrants will pull when the end is near -- and the resourceful, communal strength that people will find when their longing to be free is driven by an inexhaustible courage that kept some people in Tahrir Square without sleep for a week and more, and by the love to embrace all allies, here and throughout the world.
One friend wrote to report the real story behind the sudden, mysterious escape of all the prisoners from all four of Egypt's main prisons. It didn't just happen. The government opened the prison doors and told the prisoners to leave. When they balked, thinking this was a trick and they'd be shot if they tried to flee, their guards told them they'd be shot if they didn't leave, then affirmed their point by shooting a man or two. The prisons emptied, and the state media broadcast a report that the most dangerous criminals in our country have been freed by the anti-government protestors, and are now on the loose, thousands of them. They could be anywhere by now, and this is why long-distance bus service has now been suspended between Cairo and Alexandria, Suez and Sinai.
We can easily imagine the wave of fear that this news must have sent through the country, and how it had for a day or two its intended effect of keeping people at home to protect their families, rather than out in the streets and squares. What the state media did not reveal, but which the people found out and broadcast as soon as they saw that Fighting Fear is Fundamental, was that the government's Prison Holiday was a scam. Cordons of police outside the prisons had caught all the fugitives within hours of their alleged escape, but this news was not reported, for the obvious reason. People are easier to spook and control when they think that anyone they don't know could be the most dangerous murderer in Egypt.
Another friend reported that her brother-in-law's apartment and office complex had been attacked by what neighbors estimated as an army of 5,000 "looters" who broke into flats and shops, stole what they could carry and vandalized what they couldn't, beat up dozens of people who protested, and used knives and clubs to kill a few. People in Cairo weren't fooled about who these "marauders" were, and why they were trashing residences and company offices. Anybody who's read The Pardoner's Tale or seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly knows it's almost impossible to get even three desperadoes to cooperate without trying to kill each other. When they suddenly show up in big numbers, it's clear who they are: plainclothes security police acting as provocateurs, as they did in the squares too. As they do when they torch a Coptic church, then escape suspicion when the state blames "foreign elements" or the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt's people detest these thugs as strongly as they love their army, and they organized to stop them in many creative ways. Coptic churches were protected by Muslims. And local people swiftly organized building and neighborhood militias who armed themselves with whatever they could find or make. One of the safest areas in Cairo was the island of Zamalek where I used to live, as the only routes into it by land are over the six bridges from downtown and Mohandiseen, and by Metro train from Tahrir Square and Giza. Zamalek militias created checkpoints at the bridgeheads and Metro entrances, requiring those who wanted to pass by to show their national ID cards. Security police did not attempt to get through, perhaps not wanting to show their distinctive state police ID, or not wanting to tangle with dozens of determined men armed, according to some reports, with ceremonial swords and other exotic old weapons as well as clubs and axes. I like to imagine, though I have no evidence, that the antique stores I used to visit, near the down ramp of the May 15 Bridge in back of the Marriott, decided to play their part in history by placing their arsenals of sabres and broadswords, halberds and maces and pikes, in the hands of their neighbors, leaving troublemakers to wonder as they approached if the men arrayed in front of them had been armed by Mohamed Ali Pasha, even by Saladin himself.
We have no idea where all of this will lead, and whether revolts now afoot in Libya and Michigan, Yemen and Indiana, Iran, Idaho and France will prove as successful as the Clash in Egypt has, at least for now. The strong communality that unites resistors to tyranny across borders and oceans is not a total novelty. Workers on both sides of the Atlantic acted in solidarity a century ago, until World War I broke them apart again along the old nationalist divides. But when the protestors reach across the mental barriers that controllers have erected to separate the Muslim East from the "Christian" West, then look out. The current of liberation is running fast and strong, and goes where it will.

I will be in Cairo a week from now. Since last summer I'd been planning to guide a private tour group interested in the sound resonances of the great sacred sites of the Nile and Sinai. The group has just cancelled, but I'm going anyway. The Diwan bookstores who will host me for Dance of the Moon signings, and the Cairo Center for Wellbeing and Community Service Association who'll host me for speeches and readings, are moving right ahead with our plans. This is Egypt, where life goes on, and always has. Life has a different look and feel when its rhythms are slow, even timeless, and communal rather than individual.

Egypt has always had its work cut out for it. It has been troubled by so many invaders that to list all of them would be pedantic. Before the Aswan High Dam was built, the Nile Valley flooded almost every year for millennia, and its people had to redraw its boundaries, every one of them, in survey procedures that inspired the Stretching of the Cord ceremony that was enacted to align the cornerstone when a new temple was built, like the Temple of Hor ("Horus") at Edfu, shown here.
The netert Seshat, mistress of all measures, stands at center, with Hor standing behind her, holding the uas rod of stability at her back. At the left is Ptolemy III, who began construction of the temple. Connecting the two marking rods that he and Seshat hold is a loop symbolizing the cord that connects the divine and human realms, and is reaffirmed every time a great sacred building is begun, and every time the borders between two farms are reckoned anew. The male figures in this relief both wear the bull's tail that identifies them both as the Bull of his Mother. There can be no doubt who the most important figure in this tableau is, as it is the feminine that is more gifted and practiced at healing the wounds, sharing the food, and getting communities to revise and work again. They laugh readily too. Laughter is a core value to remember amid the high-intensity events that will continue this year.
It is as mighty for displacing the wicked as it is medicinal for coping with them. This is why dictators fear lampoons and act to control theatre, for one M*A*S*H or Marriage of Figaro is worth a million damaging facts. One thing that may now change in Egypt, after urgent matters are addressed, is that the theatre companies will no longer have to file a production plan with the government, and get their official approval, before rehearsals and set construction can begin. That is how much Hosni Mubarak feared Egypt's creativity, and its laughter.
March has always been the zodiac month for laughter, plenty of it, as the pain and troubles of the old year are dispelled in comedy festivals like Holi and especially Purim, which commemorates the cleverness of Esther in saving her people from Scott Walker, costumed this time as Police Commissioner Haman. So one essential activity this month is to do ritual comedies at the Full Moon coming on March 19 - 20, depending on your location. Its power will be greatly enhanced this year, coming as it does just before the March Equinox.

It may help to get up to comic speed with The Shift Has Hit the Fan by Swami Beyondananda, whose alter ego, Steve Bhaerman, has co-authored with Bruce Lipton the invaluable book Spontaneous Evolution. And to remember what one of the planet's most joyous souls wrote last year in My Spiritual Journey. In the chapter "I am a Professional Laugher," H. H. the Dalai Lama had this to say about the kinds of things we have seen, and will keep seeing, in 2011: "You can see the positive side of even the worst of tragedies if you adopt a holistic perspective. If you take the negative as absolute and definitive, however, you increase your worries and anxiety, whereas by broadening the way you look at a problem, you understand what is bad about it, but you accept it.”

Such a view is as broad, inclusive and compassionate as it can be. It understands the human comedy in all its implications, and plays it gracefully, very often with music. Time to play it full out. And sing it. Keep Holding That Frequency.
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The Chiron - Neptune Conjunction of 2009 - 2011:
Prelude (Nov. 2008) and Acts 1 - 5 (April 2009 - Nov. 2010): see UFC Index
2012: The End of . . . What?

Copyright 2011 Dan Furst. All Rights Reserved.