Living with the new normal

TX long roadListening to a recent radio interview with Dr. David Nabbaro of the WHO, I was impressed and reassured by his honesty and no-nonsense plain speaking when questioned about Covid-19 and where we are right now with this pandemic. I quote some of his words as they convey the reality of what we, collectively, have to do to help bring the spread of this virus under control and eliminate it:

“This virus is not going away and is really dangerous. This virus doesn’t get bored. This virus only has one purpose and that is to multiply. We have absolutely no choice but to take it seriously. We’ve got to have everybody working together, and we need a comprehensive approach, we’ve got to do everything….”

here he mentioned wearing masks, keeping socially distant, using  testing/tracing, and remaining vigilant at all times

“….over time, this will become the norm. We don’t have an alternative. This virus isn’t going away for the foreseeable future – we’ve all got to learn to live with it.”

His clarity, laying on the line what we collectively have to do, no matter which country we live in, had my thoughts turning to the astrological psychology I’m trained in and have used to counsel numerous clients over the years. Please come with me as I leap from our global pandemic to the qualities, energies and expressions of the planet Saturn, and what it means in terms of observable human behaviour and where we are right now.

I’m sharing an edited extract from a talk I gave at a UK national astrological conference some years ago. It offers a practical exploration of the meaning and manifestations of the planet Saturn in everyday life. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of astrology, or of what the planet Saturn represents; I hope I can enlighten you a little on this and give you some food for thought which might help a little as we steer our way through this virus-laden mess.

Millstone or Mentor? (that was the title of my talk)

Do you check the weather forecast before you leave home to see if you’ll need an umbrella, check the train timetable on your phone when going to the station, and maybe make sure you have a map in the car when setting off on a journey to a new destination, even though you’ve programmed the satnav? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you were probably drawing on your own resources of Saturnian energy.

Structure and organisation

In astrology, the drive associated with Saturn is for Security. Saturn is concerned with structure and form, always seeking to organise, preserve and maintain things within manageable limits. In our solar system, Saturn is the furthest planet that can be seen by the naked eye.  Before the outer planets were discovered, following the invention of the telescope, Saturn’s position marked the outermost limit of our knowledge of the solar system, so it is not altogether surprising that astrologically it symbolises limitation, boundaries and our own security drives. It is the planet that swings into action when we need to know just exactly where we stand, so having social structures, guidelines and rules to abide by are all part of Saturn’s realm. Saturn gives the physical sense of self which we gain through the body. The structure, organisation and limitation associated with Saturn are present in the various systems in the body – the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the digestive system, to mention just a few. The skeletal system provides a firm, solid physical structure around which the other systems are organised. As all these systems are interdependent, their clear-cut organisation is vital. The skin – our own boundary which marks our physical outermost limits – contains them all.

Saturn helps us to become responsible and reliable as individuals; if we live within the rules and guidelines of society then we reap the benefits of feeling safe and secure. Saturn is the perfect foil to  unfettered over-expansiveness and behaviour which can get out of hand. If not contained, our excesses can take us beyond the limits of acceptability. Saturn helps in curbing what might become outrageous and antisocial behaviour by giving us a sense of caution and responsibility. Taken to extremes, this sense of caution can become fear,  holding us back and restricting us in everyday life, so it’s important with Saturn that we get the balance right, and that we don’t allow our fears to hold us back from doing what is important for us. Because it symbolises such qualities as  responsibility and caution Saturn may not sound like much fun, so it’s important that we understand its positive attributes. It’s value should not be underestimated as it plays an essential role in our psychological make up. Like all the planetary qualities and energies, it can operate at different levels of consciousness, sometimes dormant and inert and responding in a habitual manner, but at its highest level Saturn will endow us with the ability to act with dignity and maturity. Then we can live with a clear conscience, accessing the deep learning of life we have developed, and become a mentor and benefactor  to those who seek our help, support or advice.

 What we know about Saturn astronomically – that it has rings which form a boundary around it – reflects the astrological meaning of the planet. Its protective rings are akin to the qualities of limitation and boundaries which are astrologically associated  with Saturn. Psychologically, Saturn can be like a millstone. It can represent those things in life which are really heavy & which drag us down, so has the effect of being the “killjoy of the cosmos”,  but it can also be like a wise mentor, guiding, teaching and advising with our best interests and safety at heart.

At the moment there are a lot of people getting fed up with the restraints we’re living under to help curb the growth and spread of Covid-19, so it’s easy to understand how these limits might feel like a heavy millstone, a drag on what we’re used to being free to do. This might make us rebel against the Saturnian harshness of where we are now, yet our lives would almost certainly be a chaotic mess without Saturnian qualities around to provide the structure and practical grounding of living in the material world, especially now our current world and lifestyles and jobs  are under threat.

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Masks

Masks have probably always provoked strong reactions because they hide, conceal and mystify. I’m thinking here of masked balls, the elaborate masks worn at the Carnival of Venice, the Guy Fawkes masks worn by protesters, and the masked faces of highwaymen in times gone by.

Dressing up 3 FroebelI created quite a stir many years ago when, at a fancy dress celebratory party at the end of an astrological psychology workshop. I went dressed as my interpretation of the planet Uranus and wore a full face mask. It wasn’t the costume that disturbed and intrigued people, it was the mask. People who knew me well didn’t recognise me and kept asking/guessing who I was. In astrological terms, Uranus is the planetary energy associated with change, upheaval, revolution, “ah-ha” moments, scientific knowledge and advance, and technology. Very relevant for the times we’re living in, and something I wrote about a while back. See here.

Who would have thought, back in March 2020, that masks would have become such a touchy, high profile subject. They’re a political hot potato right now, some people hating them and saying they will not wear them while others just get on with it and put them on, knowing that it’s the very least they can do to help bring this virus under control. I fall into the latter category.

The British government continue with their lack of clear messages to the public and the wearing of masks is a case in point. Announcing that from 24th July everyone is required to wear masks in shops, there still seem to be some cabinet ministers who don’t quite get this. Not especially surprising as a 10 day gap has been allowed between the date of the announcement and 24th July. Wondering why? Me too. Why not just a couple of days to allow people time to get themselves mask-organised? Why the delay?

Way ahead of this many people, myself included, wouldn’t – and still won’t for some time to come – go inside anywhere without a mask since the science says airborne particles of virus in breath droplets stand a far better chance of finding somewhere to adhere to in an enclosed space. It makes sense to wear a mask to protect yourself for this reason as well as to protect others if you are an asymptomatic carrier and don’t know if you’ve had the virus, or if you carry the virus.

It’s all down to being responsible to ourselves and to each other. OK, so people do look a bit strange wearing them, but we’ll get used to it. I’m fascinated by how they remind me of nose bags worn by horses and have a giggle at the thought of what could be munched behind them as people walk along.

As we’re not going to be able to show our facial expressions so well, we might be able to get away with poking out tongues at people we don’t like and getting away with it (no I’m not seriously suggesting that, it’s just a naughty bit of me coming out there). We’ll have to learn how to use our eyes more – smile with them and let the corners crinkle up a bit. We may need plenty of smiles to help us get through this.

Way back in March, when we were still in Houston visiting our family and realised we had to get a flight back home fast as the airlines were closing down, we tried out the masks we had with us ahead of leaving for the airport. If we look a bit terrified in picture 1 it’s because were were and we didn’t know what we were getting in to.

A few months down the line in picture 2 we put them on to go through the visitor centre and into the open air Wetlands Centre at Martin Mere. Not so much fear here about wearing them, just common sense and acceptance of the reality of our lifestyle and how the the world is now, as a vaccine is sought.

This is no time for anyone to drop their guard and relax. So please wear the damn things and do your bit.

Sweet Nothings

 

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This pair of Southern Screamers were spotted billing and cooing like a pair of love birds on a recent visit to Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire. No social distancing for them, but now the reserve is open again, visitor numbers are limited and you have to book in advance. Once through the entrance and on to the reserve, all is well-managed with plenty of hand washing/sanitising points and comfortable distancing from other visitors.

The Screamers are natives of South America, and have a distinctive screaming call, loud enough to make your hair stand on end. They’re fairly large and turkey-like, with partly webbed feet, hollow bones and air sacs beneath the skin, which would all help in getting them off the ground and being able to stay there once in the air.

They have large, thick legs, light red in colour and just looking at these legs and pondering on them being hollow is – for me at least – quite fascinating. They mate for life and this pair were clearly being sensitive and gentle, interacting as they sat side by side.

I gather there is nothing of note in their plumage to help distinguish between male and female, but my fantasy on seeing them was that the male had the white dog collar (Rev. S. Screamer?) and the female had the fluffy pale grey hairdo.

She also preened and groomed his head, making me wonder if he might be just a tiny bit henpecked…..see the look on his face!

Something seems to be missing

many+words

Following my previous post “What would you like see more of in the world?” I’ve been sent a few suggestions from readers of the qualities they would like to see more of:

Compassion….caring….kindness….empathy….tolerance……trust……truth……and of all them, along with the other words I took up with me on to the Fourth Plinth, are transpersonal qualities.

Transpersonal qualities are those which are beyond the personal. They’re timeless, they have a universal application which crosses cultures, and they have a spiritual dimension. We, as human beings understand them. We may find it hard to  define them exactly but we know one when we see it. Try defining “beauty” or “joy” or “trust” in just ne word. It’s not always easy but we know what they mean.

I’m changing tack a bit now to the current shambolic hoo-hah in the UK, created by PM Boris Johnson’s special advisor Dominic Cummings. He broke the all the lockdown rules he himself was involved in creating and justified what he did by breaking the lockdown, and driving 260 miles to his parent’s home when ill with Covid-19, probaby spreading the virus as he went (you can read plenty about the details on line – we have pretty much nothing else in our news right now). Bottom line summary:  “I risked infecting other people when I had Covid – 19, but that’s OK because it’s one rule for me, and the rest of you have to do what I say. Apology….. why should I apologise? I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

This man’s moral compass is utterly defunct and with no remorse that I could see, he shows a large amount of contempt and disrespect to the British public. And he has a severe lack of humility and empathy for the many people who have adhered to the lockdown rules for 10 weeks now. The danger is that people, seeing he’s flouted the rules and has seemingly got away with it will begin to flout them too. Respect for them has gone right out of the window and the Prime Minister will not (at the time of writing) sack him, and appears weak.

The sad and troubling thing is that most members of the government have also come out in support of him. Yet not one of them sounds convincing or convinced as they shuffle their toes along the government line, hoping their spinelessness doesn’t show too much.

What has this to do with transpersonal qualities? What is missing, apart from humility and empathy? Which quality shines the light on lies and evasion?

Truth.

What’s missing ? Ordinary people who have done as instructed by the government to “Stay at Home” and not spread the virus look in vain to the government for the quality which goes hand in hand with truth.

Trust.

What is needed now from our leadership?

Integrity, Authenticity, Truth, Openness, Consideration………you can probably think of whole lot more.

 

VE Day 75 years on

The pictures above show VE celebrations in the street in 1945, probably in London, alongside the official programme for the London Victory Celebrations in 1946. The latter is from my family archives – both parents lived and worked in London in reserved occupations during  WW2. They worked in a butcher’s shop by day, and as Civil Defence wardens by night. They went through the blitz, lucky if they managed to get 4 hours sleep, and they slept in a Morrison shelter in the front room.

WMorrison shelterhen I was a child they had a big clear out, and the Morrison shelter was set up in the front room so I could see it. Here’s what it looked like (not the actual one they used). I crawled inside and hated it. It was like a claustrophobic cage and I wonder how they managed to get any sleep at all; I’d have been constantly worrying that a bomb would hit the house and I’d be trapped inside. Notice how the roof of the shelter doubled up as a table.

Susie air raid shelter 2Prior to the Morrison shelter they’d lived in another house which had an Anderson shelter in the garden. My mum doesn’t look too bad standing outside it, with her pinny and sensible shoes. I don’t know when this was taken, but it’s during the war.

There are no photos of either parent in their air raid warden’s uniforms, but someone made a sketch of my dad in his. Note the short back and sides and the moustache – fashionable at the time, but it makes him look a bit serious (he wasn’t). The  drawing is dated 12th December 1941. He was in the Civil Defence for the long haul, until the end of the war.

Fred sketch

 

Now the 75th anniversary of VE Day upon us, I’ve been wondering what my parents would think of the Britain they worked for and supported the war effort for, 75 years on? They would certainly recognise and embrace the upsurge of community connection and kindness, friendliness and helpfulness that has become more evident since we’ve all been in the lockdown. Coronavirus and pandemics might ring bells for them; they were children in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic but I never heard them speak of any memories of it. The biggest thing that ever happened for them was WW2. They would certainly be able to empathise with the fear and concern about this, as-yet, unpredictable disease afflicting the global population. Fear would have been ever-present in their lives during the war, and maybe it’s something we are gradually getting used to as a “background” as we seek to get on with our lives in as normal a way as possible in these exceptional times. Does the fear and worry ever go away, or do we learn how to deal with it better and in more manageable ways? I guess it’s the latter.

With all this in mind, I’m not sure I want to sing “We’ll Meet Again” with the nation on Friday, or watch too much of the nostalgic stuff on TV, or hear the stirring Churchill speech we’re being promised, or take a part in the suggested socially distanced afternoon tea shared with neighbours outside our houses. I may choose to be a grumpy introvert and stay away – the waving of the Union Jack leaves me unmoved and I’ve managed to avoid it for a long time. That’s not to suggest it’s wrong to remember and acknowledge what people experienced during WW2 and 75 years ago, when it came to an end and new way of living evolved. It’s rather similar to where we’re at right now in 2020 – life is unlikely to be quite the same again. Something new and positive must evolve from this situation, we must adapt and go forward, consider the environent a lot more  – so many people have realised they appreciate it –  and a lot of things must change.

Looking to the future, that will be no bad thing.