Monday, August 20, 2018

Astrology and Crystals: I Hate Them (Because I'm a Gemini)

In my last post I talked about the leather subculture.  The leather subculture, because it is a counter-culture, rejects a lot of basic societal structures.  For example, leather folk are often very anti-religion.  This makes sense especially when you consider that organized religion is not all that friendly toward queer culture; a lot of leather folk, especially the gay men, have experienced systematic prejudice at the hands of organized religion, and have wiped their hands clean of it.

However, in order to make sense of the endless void and abyss that awaits us once we die, a lot of leather folk turn to... non-traditional belief systems.

Specifically I'm talking about astrology, but I've also seen crystals and oils make the rounds.  Today I want to talk about those things and why they INFURIATE me.

It's not just my FaceBook friends who peddle these ridiculous beliefs.  Because I make a lot of posts and read a lot of sites about fitness and wellness, my FB feed has become clogged with snake oil "supplements" claiming to help with weight loss.

Say it with me, folks: DIET AND EXERCISE.

The only way to lose weight is with lifestyle changes, not with products.

There is no magic pill or wrap or shake or vitamin. Don't waste your money.  (It's no coincidence that many oils and supplements of questionable origin that are not FDA approved come from predatory multi-level marketing schemes.)

The astrology thing in particular bothers me for two reasons: one, it removes personal agency.  Two, it's so incredibly easily disprovable.

In general I'm against any system that categorizes people because it's an over-simplification of personality and creates rigid labels that deny people their full human complexity.

Yes, even Myers-Briggs.

Side note: I am an "INTJ" personality, which, according to the Myers-Briggs website, means that I dislike rules, limitations and traditions, and believe that everything should be open to questioning and reevaluation.

 Damn it.

The reason for this post is because recently, while talking to the 2019 LA Pup Pack, someone mentioned they were a Gemini.  As usual, it was an excuse for a shitty personality trait.  People often use astrology to explain away their flaws.  The thing is, if you're aware of the flaw... why not work on it?  In this circumstance, Green said, "I'm bad at deadlines."  (The deadline is over two months away.)  Green has TWO MONTHS to get their shit together!  And meanwhile, Green had implicated me (and another person who was born in May) in that shitty personality trait.

Right here, we see the problem with astrology.  In a single sentence I destroyed the notion of Geminis having a trait by pointing out that I don't fall into that.  And Green's response?  "Oh, you're the other kind."

So Geminis are either good or bad at deadlines.

That doesn't sound like it's a "Gemini trait."  That sounds like it's literally every possibility that exists

On a side note, I love how Yellow popped in and blurted out what I was thinking, although it was pretty harsh.  And, props to Green, they took it very well.

Green went on to say that they hate labels... which is weird considering that at that point, the phrase "as a Gemini" had come up three times already.

Finally, when it came up YET AGAIN, I asked them to stop.

And they did, which was nice.  Still, it put me in a very awkward position to have to ask them to stop in the first place.

Aside from disliking labeling people, I dislike the justification of shitty traits based on arbitrary demographics.  Have some agency; work on your flaws.  And for crying out loud, don't implicate others.  Saying "as a Gemini..." immediately, by extension, implicates all other May babies in whatever you're about to say.  So you're not only abdicating your own, personal responsibility, but that of others, as well.  And that's not okay.

The only explanation for the continued belief in such a ridiculous set of beliefs is superstition; take, for example, B.F. Skinner's Pigeon Superstition experiment, in which he got pigeons to do elaborate dance rituals to get rewards.  The rewards were distributed randomly, yet the pigeons continued to believe there was some sort of causality to their fancy footwork.

Astrology can easily be disproven with a single question: Why isn't everyone born in May exactly the same?  But this has not made people any less convinced there's some truth to their horoscopes.

Look no further than FaceBook, where you will see tons and tons of posts that say things like, "the following signs will do ANYTHING for their families," and then proceed to list half of the signs.  I hate these.  They apply to everyone and create such idiotically broad generalizations that ANYONE can identify with that.  It's manipulative and, I hate to say it, it works great on people with simple minds.

I also know someone in the greater leather community who is into crystals.  Like horoscopes, crystals are one of those things that seem to me something that should have long-since been disproven.  I know next to nothing about crystals and, being a Gemini and therefore inherently curious, I decided to have an open mind and ask this crystal-believing person to explain to me how they work.

They explained that the body is made up of "chakras" which are, conveniently, arranged in a rainbow, and that you can strengthen chakras by using crystals of correlating colors.  (This sounded to me, so far, like it had been written by a preschooler.)

They offered to do a "cold read" on me.  This involved holding my hands and staring into my eyes for an uncomfortable amount of time.

At the end they suggested I needed orange and light blue, which correlate to sexuality and communication.  They said that they felt that I had trouble "feeling heard" and communicating myself, and also that the power of orange crystals could help with my gender dysmorphia.

Okay, so, full stop.

First of all, if you're reading my blog, you're probably already HYPER aware that I EXCEL at oration.  I am an author, both by hobby and by trade.  I write for fun.  I write for money.  I give presentations and classes and speeches at events and, trust me, I'm the guy you want to hand a mike to.  I have NEVER felt unable to make myself heard.  Words are my materials, and I am a master craftsman.

The saddest part of this utterly inaccurate statement was that this person had been a judge at my leather contest, and had complimented me on being incredibly well-spoken.  So I have no idea whether this cold reading was a) something that they told EVERYBODY, or b) based on some strange notion that perhaps I was secretly hiding a speech insecurity and that my incredible ability to communicate was over-compensation for it.

Second of all, I took some offense to the idea that I needed a magic sex stone.  Yes, I'm androgynous.  Yes, my gender is one of those bizarre non-binaries that people love to wrap their entire personalities around.  But guess what?  I'm not defined by my gender.  I don't really need my gender or sexuality to define me.  I don't need a label for it.  And I don't experience any sort of body dysmorphia; my body is what it is, a vehicle that I'm piloting through life, and I think it's a pretty good one, even if I'd prefer one that was taller and beefier.  A big assumption was made about how I feel about myself and I didn't like that at all; it was a stereotype.  That because I don't fit into a traditional masculine role, I must have some sort of sexual dysfunction or insecurity.  Wrong.

So, in conclusion, I determined that crystals are stupid.  (Although I will admit, very pretty.  I had a geode on my coffee table.  It helps my room decoration / interior design chakra.)

I think that everyone needs to believe in something to make sense of the world.  And that's okay.  Whether it's "traditional" organized religion, or crystals, or astrology, if it brings people comfort, that's okay.  However, these things should NEVER be used to justify the abuse of another person (as traditional religion has done), to replace scientific or medical treatment (as crystals have done), or to justify crappy personality traits, make decisions for you, or lump people into categories (as astrology has done).

Ironically, the same people who have abandoned religion for its problems have ended up emulating it in their own beliefs. 

At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with beliefs, so long as they aren't harmful.  If a person is a Christian, for example, that's okay.  What's not okay is using those aspects of their personality to treat another person badly.  And if someone likes essential oils or crystals, that's okay, too.  So long as they're not destroying their finances in a multi-level marketing scheme or denying themselves legitimate medical treatment in the process.

There's comfort to be had in beliefs and I'm glad that I have such a wide berth of people to expose me to theirs.  That being said, as a Gemini?  I'd rather not take part.

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