In that vein I can ask: What is aquarius? I know a lot of astrology, since I studied it feverishly for many years, so know what I’m talking about here. It is the symbol of the urge to smash the too restrictive Old and usher in the New. In astrology, all signs have ruling planets; aquarius has Uranus, or Ouranos, the ancient sky god, son and lover of Gaia (Mother Earth), and father of the Titans. He is said to have hated his monstrous offspring, whom he imprisoned in Tartarus, in the belly of Gaia. Aquarius is the proselytising ideologue, the passionate idealist whose clear logic and faultless reasoning others follow, believing the New Way he urges will usher in a golden age. Mao’s Great Leap Forward is aquarian/Uranian in its dynamic. ‘Out with the old, in with the new.’ The ugly and unwanted are to be done away with, they have no conceivable utility, are not as good as they should be, could be. We are to strive for perfection. We are gods. Anything less belittles us.
This dynamic, though gruesomely dramatic in myth (as I develop below), is as humdrum as grass. Think of any urge to create we might have, say, to write a poem, or paint a picture, compose a song, found a company, marry a loved one, become a parent, etc. The reality will almost always be a disappointment on some level, sometimes crushingly so. No matter how clearly we conceive it at the outset, our control of the process cannot be total. Our creation takes on a life of its own, goes where it will, evolves under pressure of life’s infinite variability in ways we cannot foresee. Sometimes the urge to destroy our creation is too strong, even to the point of infanticide, or burning years of work, or selling a company, divorcing a childhood sweetheart, etc. Even if we are more proud of our creation than we dared hope, once in the world it becomes a creature of Universe, taking on, as I said, a life of its own. Or we try to hide it away, keep it to ourselves somehow, as Ouranos imprisoned his offspring in Tartarus. But even there it lives on, evolving, developing, subject to change.
The urge to perfection is one of humanity’s qualities which causes us to create. But when we create, we necessarily interact with the infinite, and thus, by introducing something new into its totality, relinquish the control we think we have during the creative process. Tension is thus unavoidable. Everybody knows the stereotype of the choleric, moody artist; depression, which follows creation, the fertile dark from which the new idea emerges, raising the artist's spirits to euphoric heights during much of the work, only to crash them again to begin another cycle.
Ouranos locked his disappointing creations away, not wanting to have to deal with their ugliness, but Gaia suffered horribly with all her children locked up in her womb. In her pain, she pleaded with them to castrate Ouranos and so end his reign. Only ambitious Cronus agreed to act, and there is at least one famous painting depicting this.
Cronus castrating Ouranos
But Cronus’ ambition, also part of the creative urge, caused him to lock away his siblings as his father had done. For this cruel act, Ouranos prophesied that one of Cronus’s children would overthrow him. In fear, Cronus devoured his children, and the dynamic of control is seen again. We work towards something, carry it out (create it), then fearfully protect what we feel we have earned. We want to keep things perfect, free of unwanted interference. Such can drive us mad.
Cronus devouring one of his children
And just this minute our pet cat, Ember, meowed his deep and ugly meow at our flat’s front door, wanting to be let out. Here I am, the artist at work, lost in my perfect world of thought, my creating, and yet ugly reality intrudes. I instantly wanted to strangle the damn tomcat. He was so cute as a kitten, with a meek little meow. Now he is big, less cute, and meows like a foghorn. I want my children to be perfect too, and have to fight hard to hide my disappointment when I feel it. My children are wonderful human beings, but they are not perfect, as I am not, and this creates tension and challenges. We get to be creative in dealing with that tension and those challenges, but in being creative set ourselves up for unforeseeable other challenges and tensions a little further down the road.
And I am an idealist too. I want the New Way already, now, yesterday preferably, work hard to help bring it about, have changed my life dramatically, having been inspired by Gandhi’s words to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” But I disappoint myself, fall short of my expectations as the task throws up challenges and tensions I had not foreseen, or whose intensity and difficulty I had underestimated. It all looks so easy in the planning phase, especially when we are talking ourselves into taking a mighty risk.
All this to say, that though there is no such thing as perfection, the drive towards it is very real, very necessary, very human, and inevitable. It produces wonders and horrors alike, both of which go on to produce their own wonders and horrors, ad infinitum.
I am most fascinated by that train of thought which attaches itself to and arises from what Jacque Fresco calls resource-based economics. The Venus Project is, to my mind, a very Uranian project, all blue skies, sparklingly clean cities and utopian promises, and I write this knowing full well they say, and rightly, what they propose is no utopia. And yet it is utopian, equally rightly. For it is dissatisfaction which causes us to perfect, to tinker, and risk change. When a stern but affectionate father figure of the Uranian type—which Jacque Fresco most certainly is, whether he means to be or not—says, ‘This is the way to a better place!’, his audience sees Heaven, The Promised Land, Utopia. In that sense it is doomed to fail of course, but then, everything is on some timescale. The Venus Project is also doomed to succeed, only in ways neither Fresco nor anyone else can now imagine. Such things are out of our control, though it is also imperative we work to bring The New Way about. Actually, we can’t not so strive, we just can’t know the harvest we sow.
Even conservatism, the adherence to the hard-won wisdom of tradition, is idealistic. Though it protects the old and fears the new, in seeming opposition to the Uranian dynamic outlined above, even it cannot escape idealism, fanaticism, and the destruction of that which interferes with or threatens its inherent rightness, its obvious, self-evident perfection.
And finally, to make all this still vaguer and more complex, success and failure are like beauty; they lie in the eye of the beholder. Yet I believe there is a creative fusion of this striving dynamic, humanity—or rather nature—is catching scent of now. We are about to write new myths, weave new stories. Of course this is the idealist in me speaking, but in giving voice to this I do not seek to call anyone to arms, to overthrow any oppressor and install a new oppressor. Change is the only constant. It is our relationship with our own power and our blindness to our ignorance we must transform, embrace perhaps, see clearly. History may rhyme, but it most certainly does not repeat. Speaking personally, I have a soft spot both for old traditions and new-fangled crazy talk. My intuition and experience tell me growing numbers of us see things this way too (though there is much cause for dismay). My crystal ball tells me it will be from our ability to creatively fuse seeming opposites our most fruitful endeavours will be born. The future, if we're lucky, will be more BothAnd, less EitherOr.