(11.11.02) THERE'S NOT REALLY MUCH we can do about things until we accept them as they are. A simple enough proposition, intellectually, but humans always surprise me with their adeptness at psychological denial. While shopping at the Gap, we pull a sweater off the rack, glance at its "Made in the Philippines" label, and totally avoid picturing the group of Philippine workers who have made this garment, under conditions and in exchange for wages well below the American legal standards. We can eat massive amounts of food while alone or starve ourselves to near-nothingness, and yet we don't understand how we've become fat or don't believe we're rail thin. And don't even get me started on the ruse of American democracy, where the bilateral choice we're offered—moderate Republican or moderate Democrat—is akin to picking between Coke and Pepsi when you're allergic to caramel coloring.

Beneath my cynical examples lie truths, which I pretend are hard to argue with, though they are nonetheless polarizing. And not just so between different individuals of divergent viewpoints, but also within our own selves. I buy Gap clothes, obsess over my food intake and weight fluctuations, and loyally vote for candidates who hover only barely further to one side than their opponents. I am both critical and complicit. Indeed it is the emotional discomfort of contradiction, of disavowal, that fuels the powerful repression mechanism. We don't want to believe that we act in ways leading to dissatisfaction or unhappiness, ours or other people's. Still, we do. So we should come clean, for the sake of truth itself.

In astrology, we equate the sign Sagittarius with the human quest for higher truth. Symbolized by the archer, Sagittarius aims its arrow straight at Meaning (just as Sagittarians shoot their words directly to the point, giving them a reputation for bluntness that sometimes borders on rudeness). It is opposite the zodiac from Gemini, with its uncanny ability to appear to hold multiple opinions simultaneously, one for each of its personas. Geminis dabble in knowledge, giving them bits and pieces that are useful for relating to a variety of types of people; in this way, their dual nature feeds their sociality. Sagittarius, meanwhile, seeks to expand its knowledge through incorporating foreign influences-new philosophies, higher education, faraway travel-into its existing framework. Each new experience tweaks Meaning, pushing the Sagittarian ever closer to truth, swallowing up previously held oppositions or dichotomies towards this noble goal. After all, there is nothing more mystical than recognizing the falsity of oppositions—subject/object, self/other, life/death—and discovering interconnectedness in its place.

The negative side of Sagittarius comes out when the purveyors of truth do not expand their sights wide enough to encompass compassion, yet still conclude they have reached truth anyway. It's easy enough for any of us to unknowingly overlook certain details in our impatient quest for higher understanding. It is another thing altogether for people, when faced with alternate viewpoints or new information, to dismiss the dissent or ignore the full data, instead clinging insistently to the same belief system without reconsideration. Astrologically, we saw this unfold with Pluto in Sagittarius opposing Saturn in Gemini, in strong effect from summer 2001 through summer 2002. This Saturn-Pluto opposition highlighted the danger that occurs when singular unifying philosophies are infused with intense power and fanaticism (Pluto in Sagittarius), without acknowledging their limitations in light of the variety of human experiences and lifestyles (Saturn in Gemini). The most visible example of this is the war-on-terrorism stalemate, exploding into consciousness thanks to Islamic fundamentalists on 9/11, responded to in kind by U.S. unilateralist policies. (There isn't a better term than "unilateralism" to exemplify what I'm talking about).

Though I like to imagine that the Saturn-Pluto opposition is old news by now, it returns to the forefront with the upcoming solar eclipse on Dec. 3, when the Sun and Moon meet and combine their energies in Sagittarius—within one degree of where Pluto was in August 2001, when its opposition with Saturn hit the first peak. Solar eclipses are like intensified new moons, and this upcoming one is a great opportunity to commit ourselves to expanding our beliefs so that the truths we arrive at are broad, inclusive and peaceful. Or, God forbid, it will be a time for arrogant fanatics to recommit themselves to their single-minded goals. But, before then, we have a bit more time dwelling in the land of Scorpios, including the lunar eclipse on Nov. 19, with the Sun at the tail end of Scorpio opposing the Taurus moon. Venus is finishing up its last leg of retrograde motion in Scorpio this week before returning direct on Nov. 20. All the "raising of the dead" business I've been discussing the last couple weeks is important work if we are to continue striving toward truth and understanding. Sagittarius follows Scorpio, just as we are only able to produce life-affirming universal philosophies after we have explored the depths of death. From death comes rebirth.

According to the Hindu creation myth, the universe came into being through the goddess Kali speaking the names of things in the sacred language of Sanskrit. Calling things what they are, or speaking the truth, is a magical act. Anyone who has struggled with their sexual identity before "coming out" as gay or lesbian can certainly testify to that. Similarly, journaling is a powerful psychological tool for healing, as putting our traumas and unresolved emotions into written words makes them real and removes them from the cloudy realm of internal monologue. Mercury, the planet that brings forth words and names and languages, faces two squares this week—to Jupiter and Uranus—in preparation for next week's eclipse. As we go deeper into the eye of the storm of big change, we can help create things as we want them to be by speaking our desires and being accurate with our language. But this is not an easy task right now, challenged as we are to call things by their proper names and to see underneath our words, and those of people around us, for their true meanings.