It Takes All Kinds


In my urban existence, I come in contact with the broadest cross-section of my community in three main settings—(1) on public transportation, (2) at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), and (3) in the courthouse during jury duty.

Whenever we city folks are brought together in these shared civic spaces, we must face every other kind of person who lives here with us. We cannot get away from each other. Sometimes it's illuminating; other times, it just makes us feel claustrophobic.

Recently, I had the populist pleasure of ambling through such environs more extensively than usual. While I've always ridden public transit from time to time, the frequency has lately increased… in direct proportion to rising gas prices (and that nagging sense of environmental duty, which slowly whittles away at my elephantine automobile addiction). The DMV, meanwhile, I visit every five years, whether I feel I need to or not. (The law has its own ideas.) That recurrent visit happened a couple weeks back… and may I add that, due to the new automated customer-number system, the long lines I remember are apparently a thing of the past. All different types of people, patiently waiting in rows of chairs. Hmmm.

As for jury duty… well, that's another matter altogether. If you're one of the lucky few like me, who makes it beyond the rush of both genuine and fictitious reasons offered by those eager to be excused from serving, you get to jury selection—during which you actually get to hear those strangers open their mouths and speak. What a wonderful opportunity to go beyond our cursory first-sight judgments… and to discover the next layer of judgment inside us, waiting to pounce on someone else's words.

Lawyers from both sides of the pending trial have a right to question potential jurors independently, to grill each individual on her/his personal stakes (or lack thereof) in the issues to be presented in evidence—job histories, family histories, political opinions, blatant and less blatant bents and biases. While each person is interviewed, the rest of us sit back and listen.

I can't think of other contexts where I've been exposed (without having to eavesdrop, that is) to such a diverse amalgam of people's stories and suppositions. It gave me pause, to ponder all these experiences so unlike mine… and to ruminate on how each maybe-juror's lived life has helped to shape her/his beliefs. What would it be like, I wondered, if my sister had been hit by a bus and sued for a cash award the county transit agency… if both my uncles had contracted ailments on a toxic construction site… if I'd spent my youth in the boiler room of a navy tanker… if I'd served years as a union rep, assisting my fellow workers in the fight for fair labor… if I created sophisticated statistical models for testing top-secret aerospace protocols… if I lived out back of a fiberglass plant… if I lost a child to medical malpractice… if I only crudely knew English and could barely understand the court's proceedings? How would I think differently?

As I sit here and reminisce about the humanistic value in jury selection, it brings Aquarius to mind. Aquarius is the sign of our societal brother- and sisterhood, that collective spirit of coming together to celebrate our differences (and flaunt our quirks)… uniting our efforts toward shared commitments, while respecting those areas where we diverge. As an air sign, Aquarius is certainly smart enough to find avenues of social connection with folks of vastly dissimilar backgrounds. And what could form a better illustration of Aquarian principles than a jury, a body of diverse peers who must negotiate intellectually until they agree upon a single verdict?

Over these current few days, the sky features a triple conjunction in Aquarius—between the Sun, Mercury and Chiron—which highlights the initiative to use our noggins for revolutionary social good, even if it begs us to gaze past the inveterate present, toward a glorious future markedly unlike it. The Sun and Mercury together in Aquarius isn't so unusual (try once a year or so), combining against-the-grain visionary insight with the knack for talking to just about anyone about just about anything… up to a point. (Aquarians also like their breathing room.)

But Chiron's inclusion is the real kicker. Chiron, most often described as the wounded healer, raises our painful imperfections and festering experiences of 'never being enough' to the surface. And then, Chiron reminds us those things in us will never go away. Uplifting, eh? Well, actually, it can be—in a deeply healing way—once we invite those previously self-scorned 'bad parts' back into the fold, embrace them for having helped form us, and proudly wear them as red badges of courage. We are who we are, like it or not… so we might as well like it.

With Chiron joining the Sun and Mercury in Aquarius this week, we'll best prosper through consciously embracing our perceived bruises, flaws and faults… thinking about them forgivingly, talking about them shamelessly, standing full in their glory. Admit it, then: You're a flippin'-freaky misfit, whether or not you try to hide it from us. I'll play, too: I know I am strange beyond words (a professional astrologer, you say?!?!?), and have pretty much always felt like I don't belong.

And guess what else? We've all got a sizable chunk of 'geeky mutant outcast' lurking somewhere inside. The potential jurors, for instance? Oddballs, every one. Which gives us all something in common. Chiron in Aquarius, then, helps progress our theoretical understanding of others through linking up our wounded social spirits, in empathy for each other's experiences—and with a lot of space for individual freedom.

'Theoretical understanding', alas, doesn't grant real-life patience when, back in the courtroom, I sit through days of juror questioning. Within the first 15 minutes or so, I'm pretty clear on what disqualifications the lawyers are hunting for—'all corporations are evil' or 'all personal-injury lawsuits are frivolous' or 'the plaintiff's counsel is my next-door neighbor'. So why, I keep asking myself, do so many of the rest of you not 'get it'?

Can't you figure out this process? Are you paying attention? Don't you see your turn at bat coming from several jurors away? Why must you give vague inconclusive answers, about which the lawyers will only have to interrogate you further? You either have a strong opinion on the matter, or you don't. There's a conflict of interest, or there isn't. What's so hard to understand?

And then there are you smartie-pants pontificators, hungry to demonstrate to the court how much sharper you are than the other jurors. (I exclude myself, of course. Here, I keep my thoughts under wraps.) Rather than a concise yes or no, you must indulge us in philosophical treatises on what 'bias' is, or whether one specific belief necessitates adopting another, similar-but-slightly-different one. Okay, we get it. You're smart. But the longer you take, the longer we're all sitting here in jury selection. If you're so damned smart, just friggin' decide if you want to be picked or excused, and give the appropriate responses. Hello… am I the only sane one here?

The judge at last clears it up. It turns out, none of us is expected to be without biases and judgments. The court's real question is: Will we be able to set aside our biases and judgments, to render a fair verdict in this action?

Likewise, this week's Aquarian conjunction is ripe to deliver radical perceptivity… on the intellectual level. But when it comes to emotional judgment, that's an entirely different game—one that's less about understanding others' differences, and more about my own frustration, anxiety, competitiveness and need to control. (Guess I better keep working on those.)

And then, right after I'm selected to serve as Juror #1… the case settles out of court.

P.S. Did you know that American jurors have a constitutionally protected right to nullify, or refuse to render a verdict according to the court's instructions, for reasons such as the unjustice of a law or its application? Interesting to remember, in this and every age…