Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Earth signs

In Nablopomo for April: Fresh, I quoted the prompt for today.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Compare yourself to an element of nature and explain how that part of the environment captures some aspect of your personality.
The first part is easy, although it requires a descent into mysticism. The second, well, I don't have much confidence in the accuracy of it, especially based on the non-scientific way that I described the first, so neither should the reader. Just the same, follow over the jump for my attempt.

The mysticism comes from astrology, which I use as an example of a pseudoscience in my lecture about science. It imitates science--in fact, it conforms to a pre-Baconian definition of science--by being an organized system of knowledge. It fails as a modern science because its predictions are not borne out by hypothesis testing. It does, however, tell really great stories. As I conclude that section of my lecture, "astrology is bunk, but it's fun bunk." In that spirt of seeing astrology as harmless nonsense, I'll use it to connect myself to an element of nature and tell a story.

In both systems of astrology that I'm familiar with, Western (Greek/Babylonian) and Chinese, my birthdate and birth year are associated with earth. In the Western Zodiac, I'm a Virgo, which is considered to be an earth sign, albeit a mutable one. In the Chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the Earth Pig. I joke about this by calling myself an aardvark, which is Afrikaans for "earth pig." So, from both systems of astrology, the element of the natural world I'm most associated with is earth.

How does my association with earth describe me? To begin with, the first field of science I studied was geology, the scientific study of the Earth. I did this in complete ignorance of what astrology said about me. As a geologist, I study not the unchanging planet, the materials that compose it, but also the processes that shape it. This is consistent with my being born under a mutable earth sign. Speaking of mutability, I then moved from geology to paleontology and from there to biology. The common thread among all of them is evolution. Talk about the ultimate in mutability!

As for what me being an earth sign says about me personally, I'll be lazy and quote what the resident astrologer on About.com wrote about the subject.
It's common to hear someone described as "earthy." Such a person blends in with their natural habitat. They're sensual, meaning they engage with life through the five senses. It takes time to sense the dense physical world, and earth signs can operate at a slower, more thorough pace than the other elements.

They're oriented toward what's real, and often this makes them very productive, able to create tangible results. But if there are no balancing elements, earth's extremes could lead to being a work-a-holic, hoarding of possessions, pettiness, getting stuck in the mundane, stubbornness, etc.
Those with Earth signs often seem to inhabit their physical bodies which can be described in new-age terms as "grounded." Whatever their ground is -- whether it is a high-rise office building or rural cottage -- they're sending out feelers through the senses. The physical is the densest plane, and they're masters at assessing and organizing tangible things.

One expression of Earth sign qualities, and I'm envisioning a hippie chick here, might be someone who is easy-going and languid, aware of the local flora and fauna, often have leaves in their hair or dirt on their hands. They're intimately attuned to the dance of nature, and love to spend time outdoors.

But Earth signs can just as easily work their magic in urban places, since they're often centers of a certain kind of high-level productivity. The focus on the tasks at hand make them vulnerable to the "all work and no play" cul de sac of life. They're more apt to base their reality on what is around them in form, instead of creating personal myths or assigning symbolic meanings to everything. That's why too much of a good thing -- Earth -- can be stifling to things like inspiration, going on faith, a sense of purpose.

Earth signs are here to shape, manifest, cultivate and revel in Earthly delights. Their gift to others is bringing form to ideas, making them a balancing partner for an idle dreamer with potential. They tend their own garden, and inspire others to make the most of theirs.
All that is for the element of earth in Western astrology. What do the Chinese say about it?
People born under the Earth element are serious, logical and methodical. They also possess foresight and excellent deductive powers.

They are intelligent and objective and they know where best to direct their resources for the best possible results. With these qualities, they make good planners and administrators. They have the ability to optimise the use of resources and are wise and prudent in financial matters. This has a spill-over effect as they are equally good at handling their own money.

People of the Earth element like to keep things in perspective. They are conservative by nature and they rarely blow things out of proportion.

Their most common fault however, is that they are too governed by their own interests. They also lack imagination and have too secure an outlook of life. They must find it in themselves to be more adventurous in life.

Nevertheless, Earth people will impress others with their sound reasoning, reliability, discipline and steadiness.
If I had more time, I'd analyze the commonalities between the two systems to get a more coherent story. Instead, I leave you all with this reminder that I consider all of this harmless but fun nonsense that I'm presenting for entertainment purposes only.

Enough woo-woo. I'll get back to real science tonight.

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