Mercury is retrograde until August 2nd. Some of my friends will cringe when I say that. How could a person as smart as I appear to be believe in something as farfetched as astrology? Other friends of mine will nod knowingly, having attributed events in their own lives to the influence of Mercury. For many people the influence of Mercury is not an arguable point. They are quite certain they know what they’re talking about. That’s when knowing becomes dangerous. We can no more prove or disprove the influence of Mercury than we can prove or disprove the existence of God. People have preferences, like tea or coffee. Some people are just coffee people.
In my experience, the danger in certainty is that it blocks out new information. We think we know a person because they believe in astrology or they vote for a particular candidate. That knowing becomes a filter that extrudes new information to fit with all our old information, making it unlikely learning something new will change our mind. So I’m not going to try to change your mind about Mercury. I’m going to try to change your mind about particle physics, because I’m guessing that would be easier.
Astrology explains our world with very old stories about our relationship to the cosmos, myths and math handed down through the ages, before smart watches and Google. It doesn’t matter whether these stories are technically true any more than it matters if light is a particle or a wave. We look for stories that help us make sense of our lives, and when we find one, we hold onto it.
Planet Mercury is named after an ancient Roman god with, according to Wikipedia, influence over “financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication, travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves.” So how could I not blame Mercury when my flight gets cancelled, or when my computer crashes and I lose the best thing I ever wrote, or when the delivery date for my new bed is postponed for two weeks on the day I gave away my old bed, or when I miss a lunch date because my calendar was open to the wrong month?
There is a sitcom called Big Bang Theory, named after a core hypothesis of particle physics that also explains our world. According to the theory, the Big Bang formed the Universe in an explosion of gas and particles that went in all directions, kind of like when you empty your vacuum cleaner bag. The gas and particles expanded and contracted to form stars and planets, solar systems and galaxies, water, minerals, microbes, plants and animals, Barcaloungers and minivans. According to the theories of particle physics, we are all recycled star dust entangled by invisible matter that changes instantly when we observe it, and vibrates faster than our eyes can see in a system that extends back to the beginning of time. Got it? Okay. Now, who wants to argue about astrology?