I mean the title as a bit of a joke – an homage to the self-help book from the 1970s by Harold Kushner. But it’s no joke when tragic events happen in our own lives or to someone we love.
Over the past five years of such intense planetary drama these stories seem to occur more frequently, at least in my life. The bride-to-be whose fiance dies of a heart attack five days before the wedding. The parents who lose two children in the space of a year. The friend who waited over 40 years to find her soulmate and build their dream house, only to have him die of a brain tumor less than five years into their marriage. Another friend in a difficult marriage who loses her husband and father within six months. All of you have your own stories, perhaps from your own lives.
This kind of event that turns our world upside down generally occurs under the auspices of Saturn or Pluto. And sometimes both. My sister was an astrology skeptic until I started my blog under her tutelage, and then she became curious. I’m still not sure she’s convinced in its accuracy, but she is interested enough to want to know what the planets are doing when things get rough.
Over the past few years she has had a ridiculous lineup of planetary transits and progressions including a big lineup of planets to Pluto in her progressed chart and her second Saturn return. During that time she lost a job, found another one, her husband lost his job, couldn’t find another one, our mother ended up in the hospital with a chronic illness and died, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, one of their cats (with no kids, their cats are their children) died, her husband was diagnosed with a rare brain disease and then died of that, and most recently her second cat died just as the Pluto lineup was finishing.
We can’t say that Pluto itself causes these events, and Pluto cycles don’t always bring this sort of devastation. Pluto is the principle of Shiva – the destroyer who wipes the decks clean so that a new beginning can occur. Sometimes Pluto transits bring powerful new experiences without annihilating our former life. But sometimes the annihilation occurs and all we can do is watch as the tsunami comes and our lives are swept away, never to return.
Religions teach that if people are good and follow the rules of the religion, bad things won’t happen to them. Of course this is not the case – life happens and sometimes brings happiness and sometimes great pain. So how are we to find faith and hope in the midst of our personal agony?
Buddhism teaches that attachment is the root of suffering – if we can only let go of our attachment to things then we will achieve peace. This is far easier said than done – we live in the world and we are of this world, and unless we renounce the world to meditate in a cave these attachments do inform our lives and everything in it. We have children, husbands, family members, friends that we love. We have homes that we live in and pets that give us joy. We have jobs that we need to put food on the table. The loss of any of these things leaves us feeling less than who we were, and not knowing who we are to become.
During these times we experience a true “dark night of the soul,” when we find ourselves alone and not knowing where to turn. Theologians advise turning to their god during these times, and for believers this can be a powerful time of faith. But unless we are able to broaden our understanding of what our incarnation means and who we are underneath the trappings and associations of our lives, any superficial faith serves as a lifeboat but does not lift us out of the ocean of pain. The sense of being stripped of anything that is outside of ourselves and being left alone and isolated with only our true and core self falls under the domain of Pluto.
During these dark nights we find ourselves alone and crying out in the wilderness. Whether we or not we believe in the Judaeo-Christian idea of God, or the Islamic Allah, or the many Hindu gods and goddesses, or the Celtic or Nordic or Santeria pantheons, each of us is deeply connected to a spiritual source – a source of love and comfort that exists both within and outside of us. Some of us call this god or goddess, some call it the “higher self,” some call it our guardian angel or spirit guides. We have all heard this voice speaking within us although we sometimes confuse it with our own minds.
When we find ourselves in darkness and great pain we are the most receptive to the voice of the soul which calls to us in its own language if we can let go of our story and listen. In the end, this is all that is real – it is all we can count on. We love our family, our children – we find joy in our lifestyles and our pleasures. But Pluto reminds us that at the core, beyond the story of our lives and beyond the story of our pain, lies the magnificence of life itself and the experience of absolute love that is hidden deep within our own hearts.